ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE -- The 5th Combat Communications Group is losing a squadron, but it isn’t going anywhere.
On Oct. 1, the 53rd Combat Communications Squadron will become the 53rd Combat Airfield Operations Squadron. It will fall under the command of the 461st Air Control Wing, which along with the 116th Air Control Wing operates the Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System, or J-STARS.
Although the 461st is on the opposite end of the base, the 53rd isn’t relocating. The 53rd also will have no direct involvement in J-STARS operations.
The reason for the change is that the Air Force wanted the 5th Combat Communications Group’s airfield operations component under the Air Combat Command. The 461st is an Air Combat Command unit.
The entire 5th Combat Communications Group was under the Air Combat Command until 2009, when it was moved to the Air Force Space Command because of the group’s cyber communications expertise, said Senior Master Sgt. Dwight Carns, superintendent of the 53rd.
“We are essentially going back to where we came from,” he said.
The group, more commonly known as the 5th Mob, is a frequently deployed unit that specializes in setting up an array of communications in combat areas. It also specializes in setting up airfields and has mobile radars and mobile control towers.
Carns said the airfield aspect of the group’s mission didn’t really fit under the cyber communications emphasis of Space Command.
Three of the four mission squadrons in the group had various communications specialists that included airfield operators. With the move, all the airfield specialists from those squadrons are moving into the 53rd while the 53rd’s non-airfield personnel are moving into the other units.
That hasn’t been an easy part of the process, Carns said, but the squadron has “come together as a family” with its new makeup.
The 5th Mob celebrated 50 years at Robins recently. Its mascot is an alligator, its motto is “Let’s Go,” and the unit has a reputation of having a gung-ho spirit. Leaving behind that identity isn’t easy, Carns acknowledged.
“It’s kind of surreal that we will no longer be associated (with) the 5th Mob,” he said. “We will have to come up with our own identity and start our own history.”
For those who may drive by the 5th Mob’s building on the south end of the base, most of the large visible equipment that can be seen outside belongs to the 53rd, at least now. It includes huge mobile generators and rotating radars. Carns said it’s about $27 million worth of equipment.
Specifically, the new incarnation of the 53rd will fall under the 461st Operations Group. Lt. Claude Archabault, the group’s deputy commander, said the 461st is committed to making the 53rd feel part of the team.
“We are going to integrate them into everything that we do,” he said. “We are going to bring them in as if they are on our side of the base. We are really looking forward to this.”
To contact writer Wayne Crenshaw, call 256-9725.