Cable Dawgs train and certify in tower rescue ‘If you’re afraid of heights, do not attend’

Melanie Hoyt
Kaiserslautern American

***image1***As the “Cable Dawgs” prepare future tower climbers to work on complicated communication systems while dangling 500 feet above ground, the first lesson is simple: “If you’re afraid of heights, do not attend,” said Tech. Sgt. Shane Rose, Cable and Antenna Special Maintenance Team member. The 22-person Cable and Antenna Special Maintenance Team, also known as Cable Dawgs, is from the 1st Communication Maintenance Squadron and is responsible for repairing cable and antenna communication systems. And now, after extensive training, they are the premier certified rescue instructors in U.S. Air Forces in Europe, said Master Sgt. Russ Lawrence, 1st CMXS Cable Dawgs NCO in charge.

They teach and certify others to rappel and climb towers while carrying 40 to 60 pounds of equipment to repair damaged equipment or to rescue stranded co-workers. They instruct all personnel whose jobs require them to work from 10 feet or above.

Last quarter, the team trained 48 people in three different career fields throughout USAFE, including radio and Airfield system personnel who work above 10 feet, how to climb towers, rappel, and how to rescue their own team members.

“This rapelling technique saves both personnel and cost of equipment, because with rappelling you can rappel out to the equipment rather than take down the equipment with heavy machinery like a crane,” Sergeant Lawrence said. The Cable Dawgs’ rappelling and tower rescue work has cut in half manpower, costs and support requirements for the theater-wide maintenance of the Global Information Grid, which is responsible for DSN in Europe. This has saved more than $200,000 in the past three years, Sergeant Lawrence said.

The work is physically and mentally challenging, said Sergeant Lawrence. And, they’ve all had a few scares. He once fell 40 to 50 feet while lowering a communications tower in Stuttgart. The cable holding the tower severed and sent him and the 100-foot tower to the ground, he said.

As instructors, they must ensure that each person has a vast knowledge about their gear and knows descending techniques and regulations while being suspended 500 feet in the air, Sergeant Lawrence said.

“Our career field has a fear of heights test,” Sergeant Lawrence said. “You have to pass this test in basic training.”