BICES training enhances Polish SOF communications capability

Photo courtesy U.S. Special Operations Command - Europe

STUTTGART, Germany -- In an effort to enhance their capability in support of NATO and International Security Assistance Forces, communication soldiers of the Polish Special Operations Command (POLSOCOM) came to Stuttgart June 22-25 for a special training session.

Elements of Special Operations Command Europe (SOCEUR) and the SOCEUR Signal Detachment (SSD) provided the training session to assist in building POLSOCOM’s capacity to communicate seamlessly with U.S. special operations forces.

To do that, the Polish troops were given a demonstration on how to equip, train and employ the U.S. Battlefield Information Collection and Exploitation System (BICES) when used as part of a deployed package. BICES is intended to coordinate and exploit battlefield intelligence gathering among all NATO commands and participating nations.

“It provides them an opportunity to discuss what is similar and what is different from their own experience,” said Col. Mark Luchs, SOCEUR director of communications. “Additionally, it sparks discussion and exchange that may identify missing or needed equipment and capabilities. During these exchanges, we are both learning how to better operate, integrate and execute EUCOM and ISAF SOF missions.”

As part of SOCEUR’s role in building the special operations capacity of current and future partner nations (PNs), a key component of that mission focuses on developing key enablers such as communications, medical and military intelligence.

Luchs placed special emphasis on the communications piece.

“The ability to deliver the right information, to the right operator at the right time with a high degree of confidence in austere and difficult conditions is a hallmark of SOF communicators. This capability provides SOF Operators the ability to stay ahead of any situation,” Luchs said.  “The ability to demonstrate our processes, procedures and equipment with our PNs and how we operate in both garrison and tactical environments helps POLSCOM and other nations see how it is done and provides a benchmark from which to move forward.”

For more than two years, signal Soldiers assigned to both SOCEUR and SSD have been working with their Polish ‘commo’ counterparts by going to Poland for various training missions and conducting equipment assessments. SSD Soldiers have set up video teleconferences between Polish and USSOCOM leaders and trained Polish signal soldiers prior to deployments to Afghanistan.

“We go look at the type of equipment they have, see how it works and advise on how to better use their systems,” said 1st Sgt. Brian Brown, SSD first sergeant. “Most importantly, we go and train their NCOs as part of the train the trainer concept. Now they have more institutional knowledge in their ranks because their sergeants have been able to pass on their knowledge to their new troops.”

As part of making the training engagement more beneficial Luchs insisted that both U.S. and Polish signal operators have candid discussions about specific capabilities and the parts that deliver that capability. Examples include discussions about equipment, processes, software packages and lessons learned.

“The engagement itself provides a level of partner exchange that also helps shape both POLSCOM future development and employment of BICES,” Luchs said. “It reinforces the foundation of our partnership and understanding.”

Emphasizing the significance of their visit, a POLSOCOM signal officer said his team will go back to Poland with a better understanding of how to improve their communications capability.

“This training opportunity allowed us to fully understand how the BICES equipment is used in a deployed scenario,” said the POLSOCOM signal officer. “We were able to see up close how the system works and most importantly, get expert advice to take back and build a system like this for our forces.”

He mentioned that as POLSOCOM continues to support ISAF, it is crucial to have a system in place that is an enabler to the SOF operator on the battlefield.

“It’s very important that we can have a communication system we can take with us on the battlefield,” he said. “Mobility will allow us to be more effective, and the BICES equipment is a system that we’re very impressed with.”

Echoing the POLSOCOM signal officer, Luchs summarized the training experience and what he hoped they would take away from the engagement.

“I think the Polish officers and NCOs who came here were selected by their leadership not only to better understand the technical and process exchanges, but also by POLSCOM staff to see what right looks like from a partner nation relationship standpoint,” Luchs said. “In effect, we have developed a level of trust and understanding between staffs. It’s important that POLSCOM wanted to send some of their ‘up and comers’ to learn and build relationships so that they are fully familiar with us as partner.”

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