5TH MOB: ‘ACE’ing the year ahead, preparing the warfighter

  • Published
  • By Kisha Foster Johnson
  • 78th Air Base Wing Public Affairs Office

“Let’s Go!” is the motto for the 5th Combat Communications Group at Robins Air Force Base, Georgia.

These Airmen will be on the go in 2023 with many mission sets centered around Agile Combat Employment and field training according to the group’s Deputy Commander Lt. Col. Anthony Butler.

“The Air Force is changing the way we fight with the goal to address our near-peer adversaries, like China and Russia,” said Butler. “Establishing smaller footprints and being able to move with speed and agility are key.”

This is where the ACE concept comes in.

According to the Department of the Air Force, “ACE is a proactive and reactive operational scheme of maneuver executed within threat timelines to increase survivability while generating combat power. When applied correctly, ACE complicates the enemy’s targeting process, creates political and operational dilemmas for the enemy, and creates flexibility for friendly forces.”

“While we are mobile in nature, operational changes are driving a need for us to rapidly adapt how we train,” said Butler. “With the dispersed nature of ACE operations, 5th CCG members are focused on deploying readily accessible small form factor communications capabilities with resilient connections that provide assured command and control in contested environments.”

“This is driving 5th CCG technicians to be well versed on a multitude of communication disciplines,” he continued. “Whether they are leveraging high bandwidth satellite communications or carrier pigeons, members of the group must be ready to improvise when needed and deliver or receive secure information by any means necessary.”

The 5th CCG  is a specialized unit of the Air Force that’s been at Robins since July 1, 1964. It’s also referred to as 5th MOB, a name which refers to the group’s previous designation as the 5th Mobile Communications Group.

The unit continues to evolve.

The 5th CCG is now composed of four active duty squadrons: the 5th Combat Communications Support Squadron, 51st and 52nd Combat Communications mission squadrons and the recent addition of the 85th Engineering Installation Squadron, which is based at Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi.

He said the 85th EIS is the group's most deployed unit, which travels globally in primary support of installation and sustainment of enduring telecommunication infrastructure.

These Airmen provide critical communication assets, such as radio, phone, air traffic control and internet to support anywhere in the world.

“We have to keep our people connected,” said Butler. “We put communication systems in places where they don’t exist. That can be anywhere from a hotel in a foreign country supporting a distinguished visitor who needs access to DoD communications, or going to a remote place like a jungle or the middle of the desert where the military has decided to set up some large-scale operations.

“What makes units like ours unique is we have the ability to be self-sufficient for 72 hours,” Butler continued. “We’ll deploy with our communications gear, generators, fuel, tents, HVAC units, food and weapons if needed.”

Recently, some team members gained real world experience by working alongside the 1st  Combat Communications Squadron at Ramstein Air Base, Germany. During the U.S. European Command deployment, Airmen assisted in missions to help various allies of NATO.

“I think it was a reminder for a lot of our Airmen to not get caught up in the daily grind of showing up to work and simply doing your maintenance,” said Capt. Joseph Thatcher, 5th CBCSS operations officer. “Having the opportunity to work with different NATO partners was a chance for them to put their skills to use and learn the ways others in our field maneuver.”

In the year ahead, the 5th CCG will play an important role in shaping the Air Force’s future.

“We will be the beta unit for a new communications package coming out soon,” said Master Sgt. Anthony Chambers, 52nd CBCS Mission Support Flight chief. “We will refine that kit for combat communications units and different lead wings who are going to be employing that kit. It is a cool opportunity for us to mold and shape the way the Air Force is moving forward under ACE.”

In the meantime, between daily duties and deployments, commanders will find time for more training exercises.

“We are going to be more deliberate in how we train,” he said. “We want to get our teammates out of their comfort zone, which means having them get off this installation and heading to remote locations and creating real world missions. They do their wartime mission everyday but when the pressure is on how will they perform?

“We have to step it up,” he continued. “Those exercises are going to be a lot more stressful. A near-peer fight will not be similar to the last 20 years spent in the middle east. There will be a host of new challenges that we have to deal with and preparing for that fight will be intense.”

Butler is confident 5th CCG will rise to the challenge.

“These men and women have embraced the warrior’s ethos,” said Butler. “They are building on their solid training of being able to go into any situation and not only put up a communications system, but also offload palettes from a plane and perform perimeter checks with weapons. These are multi-capable Airmen who are simply going to keep getting better and respond to any contingency.”