Combat Communications Airmen bring unique skills to Allied Strike 2011

  • Published
  • By Capt. Tristan Hinderliter
  • USAFE Public Affairs
Eleven Airmen from the 1st Combat Communications Squadron at Ramstein Air Base, Germany have been critical to the success of Allied Strike 2011, the largest Close Air Support exercise in Europe.

"We have the capability to bring large-scale communications packages to support command and control for these types of exercises," said Tech. Sgt. Daniel Barber, facility chief for the Combat Communications team. "I think that's our biggest contribution."

The team is made up of technicians from three career fields: Radio frequency transmissions systems, cyber transport and network operations. These Airmen ensured exercise planners and participants had access to the Non-secure Internet Protocol Router network, or NIPR net, as well as Voice Over Internet Protocol, or VOIP, which is a telephone connection that runs through computers as opposed to traditional land lines.

They brought 20 laptops with them from Ramstein to ensure everyone had connectivity where they needed it. The 4th Air Support Operations Group, based in Heidelberg, Germany, also contributed a significant amount of equipment.

Combat Communications is a unique subset of the overall Communications career field, Sergeant Barber said.

"We often deploy to austere locations," he said. "It's a little more demanding, because in addition to tempo-band deployments and TDYs here and there, we also deploy in-theater in USAFE to support exercises and missions throughout this region."

For Allied Strike, a Close Air Support exercise that brought together Joint Terminal Attack Controllers and support personnel from the U.S. and 14 NATO partner countries, the Combat Communications team arrived at the Grafenwoehr Training Area on June 20th, two days before the opening ceremony.

"Our plan was to get here and immediately hit the ground running," Sergeant Barber said. "That's what we do as an organization."

First, the team had to set up the satellite dish in a favorable location so it could communicate with the satellite, or the "bird," as it's called in the parlance of the comm technicians. They set up their main tent, the power for it and the heating and cooling mechanism. They even set up their own tents where they slept for the duration of the 11-day exercise.

Once the dish was configured properly, the infrastructure technicians came in and set up the phones and basic networking. They were followed by the data technicians, who set up the actual computer networks.

At this point, everything was set up for exercise leadership to have the communication capabilities they needed.

"After the initial setup, we enter a maintenance phase," Sergeant Barber said. "We make sure there are no issues. We fix anything that does arise, and we tend to our customers' needs."

Lt. Col. Jon Berry, the exercise director and commander of the 4th Air Support Operations Squadron, said he was very impressed with the Combat Communications Airmen and what they bring to the fight.

"Combat Communications brings a unique capability set to the exercise," he said. "They were very important for us to be able to successfully execute Allied Strike."