Monday, April 24, 2006

Air Force's wild blue yonder gets down and grunt dirty

During my Air Force career I was "fortunate" enough to be assigned to two different Combat Communications Groups - the 1st CCG which operated out of Lindsey Air Station in Wiesbaden Germany, and the 5th CCG at Warner-Robins AFB Georgia. Their main function was to provide, anywhere in the world and at the drop of a hat, all the weather, communications and navigation functions available at a regular Air Force Base. Air-to-ground, HF, Satellite, Tropospheric Scatter, Microwave, TACAN...we did it all. Give us a piece of ground and we'd give you a Tactical Air Base.

Since communications are necessary to coordinate the movement of troops and materials, we were often the first unit deployed, and the last to leave, leading to the 1st CCG's motto "First In, Last Out". This meant we often had to provide for our own security, carrying weapons and such. I think we got a little bit more weapons training that most Air Force units. I earned an Expert Marksman ribbon, but thankfully never had to put that skill to practical use. It's a good thing too, since we had little to no training in tactics. If we actually were overrun by the enemy, we'd probably have had as many casualties from friendly fire.

Fortunately they are taking this more seriously now.

"New recruits are being issued rifles. They are being taught hand-to-hand combat skills. They are being trained as battlefield medics. The new regimen is part of a complete revamping of basic training ordered by Air Force commanders in somewhat belated recognition that their personnel, once sent to large, isolated bases with hundreds of thousands of infantrymen between them and enemy forces, now are regularly in harm's way."

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