Europe’s best high frequency communicators build partnerships across globe

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Mitch Brown & Senior Airman Madelyn Keech
  • 86th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

Over the course of three rainy days in February 2024, the 1st Combat Communications Squadron built on their recent recognition as the best high frequency team in Europe during Advanced HF Training, Feb. 7-9, 2024 at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, and Anderson AB, Guam.

This time, Europe’s premier Combat Communications unit validated its ability to establish long-haul voice and data communications with its equivalent squadron in the Pacific, in partnership with the 435th Contingency Response Group, 2nd Multi-domain Task Force, and Royal Air Force.

Members from the 1st CBCS trained more than 20 communicators from four units across the greater expeditionary communications enterprise, focusing on interoperability between NATO partners.

The event culminated with a 11,855 kilometer HF communications link between Ramstein AB and Anderson AB in Guam, which Lt. Col. Mitch Brown, 1st CBCS commander, affirms is a significant feat as it does not require the traditional use of satellites, undersea cables or wired infrastructure. 

Communicating on HF in this manner is nothing new, however, advanced technologies and training have increased the reliability of HF communications to the point that this type of event has become routine. With this demonstration, the 1st CBCS not only trained its communicators, but integrated across the globe, and built confidence in existing partnerships throughout the alliance. 

“I think there is roughly a zero percent chance we fight alone in this theater, so we take every opportunity to integrate partners from across the alliance,” said SSgt Austin Garner, 1st CBCS tactical communication planner. “Today, we are hosting, integrating and training our RAF counterparts on advanced HF and simultaneously validating shared tactics with our teammates from the 644th Combat Communications Squadron on Guam, and our teammates here in Germany. The reliability of these long-haul connections has improved immeasurably as we have integrated new tools and built our skillsets as communicators.”

“It is essential that we stand shoulder-to-shoulder with our allies in NATO as the alliance turns 75,” added RAF Wing Commander Ben Maisey, Officer Commanding RAF’s Tactical Communications Wing. “This opportunity to train with our U.S. partners allows us to leverage our combined strengths, enhancing our shared tactics and strong relationships while honing technical skills in HF. This is only one small element of our work delivering on the Combined Vision Statement for Agile Combat Employment.”

Brown and Maisey assured that this partnership is not isolated to this event only, but is rather an example of the growth of longstanding trust between their respective units. 

Lt. Col. Kaitlyn Roes, 644th CBCS commander, also highlighted the critical nature of the partnership with her European counterparts.

“Lt. Col. Brown and I share something in common and it is that we both have a near-peer competitor that lives in our backyard,” she said. “Deliberate training opportunities like this are essential in the sense that we build off one another’s tactics, techniques and procedures, and create muscle memory for these mission essential tasks. This is not the beginning and certainly not the end of our partnership.” Brown added that there will be more interoperability demonstrations in the future, as there is no better way to build on strengths, and strengthen weaknesses than to employ Airmen in realistic combat training environments. 

“Last Fall, these four units were part of 18 total units across the joint force that participated in Exercise Heavy Rain, and the lessons from that event are already informing training and investments into new technologies at the speed of need,” Brown said. “I am eternally grateful to the amazing men and women from the 1st CBCS and our partner units that make these sorts of events a reality. We, or our successors, may very well have to fight in the near future and these partnerships will prove critical. We will not risk losing in the future, because we were too busy to integrate today.”  

The 1st Combat Communications Squadron is assigned to the 435th Air Ground Operations Wing at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, and rapidly deploys, operates and defends tactical communications and airfield systems to the forward edge of the battlespace in support of combined forces air component commander and joint objectives.