Airmen provide communications capabilities
by Holly L. Birchfield
78th Air Base Wing Public Affairs
Airmen from all four squadrons of the 5th CCG loaded about 25 pallets of communications equipment and headed to Keesler Air Force Base, Miss., and the Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport, to provide telephone and Internet communications in the areas heavily damaged by Hurricane Katrina.
The squadrons are accustomed to setting up communication capabilities in remote locations, but when Air Combat Command officials called upon the unit to provide those capabilities stateside, the group’s troops were ready and willing to help, said Maj. Corey Ramsby, 54th Combat Communications Squadron commander.
“There are a lot of units in the Air Force that are going down to provide this relief, because this is what we train to do,” he said. “Going into a bare base environment and providing this capability while bad guys shoot at us is one thing. But going into an Air Force base to provide these capabilities to our own folks is a great opportunity.”
A team of 16 Airmen went ahead of the group with telephone and Internet equipment to start initial set up.
About 28 Airmen will join the group this weekend, carrying more than 200,000 pounds of communications equipment.
Senior Airman Michael Martin, a 54th CBCS power production journeyman, is heading to the region. While he is unsure of the length of his stay in the ravaged area, he said he wants to help all he can.
“I volunteered for this,” he said. “We’re always on stand-by and always ready to go.”
Senior Airman Kelly Spalding, a computer communications network systems administrator with the 51st CBCS, was among many Airmen loading pallets for the trip. Although she isn’t going on the mission, she said she is glad to do her part at home.
“I’m happy to support this mission,” she said. “I can’t imagine what those people are going through. It helps me to know that I’m doing something to help them.”
Maj. Darryl Neal, 51st CBCS commander, said with some of the group’s family near the affected area, the mission is hitting close to home.
“This obviously has a lot more sentimental value, because there are a lot of family and friends in that area,” he said. “So, we’re taking care of our own.”
Airmen involved in putting aid efforts together, like Maj. Rich Janoso, 52nd CBCS commander, said this was a chance to reach out to others in the Air Force family.
“We’re giving people the capability to make calls back home to relatives, and that’s a great thing,” he said. “This is what we train for and to be able to employ it in a humanitarian sense in our own backyard -- you can’t get any better than that.”
Group officials said the Airmen will be providing support to the Gulf Coast area for an indefinite amount of time.
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