Unit of the Week: 156 Brigade Signal Company

Members of the 156th Brigade Signal Company look over a terrain map during a night land navigation training exercise.

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The 156th Brigade Signal Company, Michigan Army National Guard, based in Adrian, has the mission to provide satellite-based communication.  The 35 assigned members are challenged to provide a battlefield communications network to the troops in the field. The unit falls under the 631st Troop Command in Lansing, but their lineage is the 65th Fires Brigade, Utah National Guard.

The original 156th Signal Battalion dissolved on Sept. 1, 2006. After several changes, the 156th Brigade Signal Company stood up Sept. 1, 2012.

“The 156 is a fairly new unit in its name,” said Sgt 1st Class Clinton Roe, operations noncommissioned officer assigned to the 156. “But the history goes back to the original 156th Signal Company that has been in the Adrian community for over 50 years.”

On Oct. 1, 1961, the 156th Signal Battalion was federalized at its home station in response to the Cuban missile crisis. The unit reported to Fort Benning, Ga., on Oct. 13, 1961, for one year of service.

On May 14, 1980, the 156th BSC responded with 150 members and equipment after a tornado destroyed large portions of Kalamazoo.

Today’s military operations require reliable, high-data rate communications to quickly deploy and control field units. The 156th BSC is one of the units providing those communications for the Michigan National Guard.

The 156th BSC uses the Joint Network Node, a system which was developed to replace the Mobile Subscriber Equipment the 156th formerly used. It provides beyond line of sight capabilities for the battle field.

The JNN is commercial equipment packaged in tactical shelters that may be linked to an internet department on wheels.  JNN consists of vehicles equipped with satellite communications as well as voice-over-IP and dynamic IP technologies that connect to military networks.

The U.S. Army is changing communications equipment faster than it can deploy forces equipped with that gear. Training is evolving and the Soldiers of the 156th BSC not only must continually learn new hardware and capabilities, but they must also continue to train on basic soldier skills so they can operate the equipment under battlefield conditions. According to Roe, “The 156 has been and continues to be up to the challenge.”

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