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5th Combat Communications Group keeps warfighters connected during pandemic

Photo shows large pallets with an assortment of equipment being stack on them for shipment.

Members from the 5th Combat Communications Group and the 78th Logistics Readiness Squadron prepare equipment for palletization at Kellavik, Iceland, to return to Robins Air Force Base, Ga., May 15, 2020. The equipment was sent to support coalition networks in order to provide command and control of forces during an exercise. (U.S. Air Force courtesy photo)

ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. (AFNS) -- The 5th Combat Communications Group has been working hard to ensure war fighters around the world can stay connected to execute the mission.

The group, fondly called the 5th MOB, provides a variety of critical communication assets, such as radio, phone and internet to support a customer base as small as a couple of Airmen, or as large as an entire wing anywhere in the world it is needed.

Composed of three units – 5th Combat Communications Support Squadron, the 52nd Combat Communications Squadron and the 51st Combat Communications Squadron – the group has worked tirelessly to make sure warfighters are connected with vital communications equipment despite the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic.

Maj. William Raine, 51st CBCS deputy commander, said his unit has been heavily involved in the COVID-19 pandemic response, in addition to their regular mission.
“The 51st CBCS has been tasked to support the communications for Ninth Air Force, which is currently supporting the COVID pandemic response as the Task Force Southeast headquarters controlling the Federal Emergency Management Agency Regions III and IV, which encompass 13 states, “ he said. “The 51st initially assisted the 85th Engineering and Installation Squadron, from Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi, to activate the Joint Operations Center for Task Force-Southeast. This also included ensuring that the TF-SE was able to receive more than 100 personnel to support 24/7 operations.”

Raine said the 51st CBCS has a team abroad to reconstitute communications capabilities for COVID-19 response efforts.

“The reconstitution brings the equipment back to Robins (AFB), and allows us to perform maintenance inspections that would ready communications for COVID-19 efforts,” he said.

Raine said the 51st CBCS is the premier combat communications squadron in the Air Force.

“Our personnel are able to support a wide range of operations and demonstrate the flexibility needed to support a large flying exercise in Iceland to shifting to provide task force-level support in response to the COVID pandemic,” Raine said.

Other units within the 5th CCG, like the 52nd CCS, are meeting communications needs in the Northeast region.

“We are currently supporting medical response operations in the Northeast United States,” said Maj. Derek Huber, 52nd CCS commander. “We are meeting the communications and support requirements of military medical professionals in that region.”

Huber said not only is the 5th MOB mission critical to COVID-19 response, the unit must also ensure that warfighters downrange are provided with the strategic-level communications capabilities it brings out to the field.

“The U.S. still has Airmen and other service members deployed globally that require our support,” he said.

“Communication is essential for the flexibility needed in Air Force operations,” said Capt. Joseph Schlueter, 5th Combat Communications Support Squadron Operations director.

“We must continue to provide reliable and robust communication capabilities so that operations here and abroad can remain agile enough to respond to the constant change of the Air Force’s war fighting mission,” he said.

Schlueter said his unit has had many Airmen continuing to excel despite the unique challenges they are being faced with.

“Our combat readiness school provided 36 students Field Craft Hostile certification,” he said. “Now those students are able to deploy to the United States Africa Command and U.S Central Command area of responsibilities to support command and control, and engineering operations. Our combat readiness school cadre also led some just-in-time readiness training on specialized equipment and vehicles for three local units.”

Schlueter said the operations cell continues to provide support for all 5th CCG mission coordination.

“Master Sgt. Sinohe De La Rosa, in particular, has been a critical piece in the movement of 'MOBSters' for Joint Task Force and Air Expeditionary Group support,” he said. “He has also been instrumental in ensuring that our squadrons and their personnel are kept up to date with the latest guidance from Headquarters Air Force and downrange area of responsibilities where we currently have many members deployed.”

Huber said the group as a whole has done a phenomenal job supporting the Air Force mission while responding to the pandemic and its challenges.

“Our Airmen have done amazing work at finding creative ways to accomplish the mission,” he said. “We have maximized online learning and our non-commissioned officers have gone above and beyond to host virtual training sessions on equipment and combat communications principles.”

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