Combat communications vital to ABS, Lead Wing success

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Daryl Knee
  • 23rd Wing Public Affairs

The 35th Combat Communications Squadron from Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma, partnered with the 23rd Wing to provide rapid communications support for exercise Ready Tiger from Feb. 28 through March 4 at Moody Air Force Base, Georgia.

Ready Tiger is a command and control exercise designed to test and stress the capabilities of an Air Base Squadron’s support to a Lead-Wing unit.

The Moody ABS is designed to be activated upon a quick-reaction deployment of the 23rd WG and includes service members from many career fields integrated into one squadron charged with providing or augmenting base operations support in potentially austere locations.

“What the 35th brings to the table is just so incredibly important,” said Capt. Dan Ress, 23rd WG ABS director of operations and exercise participant. “As soon as we arrive at a location, we need to be able to respond with the support needed to facilitate the Lead-Wing mission. Without reliable communications, we are not able to do the job we need to do.”

Part of that initial ABS mission is to evaluate an operating location’s available infrastructure to provide essential functions, such as resources for food, bed-down and transportation, Ress continued. Rapid effective communications is vital to that effort.

“This is a very important capability,” said Master Sgt. Matt Schulte, 35th CBCS client systems specialist and exercise team lead. “Everything is ran on data — you have to have communications to run almost every mission set. At a moment’s notice, we can be activated and attached to an ABS anywhere, anytime to enable base operations support.”

The level of communications support differs per mission, too, he said. Some deployments require small packages, while others require robust capabilities with larger satellites and multiple pallets of gear. The agility of the Lead-Wing concept drove the support for Ready Tiger to be one of leanest packages available.

The 35th’s current support includes a five-person team with just enough equipment to allow secure computer connections for a small group of network users. This reduced their footprint to what can essentially fill the back of a pickup truck, to include an inflatable communications terminal.

“Not too long ago, this type of capability would take enough equipment to fill three or four Humvees,” Schulte said, “and produce even less communications potential than what we can do with our smartphones. We’ve come a long way in the last 15 years with how fast and securely we can set up a data link.”

Within hours, the team was able to ensure fully operational communications at a tent city exercise site at the edge of Moody’s perimeter, and they can even pack up their gear within 30 minutes notification of an impending attack.

“The speed they set up this capability was incredible,” Ress said. “They are able to move rapidly from location to location, too, and I can’t see the ABS mission happening in a real-world environment without this type of support.”

Ready Tiger ends March 4, and the lessons learned will hone the 23rd WG as they prepare for combat-ready Lead-Wing operations by October of 2022.