Two-week training mission allows 5th CCG to field test vital communications skills Published Dec. 5, 2008 By Wayne Crenshaw 78 ABW/PA ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. -- Visitors at two community airports in Georgia recently got to see the 5th Combat Communications Group in action. The 5th CCG conducted a two-week training mission at Macon Downtown Airport and at Souther Field in Americus. All four active-duty squadrons in the unit tested their skills at operating TRC-170 microwave radio terminals. The terminals, set up at the two airports, look like satellite dishes but actually are aimed to communicate directly with each other rather than going through a satellite. Squadrons spent the time trying to create and maintain a link between the two, said 1st Lt. Alexander Ortiona. He said the assessment report on the mission has not been completed. Lieutenant Ortiona said the keys of the mission are to not only get a secure link but to maintain it around the clock and learn to deal with any problems that may arise. "Troubleshooting to me is one of the biggest parts of the exercise," he said. Staff Sgt. Jason Riddle, the site commander in Americus, said the 5th CCG held four training missions last year but this one was the first this year. "I think it was an invaluable bit of training," he said. "It definitely shook off some cobwebs." The exercises are particularly important, he said, because it's the only time the 5th CCG gets to actually practice what it does in a real situation. "I'm crosstrained in aircraft maintenance, and there you get full hands-on work every day," he said. "Comm guys don't get that." About 60 people total were in the field as a part of the mission, Lieutenant Ortiona said. They made for something of a spectacle at the airports because the squadrons were set up with several tents, trucks and other equipment. A class from a technical school in Americus visited the site to learn about the technology the squadrons were using. The TRC-170 units are designed to communicate from up to 150 miles apart, but in the training exercise the units were 61 miles apart. The units have undergone a modem upgrade, allowing it to transfer more than double what it could do before the upgrade. Lieutenant Ortiona said one of the advantages of direct communication between two points rather than using a satellite is the limited amount of available bandwidth in a satellite.