Story by SSgt Amy Picard on 08/28/2019FORT MCCOY, Wisconsin Fog rolled in as the sun broke over the horizon. The 24-hour operations seemed to be silenced for just a moment, everything still as a breeze blew across dew covered grass. Two Reserve Citizen Airmen step over a cordon and started to set-up equipment. Opening a computer next to what looked like a deflated hot air balloon, the ball filled with air as one person manned the computer and one manned the inflating ball. Beep, beep, beep, left, right, left, left. That's it!! Got it! Right there! Hurrying, they tied straps on the ball that now towered over them in just the right spot.
The Ground Antenna Transmit Receive (GATR) ball is designed to be lighter and more compact than traditional, rigid satellite dishes. The self-contained GATR ball system can be broken down into just a few cases and hand carried anywhere in the world where it can be inflated and set up in less than two hours, ready to provide a variety of communication services.
"This is the very first time this has been showcased at Patriot Warrior and it has been 100 percent operational," said U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Xristopher Pennington, 35th Combat Communications Squadron. "In the past they had a large satellite. This system is smaller, easier to set up, and has saved the military tons of money."
Pennington explained that a signal comes from the sky to the GATR ball where the radio frequency signal is transferred to a digital signal, the digital signal goes to their computer and then to the servers providing NIPR and SIPR network capabilities.
"It is a really good thing that the Air Force is moving in this direction when it comes to technology," said Pennington. "Everything in technology is getting smaller, lighter and easier to handle and the fact that the Air Force is staying up with the times and moving in that direction is a big plus."
Pennington said he thinks the GATR ball will assist in the sustainment and also as a recruitment tool for the Air Force because people want to learn and work with new technology.
"This type of system is meant for initial communications at a bare base location," said U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Michael Masiwemai, 35th Combat Communications Squadron. "With combat communications, the way our mission is designed, we usually show up during the initial set up before everyone else arrives."
Masiwemai said the GATR ball allows reach back for users to be able to accomplish their mission.
"Whether it's load plans, PERSCO or the commander, without having this system we wouldn't be able to accomplish the mission." said U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Vincent Majors, 35th Combat Communications Squadron.
There are more than 600 Reserve Citizen Airmen from 42 installations in 67 career fields supporting Patriot Warrior 2019. The interlinked exercises include Patriot Warrior, Global Medic, and CSTX. Reserve Citizen Airmen, Soldiers, Sailors and international partners joined together for this training to increase global reach capabilities.