Double Duty: Robins’ 51st CBCS Airmen aid U.S. Secret Service, warfighter

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

There’s a small group of Airmen at Robins Air Force Base, Georgia, that the U.S. Secret Service depends on in a big way.

Those Airmen are a part of the 51st Combat Communications Squadron’s Protective Communications Unit.

“We are military augmentees working side-by-side with the Secret Service to help them with their missions,” said Staso Zinda, 51st CBCS Protective Communications Section chief. “Our Airmen step in as additional manpower to assist with setting up communications equipment like mobile and hand held radios, antennas, fiber optics and computers.

“Also, Robins is the sole staging area for some Department of Homeland Security equipment,” Zinda continued. “It’s kept here for emergency dispatch in case it’s needed for a regional event.”

These unit members are always on the go with temporary deployments across the continental United States to aid in a variety of ways. Their tactical skills are called upon to support state funerals, presidential political debates or national sporting events, like the Special Olympics.

“Because we support Secret Service personnel, we get the opportunity to do a broad range of things,” said Staff Sgt. Robert Pinnix, 51st CBCS Protective Communications supervisor. “Our primary work is centered around radios, and that’s what we train on weekly.”

In addition to in-house exercises, the Secret Service steps in to keep the unit abreast of the latest technology.

This month, Robins once again served as host for the USSS Communications Management and Control Activity biannual training class.

“Every two years the Secret Service trains a new pool of Airmen, Sailors, Marines and Army soldiers to fill their need for augmentees,” said Zinda. “Participants come from all over the country for this two-week class and are trained how to use the Secret Service’s equipment. This is also an opportunity for the different branches to work in a joint environment, which could happen if we are collectively called to help in a Secret Service mission.”

According to the CMCA, teams plan and determine radio, video surveillance and security systems needed based on event requirements.

“This team is extremely crucial to us,” said Brian Miller, USSS telecommunications specialist and CMCA instructor. “It would be extremely difficult for us to complete our mission without the help of active-duty military.

“The work we are putting in now is in preparation for several upcoming major events, like the next Inauguration Day,” Miller added. “Some of the people in the class will be responsible for the set up of security rooms for agents, which will ensure agents can communicate securely during their missions.”

The CMCA also supports the USSS’ protective mission, as the agency is tasked with protecting the president and vice president, former presidents and their families, and visiting heads of state, among others. 

“In this capacity, I’ve had the opportunity to broaden my skills and met some very interesting people who have helped me become a better technician and better person in general,” said Pinnix. “During one assignment I’ll never forget standing next to “The Beast,” which is the nickname for the president’s limousine. Being near that vehicle isn’t something many people get to do.”
Members of the Protective Communication unit are also on stand by to assist their fellow Airmen in the 5th Combat Communications Group.

“We are qualified to deploy and assist with 5th MOB taskings,” said Zinda. “Every member is highly skilled on the tactical communication equipment by the group, so, we also stand ready to help the warfighter.”