Houston & Peach

An inside look at new Robins training for Airmen who are vital in remote combat zones

Air Force combat communications specialists from around the country are at Robins Air Force Base this week training to do their jobs while using smaller equipment.

The 5th Combat Communications Group at Robins, commonly known as the 5th Mob, is hosting a joint exercise among active duty, guard and reserve troops from nearly every combat communications unit in the Air Force. They are learning how to use new equipment that does the same job while taking up less space, said Col. David Hillman, the group commander.

The 5th Mob is the only active duty combat communications unit in the Air Force. About 120 airmen total are involved in the 2-week exercise.

“This is a chance for them to see some of that equipment they will be getting this year, as well as, looking at how we can reduce the footprint of our equipment so that we can use less power and we can get out the door quicker, and still meet the warfighter’s requirements as broadly as possible,” Hillman said.

The 5th Mob and their guard and reserve counterparts specialize in setting up an array of secure communications, including internet, in remote locations. They are usually the first to enter a combat zone and the last to leave. They also play a key role in responding to natural disasters.

During the exercise each unit sets up their equipment the same as they would in the field, operating out of tents with power coming from generators. One piece of a equipment they were trying out is a satellite antenna that is mounted on an 8-foot wide inflatable ball.

The North Carolina Air National Guard’s 263rd Combat Communications Squadron was among those participating. They brought an inflatable ball antenna and 2nd Lt. Dustin Absher said that’s a part of the reason they were able to come to the event in two pickup trucks rather than the slow 5-ton truck that had carried their equipment in the past.

“These packages are getting smaller and smaller so we can travel lighter, but with the same capability,” he said.