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Combat communicators keep airmen in touch

KIRKUK AIR BASE, Iraq (AFPN) -- As the fourth aircraft touched down after the Army seized the airfield here, the base gained one of its mission essential teams -- combat communicators.

The team’s sole purpose is to deploy into a bare-base environment and set up expeditionary communications. For them it is not a challenge. It was their charge. The 506th Expeditionary Combat Communications Squadron is just that -- a combat communications team. Unlike any stateside communication squadron, the team is trained specifically for field deployments, and for this team, there was no better place to test that training than at Kirkuk.

"We are responsible for providing command, control, communications and computer systems allowing the 506th AEG and hosted Army units to complete their mission," said Maj. Scott Moser, the squadron's former commander, who is now stationed at Robins Air Force Base, Ga. "Nearly every functional area significantly relies on C4 to accomplish their job and therefore we are critical across the entire base."

Besides the more visible communication items such as computer e-mail and telephones, the communications squadron also provides air traffic control and landing systems enabling safe, controlled use of Kirkuk by aircraft.

Since May 1 the team has been responsible for approximately 362,800 telephone and 176,780 morale calls that have been made; set up 2,241 e-mail accounts; received 26,020 pieces of mail; installed 550 telephone lines; issued more than 451 land mobile radios; and installed 47,000 feet of cable.

Those accomplishments did not come without challenges.

"Anytime you deploy to a bare-base environment there is always the challenge of having the equipment you need to accomplish the mission." said Moser. "We couldn't bring vehicles or trenchers; we had to rely on what we could find here, which slowed us down a little."

Airman Lisa Lantz faced the challenge of learning her job, as she had only been out of technical school and on the job for a month before being tasked to deploy.

"The biggest challenge for me has been learning everything," said the computer-networking specialist. "It hasn't really been a 'challenge' though because I like learning. I want to do computer networking when I get out of the Air Force, so I want to learn all I can while I'm here."

Lantz said the common power outages did present some problems, but nothing they could not overcome.

"We had to wait for many of our customers to get power before we could set up the equipment. Now, the frequent power outages still cause us some challenges," said Lantz.

The team has been in the build-up phase of their mission since arriving, but will soon move to a sustainment phase.

During the final weeks before going to the sustainment phase, Moser said the team would finish extending services and out to the various locations and then cut over to the fiber-optic cable. Then the mission will be to keep up services and to improve reliability.

The team has done an incredible job, according to Moser.

"There is no better job than to come out and do something like this -- to create a robust communication squadron," he said. "But (it wasn’t) me doing this. (It was) the other 127 people out there who are doing the work. It has been so rewarding to see those people rise to the task and to succeed and accomplish the task at hand."

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