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Fort Campbell soldiers say NIE has been fantastic training event

By DAVID BURGE | El Paso Times, Texas (Tribune News Service) | Published: July 31, 2017

Visiting soldiers from Fort Campbell, Ky., say they got a fantastic training experience at Fort Bliss while participating in the Army’s modernization mission.

About 2,000 soldiers from Fort Campbell’s 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) and other elements from the world’s only air-assault division participated in the Network Integration Evaluation, an Army modernization exercise held at Fort Bliss throughout July.

“The training is very realistic,” said Sgt. Kevin McEnaney, a signal support systems specialist and squad leader for 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade, 101st Airborne Division.

“I can wholeheartedly say the training they are getting at Fort Bliss will prepare them for upcoming missions in their careers, including deployments to Iraq or Afghanistan,” said McEnaney, from Chicago. “The training environment is challenging.”

Fort Campbell’s 2nd Brigade is the first rotational or visiting unit to serve as the test unit during the Network Integration Evaluation. It is also the first light infantry unit to serve in the role.

The Network Integration Evaluation, or NIE as it is more commonly called, is used to test new Army network and communication equipment, systems and capabilities.

While the exercise emphasizes the testing of new equipment and capabilities, it also helps soldiers and units practice their technical and tactical skills and increase their readiness.

Col. Joe Escandon, commander of Fort Campbell’s 2nd Brigade, said participating in the NIE was an “amazing opportunity” and will help the Strike Brigade be better prepared for its upcoming rotation at the Joint Readiness Training Center at Fort Polk, La., In January.

“I think we will go into JRTC in a much better position than if we hadn’t done the NIE,” said Escandon, from Tucson, Ariz.

The visiting brigade was able to do a handful of air assault missions during the exercise and some live fire training.

“I would say anytime a unit can deploy to another training area, train and then redeploy is extremely beneficial,” Escandon said.

Maj. Eddie Timmons, 2nd Brigade’s signal officer from Fayetteville, N.C., said participating in the NIE highlighted the areas soldiers need to improve on.

“It is good to shake that out now,” he said.

Lt. Col. Keith Carter, commander of 1-26 Infantry, said participating in the NIE will “pay huge dividends” when the battalion and brigade go to Fort Polk in 2018.

“Every day out here is like a week back home,” said Carter, from Missoula, Mont. “We are gaining so much information about ourselves, our equipment. We are building the team.”

Command Sgt. Maj. Tracy Loveall, the senior enlisted leader for 1-26 Infantry, said morale has been high and there was never any thought that the unit was unlucky to be chosen to participate in the NIE.

“We never saw this as a burden,” said Loveall, from Elizabethtown, Ky. “We have seen this as an opportunity. Our battalion was selected across the entire Army to come out here and test this equipment.”

The Strike Brigade returned from a deployment to Iraq and Kuwait in January of this year and after a short break, began training for the NIE.

Staff Sgt. Arik Browning, a squad leader for signal soldiers with 1-26 Infantry, said Fort Bliss “is one of the best locations we can train at stateside.”

Many of his soldiers said participating in the NIE was tougher than going to a place like Fort Polk, because of all the additional test requirements, said Browning, from Cleveland.

Staff Sgt. Paul Clark, an electromagnetic spectrum manager with 2nd Brigade, said that while sleeping on the ground has been no fun, participating in the NIE has been “the best thing that’s happened to us since we’ve come back from Iraq.”

The exercise has allowed newer soldiers to blend with more experienced ones, build a team and “create synergy,” said Clark, from Norfolk, Va.

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©2017 the El Paso Times (El Paso, Texas)

Visit the El Paso Times (El Paso, Texas) at www.elpasotimes.com

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Soldiers with 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division from Fort Campbell, Kentucky arrive for the Network Integration Exercise 17.2, here, July 5. The "Strike" Brigade with 101st ABN DIV is the first rotational brigade to conduct NIE here.
EARL WILSON/U.S. ARMY PHOTO

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