51st Combat Communications Squadron exercises its capabilities

  • Published
  • By Jenny Gordon
  • Robins Public Affairs
It's all about being ready to go when the nation calls. 

For the 51st Combat Communications Squadron at Robins Air Force Base, being ready begins with constant planning. 

And when - not if - that call does come, commanders downrange are able to execute orders to fly sorties, provide humanitarian support and drop munitions.

Without communications, commanders couldn't disseminate vital information across secure networks for important decision-making goals. 

It's a mission every single airman in the 51st takes pride in. 

The culmination of their constant planning came to fruition this week at a Georgia Air National Guard Combat Readiness Training Center in Savannah when about 50 unit members participated in a deployment readiness exercise.  

The two-phase exercise involved packing and inspecting pallets at Robins for shipment aboard two C-17s and two C-130s, as well as deployment operations to and in Savannah. 

"We provide the connectivity, the initial communications capabilities up front that our customer may need," said Capt. Bori Um, 51st CBCS Mission Systems flight commander and exercise site commander. "We learn to set up in austere environments.

While we may be subject to hostile forces when we go to remote locations outside of the U.S., these exercises help us to practice so we can tweak the things we need to," he added.

With temperatures hovering in the 40s and 50s Monday morning, a steady wind took control of a small field which simulated Balad Air Base, Iraq.

There were several tents, pallets of equipment placed in strategic locations and a satellite at its center. 

A convoy of more than a dozen tactical vehicles was parked nearby, which a day earlier held hundreds of pounds of palletized generators, computers, phones, a satellite, cables ... all the essential equipment needed to deploy anywhere in the world - even if it's just a few hours' drive east.  

The base was set up by a team of satellite communications, networking, power and production, and cyber transport systems specialists within 24 hours. 

Staging was conducted two days prior, with the team working concurrently in different areas over the weekend. Basic communications equipment was ready to go by 7 a.m. Monday. 

Master Sgt. Aaron Daigle, 5th Combat Communications Group Inspection Team noncommissioned officer in charge, was one of nine airmen grading the exercise. 

The team was accessing how well the squadron was meeting Air Force standards and timelines - for example, how fast the site was built; how soon the public alert warning system was set up; and how quickly tents were in place. 

Various milestones must be met, and all basic communications should be up and running in the first 24 hours. 

Although it was a success, there is always room for improvement and learning. 

"Exercises like this are very important because they tell us how effective we are when we're tasked to deploy," said Daigle. "We're always practicing to ensure we get better every time, and we can provide that fantastic customer service." 

A smaller tent sat away from the others, an entry control point where Tech Sgt. Matthew Kelly, 51st CBCS Radio Shop NCOIC, stood watch.

Keeping a visual on anyone who entered or left the area, he was serving as a host nation lead, responsible for ensuring support requests were met.  

"If there's a need for sand bags, setting up a site perimeter, barriers, electrical power and heating, we do all of that," he said. "We do these exercises pretty often, training at home and deploying here. Our preparation helps us a lot." 

Tech. Sgt. Philippe Lebrun, a 51st CBCS satellite communications specialist, was serving as an armed escort to a host nation worker who was busy hooking up a portable air conditioner and heater to a tent.

"There's so much that goes into preparing for an event like this," Lebrun, who's been in the Air Force 12 years, said. "You can literally have one cable that can prevent you from completing your mission. 

"Once you leave, there's no going back," he added. "It's about making sure your people are ready."

Editor's note: To see a video of the 51st CBCS exercise and photos, visit and Robins Facebook page.