FAIRCHILD AFB

242nd Combat Communications Squadron trains in Idaho

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Courtesy article by Chief Master Sgt. (ret) Eugene F. Lewan

FAIRCHILD AIR FORCE BASE, Wash.On June 3, 2019, a year after their largest overseas deployment, the airmen of the Washington Air National Guard's 242nd Combat Communications Squadron were once again preparing to deploy. This time, though, the destination was only one state away. With a cadre of personnel newly assigned to the unit, a core of seasoned NCOs, and a convoy of tactical vehicles, these warriors transported all the necessary equipment needed to train the next generation of Washington National Guardsmen for this unit's unique mission.

The Combat Communications mission requires the ability to establish a base of operations in remote locations, in essence to establish a beachhead for follow-on units, or provide a mobile communication element to offensive and defensive operations supporting Air Control Squadrons, Air Support Operations Squadron, and Army operations relating to conventional and asymmetric threats.

This year the training ground was located at Farragut State Park, just west of Athol, Idaho. Farragut State Park has a history of military activity since its development as a Naval Training Station for the U.S. Navy during World War II. The park (then base) was named after David Farragut, the first admiral in the U.S. Navy, and leading naval officer during the Civil War. During its 30-month operation as a training base 293,381 sailors received basic training along the shores of the deep waters of Lake Pend Oreille. The Navy still maintains a submarine research center at Bayview, Idaho, home to the Acoustic Research Detachment. The lake provides an ideal environment for acoustic testing without the problems and costs of open ocean operations. The research conducted here ranges from acoustic stealth to submarine propulsion.

Furthering the site's tradition of military training and readiness, the 242nd established a deployed site within the park's interior. Several months of planning and coordination with the park staff culminated in this week long bivouac consisting of living quarters, field kitchen, and several satellite communication facilities providing communication service to include telephony, internet wifi, HF, VHF, and UHF radio.

During this week, the newly assigned airmen put to practice the knowledge acquired during their student residency at the U.S. Air Force Communications technical training school at Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi.

The squadron departed early Monday morning after several days of training designed to introduce and refresh personnel on proper inventory, packaging, document preparation, and load planning for the trip across Washington's eastern border. Veterans of multiple operations instructed on load restrictions, site safety, vehicle familiarity, and personal protective equipment use. A detailed plan paired an experienced driver with a trainee to expose all personnel to requirements needed in a deployed environment. The advance team arrived on time and began preparations for the arrival of the follow on vehicles.

A Combat Communications site becomes a beehive of coordinated activity, carefully orchestrated with individuals assigned to teams performing all aspects of construction that will develop into an operational center for communication within a given time frame. Several teams were assigned to erect the tents selected to house the airman. During this time, the Power Production/HVAC team positioned 60,000 watt generators and Field Deployable Environmental Control Units and constructed the electrical grid and grounding required for equipment operation.

The DRMKT (Disaster Relief Mobile Kitchen Trailer) established an area of operation that would provide sustenance for the week long training exercise. This team of dedicated personnel used this time to hone their skills in providing three meals a day to the fifty personnel who had now taken up residence in Scott Field. And at the end of a long day that required significant physical effort, the meals provided by the members of the 141st Force Support Squadron and 194th Force Support Squadron were much appreciated.

The weather in northern Idaho can be a bit unpredictable, and after a sunny and hot first day, temperatures dipped and remained cool for the remainder of the week. The following days were filled with multiple training scenarios designed to challenge all participants. In addition to advanced communication training, ancillary training included tactical vehicle driving, radio etiquette, and land navigation.

Through this annual training, personnel of the 242nd gained experience working at a deployed site, and younger airman gained perspective and knowledge that they will be able to use in the future to protect their country.

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