TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. — Eight Reserve Citizen Airmen of the 35th Combat Communications Squadron here departed Sept. 13 to support disaster relief efforts at Homestead Air Reserve Base, Florida, where they will provide military commanders and government agencies communications systems in the wake of Hurricane Irma.
The more than 90-member Air Force Reserve squadron specializes in establishing independent communication capabilities for the military and humanitarian and disaster-relief missions worldwide. Although the 35th CBCS is physically located at Tinker, the unit falls under 960th Cyberspace Operations Group, based at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, and is one of three Reserve combat communications squadrons deploying to support relief efforts.
A C-17 Globemaster III, a large transport aircraft, with 32,944 pounds of cargo and supplies on five oversize pallets carried the squadron to Florida. The cargo included servers, radio equipment, power generation and other tools to connect to Department of Defense networks, voice communications and the internet.
Air Force Reserve Command has dispatched personnel and supplies to Homestead Monday to help in recovery efforts on and off base, and all three Reserve special mission units have been called to action as well: 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron, 302nd Airlift Wing, and the 910th Airlift Wing.
“Whether it’s supporting combatant commanders or a humanitarian mission, this is what we do,” said Lt. Col. Monte Buchanan, commander of the 35th CBCS. “We provide communications where there is no communications. If we can see the sky, we can get it hooked up.”
Homestead, on the southern tip of the Florida peninsula near Miami, was pummeled by winds of at least 40 mph Monday as Irma moved northward across the state. Although downgraded to a tropical storm Monday, the system was still capable of damaging winds and flooding rains.
The Florida base is home to the Air Force Reserve Command’s 482nd Fighter Wing. The combat-ready wing flies F-16C Fighting Falcons and employs more than 2,500 personnel.
The squadron is no stranger to Homestead. About 30 members participated in annual training there in June with other communications units, where leadership brought up the topic of the squadron potentially providing aid after a hurricane, according to Buchanan.
“They started those discussions and we had our information gathering down there about what they would need in the event of a hurricane,” he said. “So we had a good idea of what they needed as we’re preparing to go back now.”
The Air Force Reserve is comprised of nearly 70,000 Reserve Citizen Airmen and will continue to innovate new ways in vital areas of defense to protect the United States.
The 507th Air Refueling Wing here administratively supports the 35th CBCS. Squadron members can be rapidly deployed anywhere in the world to set up, from scratch, a Theater Air Base to include: satellite communications, telephone switching bands and base computer networks. They can perform setup, operation and maintenance of voice and data communications systems essential to wing operations, including radio, telephones, teletype, and computer systems.
(Tech. Sgt. Lauren Gleason, 507th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs contributed to this report)