By SOF Editor on Tue, 02/23/2010 - 11:37am
A small detachment of Airmen from Ramstein Air Base, Germany, camp out in the foothills of the Republic of Georgia's Caucasus Mountains, enclosed by snow capped peaks and kept company by stray dogs and roaming cattle. What may sound like a wintertime camping excursion or a ski trip possibly gone awry, is actually a highly technical mission that involves providing essential service to fellow warfighters.
Members of the 1st Combat Communications Squadron deployed to Georgia to provide operational and tactical communication capabilities for the Marine Corps Training and Advisory Group here.
"It's our mission to manage the Georgian soldiers' training schedule and training plans, but this task would be impossible in this environment without the communication links the Air Force detachment provides us," said Marine Maj. Craig Wolfenbarger, the Georgia training team officer in charge. "They make a lot of things happen for us."
At the request of the Georgian government, MCTAG designed a six-month combat training program where Marine cadres train Georgian soldiers from the 31st Georgian Army Battalion.
The program is designed to familiarize the soldiers with counter-insurgency tactics, techniques and procedures in preparation for their deployment to Afghanistan in support of International Security Assistance Forces. The majority of the training is conducted in the Krtsanisi National Training Center.
The deployed communications Airmen live and work alongside the Marine cadres, ensuring they have the critical capabilities of tactical combat communications in the field, to include secure and nonsecure telephone, Internet, lines and even secure video teleconferencing.
The team of eight Airmen work around-the-clock in various climate conditions and challenging terrain to lend success to this foreign training initiative.
"The Airmen provide so much more than just the right equipment; they provide us technical support as well, ensuring that we have a 24-hour safety net," Major Wolfenbarger said.
Now in the middle of their three-month tour, the team of Airmen know a lot of the hard work is behind them, but it'll still take a lot of work to maintain the training site.
As with most bare-base undertakings, the initial challenges came early on with the development of a secure communications platform that had to be built nearly from the ground up. This included setting up and networking more than $100,000 worth of equipment and creating a plan for maintaining the network.
"When we were first tasked with this mission, weeks of logistical planning had to be done to ensure the safety and success of our Airmen and of the equipment," said Lt. Col. Bill Waynick, the 1st CBCS commander. "These guys have built and maintained a very robust communications platform here that has truly exceeded my expectations."
For a unit that embraces the mantra of "first in, last out," missions like this are all part of a day's work, made easier by the vigorous training schedule and commitment to excellence the squadron demands of its Airmen.
"Basically everything we do back at home station is to prepare us to do our job in this type of environment," said Airman 1st Class Evan Hess, one of the eight communications detachment members. "It's been exciting to have the opportunity to put all of that exercising, training and preparation to work."