Squadron tests communications skills

Staff Sgt. M. Davis
Kaiserslautern American editor

***image1******image2***1st Combat Communications Squadron prepares for upcoming evaluated exercise in February

Communications is vital for command and control during times of war – that is why the 1st Combat Communications Squadron is putting its skills to the test when it participates in a month-long exercise in February.
In preparation for its Operational Readiness Exercise next month, the squadron held a weeklong “quasar” exercise. During this mini-exercise, technicians were tasked to set up equipment and test it in field conditions, said Maj. Sam Bass, 1st CBCS Combat Support Flight commander.
“The field portion we did this week was recurring training that allowed our people to hook up equipment and get hands-on training,” said Major Bass. “Technicians set up a small site and received training objectives, checked out equipment and performed maintenance. We used this opportunity as a dry run for the ORE and exercise.”
During the exercise, the squadron will first demonstrate their outprocessing and mobility capabilities. Then, a 40-member team will deploy to Bitburg, Germany, along with members of other squadrons including maintenance, security forces, transportation, logistics, supply, civil engineer and personnel. Additionally, the exercise will include communications squadrons within the U.S. Air Forces in Europe theater of operations – 31st Communications Squadron at Aviano, Italy; 100th Communications Squadron at Royal Air Force Mildenhall, United Kingdom; 4th Air Support Operations Squadron at Sullivan Barracks, Mannheim, Germany, and the 606th Air Control Squadron at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany. The units will test their systems and practice command and control. It will conclude after one week of interoperability tests.
“The squadron frequently deploys, so exercises like this are critical in giving our technicians hands-on experience in a realistic environment,” Major Bass said.
Master Sgt. Mark Law serves as the squadron’s Standardization and Evaluation superintendent and ORE evaluator.
Sergeant Law researched the ORE criteria from other major commands and wrote criteria for the squadron.
During Phase I of the exercise, squadron members will be graded on how safely, correctly and efficiently they deploy to a simulated down-range environment. Once there, they must set up and maintain equipment during wartime scenarios during Phase II, said Sergeant Law.
“Many of the simulations and scenarios will be based upon incidents happening in Iraq – drive-by shootings, rockets and explosions,” the squadron evaluator said. “We tried to make this as realistic as possible.”
After the exercise ends, the squadron will assist members of the NATO ID Combined Air Operations Center to set up and test connectivity in the field during an interoperability exercise called “Healthy Thunder.”
1st Lt. Nick Davenport, 1st CBCS engineer and exercise planner, said “It will be a great training opportunity for our squadron and also for the ID CAOC people who will participate in the Healthy Thunder exercise.”
Lieutenant Davenport, who deployed for five months to Prince Sultan Air Base, Saudi Arabia, during Operation Iraqi Freedom said, “Communications is moving toward coalition participation. This is a big step for all of us.”
It is the first time Airman 1st Class Charlie Lyddon will participate in an ORE.
“I’m a little nervous, because I don’t know what to expect,” said Airman Lyddon, a deployable network control center technician. “It’s different dealing with customers in your work center, than in the field. I’m looking forward to the training.”
The squadron deploys frequently, so exercises like this are critical in giving technicians hands-on experience in a realistic environment, said Major Bass.
“Providing the command and control infrastructure to enable the war fighter is job one of Air Force communicator,” he said. “This exercise is our opportunity to truly train as we fight.”