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Sky Soldiers, special operations intelligence specialists refine skills during combined training

By: Capt. Andrew Kinney

Fri, 22 Jan 2016 00:00:00 EST

GRAFENWOEHR, Germany (Jan. 22, 2016) -- Paratroopers from the 173rd Airborne Brigade and the 10th Special Forces Group began Exercise Wolfenstein, a signal intelligence training event, Jan. 5, 2016.

The 22-day training focuses on developing the Low Level Voice Intercept, or LLVI, collection techniques of the military intelligence multifunction platoon of Company D, 54th Brigade Engineer Battalion, 173rd Abn., which allows them to collect on enemy communications.

"The intent of the exercise is to balance classroom instruction and field training for military intelligence specialists," said 1st Lt. Shawn Robertson, the multifunction platoon leader. "We are also refining the skillsets required of the brigade's signals intelligence analysts and cryptologic linguists to serve as valuable combat enablers on Airborne-qualified LLVI teams."

Moreover, the exercise is testing the ability of the LLVI teams to plan and execute collection operations on short notice as part of the 173rd Airborne Brigade's Army Contingency Response Force in Europe. As such, the participating paratroopers are aiming to improve upon the readiness level of the teams and their ability to collect autonomously in a tactical setting.

"The expectation for all our military intelligence paratroopers, regardless of specialty, is to be both technical and tactical experts," said Lt. Col. Benjamin Bennett, commander, 54th Brigade Engineer Battalion. "Training events like Exercise Wolfenstein help refine the dismounted collection techniques of our signal intelligence personnel while also affording them the opportunity to practice field craft. We want our paratroopers to be mentally strong and physically tough and training like this helps work towards that end."

Field craft was a heavy focal point during Wolfenstein, as the first week of training featured both rifle and pistol marksmanship ranges, followed by day and night land navigation courses, and patrolling techniques.

The second portion of the exercise included instruction on signal intelligence collection techniques and finished with dismounted LLVI training among the undulating terrain scattered throughout the training sites.

Additionally, training in the month of January in Germany added a new dynamic when it came to the emplacement of LLVI reconnaissance sites, as much of the training period outdoors featured sub-freezing temperatures.

"In the 173rd Airborne Brigade, we're always aiming to train relentlessly in harsh conditions," said Robertson. "The control of your thoughts can be the difference between the success of your team and the failure of your mission."

The ability to train on portable LLVI systems in a dismounted setting also allowed the increase in the readiness of the paratroopers to remain combat efficient operating in austere conditions while working alongside knowledgeable special operations forces counterparts.

"This type of training affords our paratroopers the unique ability to train with intelligence professionals outside of the brigade in a field setting," said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Pedro Torres, the multifunction platoon's signals intelligence technician. "The experience and perspectives that outside organizations bring to our collective training events is priceless, especially from the special operations side of the house. Ultimately, the lessons learned from Exercise Wolfenstein will drastically improve the readiness of our personnel as they continue to train up towards being able to collect unilaterally in a deployed setting."

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