Robins reserve combat comm unit supports African Lion exercise
By Bo Joyner , AIr Force Reserve Command Public Affairs
/ Published April 10, 2013
ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. -- Fourteen members of Air Force Reserve Command's 55th Combat Communications Squadron here are in Morocco providing critical communications support for African Lion 2013, an annually scheduled, bilateral U.S. and Moroccan sponsored exercise designed to improve interoperability and mutual understanding of each nation's tactics, techniques and procedures.
The reservists and five pallets of computers, cables, switches, satellite dishes, tents and other supplies left Robins on a KC-135 in early April. After their arrival in Agadir, Morocco, the comm specialists from the 55th set up the communications network that will serve as the backbone for African Lion, which runs through the end of April.
"We are providing SIPR (secure internet), NIPR (non-secure internet), voice and some VTC (video teleconferencing) for this large-scale exercise," said Senior Master Sgt. Bart Sawyer, 55th CBCS superintendent.
"Our folks have been training hard," added Lt. Col. Lee Mumford, 55th CBCS commander. "We finished an ORI in December of 2010 and a UCI in August of 2012 and we're ready to put our training to the test and show that we can provide comm to the war-fighter in an austere location."
Providing communications for Africa Lion is a challenging mission. More than 1,400 U.S. military service members are joining more than 900 Moroccan soldiers in various regions of the country to take part in a wide variety of training, including command post operations, life-fire and maneuvering, peace-keeping operations, amphibious operations, and aerial refueling and low-level flight training. In addition, exercise participants will provide medical, dental, pediatric and optometry care to thousands of Moroccans throughout the country.
"This is a great opportunity for our people to train in a joint environment with people from the other services and other countries," Mumford said. "Providing comm to all of the participants who need it will definitely put us to the test."
"This exercise is the real deal," Sawyer added. "Our mission is to deliver tactical communications systems for dominant combat operations anytime, anywhere and we're ready to prove we're up to the challenge."
Military representatives from close to 20 different nations are expected to check out what African Lion is all about this year. "The embassy has invited a host of nations this year to expand African Lion into a true multi-lateral exercise," U.S. Army Maj. Barrett McNabb, U.S. Embassy Rabat liaison officer, said in a recent Marine Corps Forces Africa news article. "The intent is to invite our partner nations from Europe and Africa to act as observers this year and expand to participation in the years ahead."
Mumford said he is hoping that Reserve combat communications participation might also expand in the years ahead. "We're hoping that our participation in African Lion this year might open up some more doors for us in the future," he said. "This training is a perfect fit for us and we'd love to do more of this type of thing in the years ahead."
The 55th CBCS is one of four Reserve combat communications squadrons that fall under AFRC's 960th Cyberspace Operations Group. The combat comm squadrons provide theater-deployable communications during wartime and contingency operations or humanitarian missions in austere locations.