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RITP23: Communications set-up in the field

  • Published
  • By Senior Master Sgt. Jessica Kendziorek
  • 403rd Wing Public Affairs

Computers, radios, and seeing the big picture. Communications for the mission is an important aspect of any exercise or real-world deployment for our Airmen.

Communications Reserve Citizen Airmen across 22nd Air Force from multiple wings came together for the Rally in the Pacific 2023 exercise to provide communication support across multiple Indo-Pacific locations, including the set up in Pohakuloa Training Area, Hawaii and in Palau.

“We started with command and control capabilities at PTA with a small ADVON (Advanced Echelon) Team, which provided unclassified and classified computer support for a staff of about 40 personnel,” said Senior Master Sgt. Raymond Shaw, 302d Communications Flight senior enlisted leader and a communications planner for the exercise.

Prior to being able to finish the set-up, Shaw and three other CF members were forward deployed to Palau to set up communication operations for the RITP23 exercise, which seeks to challenge participants’ skills by providing real-world experience while testing emerging operational concepts and the shift of the generation of airpower from large, centralized bases to networks of smaller, dispersed locations, or cluster bases to increase survivability.

“We didn’t get the chance to help with the cutover from the ADVON equipment to the main operating base equipment before I left for Palau,” said Shaw. “We had to work through that remotely, but they finished that by the end of the day.”

After a long flight and landing in Palau, the communications flight team began work the next day and within an hour of arrival had full capabilities set up.

“When I arrived in Hilo, we in-processed and went over to help finish with some final adjustments at PTA to make sure everything was good-to-go before we left for Palau,” said Tech. Sgt. Eli Elias, a 302nd CF data operations technician.

Elias explained all the different systems that were set-up by the communications team upon arrival in Palau, which included: unclassified and classified laptop capabilities, WiFi capabilities, the Multiple User Objective System (MUOS) satellite data and phone capabilities, Ultra High Frequency (UHF) and High Frequency (HF) radio to communicate back to Hilo, and Tactical Data Link (TDL).

“While Palau has host nation internet capabilities, they are not secure,” said Elias. “The capabilities that we provide are for secure communications.”

While Elias had already assisted in the set-up of the communications package in PTA, Hawaii, Tech. Sgt. Kyle Hiner, 302nd CF network operations non-commissioned officer in charge did a lot of the set-up in Palau.

“It is a great opportunity to be able to get some real experience while being on an annual tour,” said Hiner, who worked with Elias on setting up the Multiband Networking Manpack radio and antenna with the MUOS, which is used for enabling the military phone systems.

Hiner also assisted with setting up the antenna for the Mobility Air Force TDL antenna.

Getting the chance to work from multiple locations was repeated by most of the communications team as being an unique experience, but especially for Shaw.

As a planner, Shaw was getting to see both sides, and said “It is an interesting perspective to go from the planning staff and working through the big picture, then to the mission generation force elements and seeing how they actually execute it, to see what was missed as a planning staff or what could have been misinterpreted for those on the ground.” 

“But the best part for me was watching the team execute the ACE (agile combat employment) concept of setting up in an austere location,” he said. “Watching them work through the issues, to see what works, doesn’t work, and troubleshoot it to make it work.”