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EX Cobb Ring: Enhancing joint, bilateral interoperability

Service members from the Joint Communications Support Element and the British Army’s 30th Signal Regiment gather around U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Kevin Shells (center), a JCSE systems team chief, at Beer Can Island, Fla. Jan. 30, 2019, as he demonstrates how to set up and utilize communications equipment in a deployed environment with no power source. As part of the Cobb Ring exercise, the two nations trained together to demonstrate capabilities with coalition partners and strengthen relationships.

Service members from the Joint Communications Support Element and the British Army’s 30th Signal Regiment gather around U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Kevin Shells (center), a JCSE systems team chief, at Beer Can Island, Fla. Jan. 30, 2019, as he demonstrates how to set up and utilize communications equipment in a deployed environment with no power source. As part of the Cobb Ring exercise, the two nations trained together to demonstrate capabilities with coalition partners and strengthen relationships. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Caleb Nunez)

U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Kevin Shells, a Joint Communications Support Element systems team chief, sets up a communications kit at Beer Can Island Jan. 30, 2019, as part of the Cobb Ring exercise. This annual exercise brings together JCSE and their British counterparts, the 30th Signal Regiment, to strengthen relationships and interoperability between the two allies.

U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Kevin Shells, a Joint Communications Support Element systems team chief, sets up a communications kit at Beer Can Island Jan. 30, 2019, as part of the Cobb Ring exercise. This annual exercise brings together JCSE and their British counterparts, the 30th Signal Regiment, to strengthen relationships and interoperability between the two allies. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Caleb Nunez)

MACDILL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- As emerging global threats continue to rise, the ability of military organizations to conduct joint operations, or interoperate, becomes of significant importance to overall mission success. Whether different armed services or different nations, the goal is still the same – to win the fight.

Members of the Joint Communications Support Element from MacDill Air Force Base, Florida, participated in the annual Cobb Ring exercise Jan. 21 to Feb. 1, 2019, alongside the British Army’s 30th Signal Regiment, to demonstrate capabilities with coalition partners and strengthen relationships between the two nations.

“We worked with our British allies to establish a common base of knowledge for future endeavors,” said U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Kevin Shells, a JCSE systems team chief. “If we ever go on exercises together or potential missions where we are fighting a war together, we need to have a basis to work with.”

Cobb Ring ensures each team can employ their respective communications equipment on the host nation’s infrastructure, while building awareness of the similarities and differences of their systems and operations.

“We are teaching them how we use our equipment and how we fight, and they are teaching us how they get the mission done as well,” Shells said. “We worked on radio training and the interoperability between their equipment and ours.”

The exercise included training with high-frequency equipment, remote communications, land navigation, secure network testing and other cultural immersion events.

“It has been a great experience for a young man like myself,” said British Army Signaller Jake Smith, a communications system operator with the 30th SR. “It is so beneficial to go out and experience different cultures and communication kits and compare how we both affect the mission.”

While members of the 30th RS trained in Tampa, some members of JCSE deployed to the United Kingdom, where they participated in a UK-led field training exercise similar to the one at MacDill – further strengthening relationships and interoperability.