The success of a flying-training deployment involving U.S. and Hellenic air forces here hinges on an array of variables, and one quick-response communications force is ensuring tactical messages are delivered.
The 1st Combat Communications Squadron's 11-Airman deployed team established connections between the ground, sky and cyber domain within a matter of days for the 494th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron. Not only does the communications squadron complete readiness requirements, it also provides an avenue to expand operational ties with the Hellenic air force.
"First in, last out -- that's our motto," said Master Sgt. Chad Peterson, the1st CBCS team lead. "We send a site survey team in before a mission to determine mission requirements with the project officer and commander, and we search for a physical location to set up."
The Airmen of the 1st CBCS are assigned to Ramstein Air Base, Germany, but rarely are they stationary as the unit provides bare base communications support throughout Europe and Africa. They're currently supporting about six operations throughout the region, including enduring locations that have been in place for more than two years, Peterson said.
"We're a self-sustaining force," said Senior Airman Tushawnie Jones, a 1st CBCS tactical network data technician. "We've provided a small footprint of communications services within 72 hours. These services include Internet-based phone lines, access to classified and unclassified networks, land mobile radios, and ground-to-air radio communications."
This capability is enabling the 494th EFS to participate in the mission in Crete. Greece offers unrestricted, live ranges as well as access to many infrastructure and support facilities that can help prepare U.S. Air Forces in Europe Airmen to respond anywhere, at any time.
The communications setup in use at Souda Bay arrived as seven pallets of cargo ranging from computers and cabling, to tents and a satellite dish. Some deployment sites contain up to 13 pallets, which includes an all-terrain vehicle.
"We have the basic core module up and running within 48 hours", Peterson said."After that, we have 24 hours for each expansion."
"Once the infrastructure is in place, we still have to create user accounts, fix email issues, provide firewall security and man a 24-hour help desk," said Airman 1st Class Joseph Wrobel, a 1st CBCS tactical network operations technician. "You have to be a well-rounded Airman to meet the demands"
"Flexibility is the key," Peterson said. "There's no time to be idle. When these Airmen leave combat (communications), they'll have been exposed to all types of jobs. There are unique challenges compared to communications Airmen at a typical installation support unit."
"Many times, (standard technicians') problems replicate," Wrobel said. "Our missions change and each mission has a new basket of tricks. Where they can specialize, we end up being the jack of all trades"
"We have (heating and ventilation) Airmen making network cable and (satellite communications) Airmen helping troubleshoot systems," Peterson said. "There's too much work to just focus on your own specialty. These Airmen need motivation and the concept of being a team player"
This flying training deployment allows both USAFE and the Hellenic air force to extend joint war-fighting capability through operational training while strengthening the alliance and partnership between Greece and the U.S.