ŁASK AIR BASE, Poland – The 673rd Communications Squadron (CS) Agile Combat Employment (ACE) Expeditionary Communications Team deployed from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, with the 90th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron to Łask Air Force Base, Poland, in early August.
The 90th EFS is deployed in the European theater to support NATO’s Air Shielding mission, exercise ACE and enhance interoperability with allies, partners and joint forces. ACE operations and drills allow Airmen to quickly train and execute tasks in unpredictable ways and react quickly to enemy movements.
“ACE Expeditionary Communications is responsible for supporting Forward Deployment Hub and Spoke operations for the 90th EFS throughout the European theater of operations,” Technical Sgt. Matthew Vile, Petty Officer in Charge of Cyber Control Operations, explained.
The ACE Expeditionary Communications Team is a unique entity embedded within communications squadrons, specifically trained to enhance command and control in tactical and deployed environments. Members are trained in multiple Air Force Specialty Code (AFSC) skills ranging from computer support and satellite transmissions to all-site support. They are also responsible for setting up communications in remote areas within 4 hours.
“Compared to a normal communications squadron, we are more of a tactical unit, similar to a combat communications squadron but on a much smaller scale,” says Vile. “We are currently set up to support small sites in distributed and remote locations with a mobile team of three.”
The 673rd CS specializes in spokes operations, allowing the squadron to test new equipment in the field and in forward-deployed environments. Spoke operations support the routing of deployments from a central point or hub to allocate resources throughout a mission.
“673 CS is one of the premier ACE Expeditionary Communications teams in the Pacific Air Forces area of responsibility. We are constantly testing newer, lighter and faster technologies to support ACE and our battle squadrons,” says Vile. “For this mission, we received advanced radio equipment and were able to build a communications network for munitions personnel that operated further away from existing communications systems. Although we don’t normally use this, we were able to test how well it could work in future operations for our units.”
In developing ACE communications at JBER, the ACE team has made strides in improving ACE’s expedition-related communications capabilities. The team was able to purchase standalone Communication Fly Away kits as well as three different connectivity solutions.
“One challenge we often face in deployments is adapting to different systems. WiFi, military satellite, and commercial satellite all work differently depending on where you are operating from,” explains Lt. Col. Michael Kendall, commander of the 90th EFS. “The command and control component of ACE is a problem that JBER has worked to solve for years. When our unit found out we would be practicing ACE in European Command, we linked up with the 673rd CS to provide ACE communications support.”
The 90th EFS deployed from Poland to three locations, two of which required ACE Expeditionary Communications Support, allowing the 673rd CS to train ACE elements with new equipment and enhance the unit’s combat capabilities.
“During this deployment, we learned how to use an Airbus, which is a different type of satellite terminal,” says Senior Airman Amber Rios, cyber control operator for the 673rd Communications Squadron. “It’s similar to the military satellite equipment we currently use, but we hadn’t used it before this deployment. It was a great skill that we learned quickly along the way.”
The ACE Expeditionary Communications Team provided critical communications support for the various ACE training exercises conducted on the 90th EFS in Norway and Greece. Norway has proved that ACE communications need theater-agnostic equipment to fulfill the mission.
“Initially, we faced a lot of connectivity challenges in Norway,” says Kendall. “USAFE A6 (Command and Control) was able to loan our ACE Expedition Communications team a STARLINK terminal. This equipment has enabled us to successfully communicate with both the US Air Forces in Europe and the US Air Forces Central Air Operations Centers and command over unclassified and classified networks throughout the time we have been operating out of Souda Bay to communicate. Without the 673rd CS staff, we could not have accomplished our mission.”
Although supporting the NATO Air Shielding mission and routing deployments to various locations in Europe brings new challenges, it reinforces the demands and intensive training needed for the success of the ACE communications team.
“Problem solving is something we embrace every day in communication,” says Vile. “There are constant learning curves and challenges, but we have a great, energetic team. The support from other communications units like the 86th Communications Squadron at Ramstein Air Base in Germany has been phenomenal, especially on a mission like this.”
ACE is a constantly evolving concept. Units like the 673rd CS ACE Expeditionary Communication Teams are critical to units operating in today’s competitive environment.
|Date of recording:||02/11/2022|
|Release Date:||11/17/2022 05:47|
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