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Air Force Featured Stories

Putting the ‘combat’ in combat communications

  • Published
  • By Chief Master Sgt. Devvy Mathews
  • 644th Combat Communications Squadron
Airmen from the 644th Combat Communications Squadron recently exercised their abilities to respond to various scenarios during contingency operations such as emergency response, self-aid and buddy care, and force protection, while demonstrating combat skills at the Andy South annex near Andersen Air Force Base.

The week prior to the exercise kick-off, the 644th CBCS "Dragons" were busy performing pre-deployment inspections on their equipment and making sure they were personally and professionally ready to deploy.

"The bag drag, personnel readiness folder review, and site specific just-in-time training were accomplished and critical to our success," said Senior Master Sgt. Aaron Sanchez, the mission superintendent for the exercise. "Additionally, intelligence, weather, safety and mission briefings were held to ensure our entire team was ready for any conditions we might experience at the deployment site."

Before dawn, several days before the start of the base-wide exercise, the team mustered at Northwest Field to finish loading eight cargo pallets full of equipment and to get their M-4 carbines and M-9 pistols issued. Four hours later, they climbed into light medium tactical vehicles and convoyed to the deployed site at Andy South to accomplish their mission to open an airbase while operating in an austere environment.

The only support items awaiting their arrival were an empty field, a water buffalo and two portable latrines. The team quickly evaluated the situation, established their site perimeter, and began setting up their operations center and sleep tent.

Meanwhile, the 644th CBCS Wing inspection team were prepping the opposing force team on the desired learning objectives, which included the use of modified M-4 and M-9 weapons to allow the opposing force and deployed teams to fire simulated munitions featuring colored marking tips that provide realistic and non-lethal force-on-force training and easily let Airmen know if they have been hit.

Within three hours of arriving at the deployed site, the opposing force launched the first of many attacks. This quickly identified vulnerabilities in the site's perimeter and reinforced the team's ability to survive and operate in an austere environment.

"I found the training to be realistic, especially using simunitions," said 2nd Lt. Denisse Paz, the mission commander for the exercise. "It was definitely challenging trying to get 'comms' up while maintaining site defense. We were constantly encouraged to try different things and utilize our resources as if we had no other option."

Over the next two days, the team worked feverishly to provide the communication services necessary to open an airbase while defending their site. Mission success was realized 56 hours into the exercise, exceeding the mission employment standards by nearly 17 hours.

"I thought everyone worked together well," Paz said. "It was no doubt a team effort. I could feel that some had the expectation that we wouldn't be successful but that didn't stop anyone from giving it all they had to support the mission."

End exercise was called about 6:30 a.m. local time, several days after the start of the exercise, but that was just the beginning of the end of the exercise for 644th CBCS. The deployed assets had to be packed up and convoyed back to the unit. The team had been in field conditions for four days, with very little sleep, no showers and eating only meals-ready-to-eat.

Reconstitution efforts consisting of cleaning tents, inspecting and repairing equipment, updating paperwork, and ordering consumable items began immediately after the weekend and lasted into the next week, completing a vital process to ensure our assets are ready to deploy at a moment's notice.

In total, the planning for this one field exercise took two months, the execution three weeks, and directly involved 63 Airmen across the wing.