by Air Force CPT George Worrall
FORT DEVENS, Mass. � Near an old baseball field on a part of Fort Devens that wasn�t converted to a technology park, two teams practiced sending signals.
Different from a pitcher and a catcher using hand signals, these teams used advanced satellite-communications equipment.
Elements of Connecticut�s 103d Air Control Squadron, an Air National Guard unit based in Orange, Conn., and the Army Reserve�s 280th Signal Battalion, of Westport, Conn., took over the field June 15-28 for Grecian Firebolt 2002, the world�s largest communications exercise.
The exercise, designed to test the units� capability, also included Army, Army Reserve, Army National Guard and other Air National Guard units.
While deployed, 103d ACS provided the satellite uplink needed for 280th Signal Battalion to provide its part of the picture.
SSG Jayme Pace, aerospace ground equipment specialist with 103d Air Control Squadron, checks a generator powering satellite-communications equipment during GF '02 at Fort Devens, Mass.
|SSG Jack Norris, satellite wideband communications specialist from 103d Air Control Squadron, fine-tunes a TSC-94A satellite terminal linking the Fort Devens site to Fort Meade, Md., as part of Grecian Firebolt '02.|
�We�re tying in to 280th Signal here for data and voice, and transmitting it by satellite to Fort Meade [Md.],� said MSG Paul Wiedenmann, who was the noncommissioned officer in charge for the Fort Devens Link, 103d ACS. �They (more of the 103d ACS at Fort Meade) are in a hub configuration, with signals from Puerto Rico, here, Fort A.P. Hill, Fort Dix, Virgin Islands and more all coming in to them. So we can pick up a field phone anywhere out here and talk to anybody at any of those locations.�
The 11 Guard members from the base in Orange operate a self-contained site under camouflage netting to blend in with the surroundings. The site is complete with its own communications, maintenance equipment and power.
The exercise�s purpose is realistic training to prepare for missions the units may encounter when deployed.
�This is training � doing the satellite communications and running the circuits gives us a chance to really learn the stuff for when we do go someplace,� said SSG Jack Norris, a satellite wideband-communications specialist with 103d ACS. �This [Grecian Firebolt] allows us to work with the Army and troubleshoot circuits in a real-world way that we never get at the base [in Orange]. This training is the same type of thing we did when we deployed for [Operation] Southern Watch and Deny Flight.�
The ACS began planning months in advance, coordinating with the Army to identify the type of transmissions the site would need to support. Once the specific bandwidths and data types were identified, the satellite time was requested and the 12-hour shifts for 24-hour coverage were planned.
One airman noted the similarities to his civilian communications work. �The fields are very similar, since the goal of the jobs is to keep communication up,� said Senior Airman Brian Hadix, another satellite wideband-communications specialist with 103d ACS. Hadix, who maintains cellphone sites for Nextel, was on his first training deployment. �The [military] training helped me get the Nextel job.�
The ACS also participated last year in Grecian Firebolt 2001.
�This is our second mission doing it [Grecian Firebolt],� said Norris. �The things we learned from last year that didn�t work made it work this year.�
CPT Worrall is 103d Fighter Wing�s public-affairs officer.
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Army Communicator is part of Regimental Division, a division of Office Chief of Signal.