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Deployable communications
Hammer ACE style

By Master Sgt. Randy Weiss
Headquarters Air Force Communications Agency
Scott Air Force Base, Ill.

"The President can make you a general, but only communications can make you a commander." This was true in 1954 when stated by Gen. Curtis E. Lemay, and it's true today as we begin operations in the new millennium. The right information … at the right time … at the right place … and at the right price! What a concept this is, and one we all strive to achieve in today's Expeditionary Air Force. But what happens when an Air Force emergency situation requires communications support? There is an immediate need for flexible, reliable, assured, affordable and tailored communications support outside the base or deployed base environment. Due to the physical location, time constraints or costs of such needed services, this capability is not always attainable … or is it? Consider the following hypothetical situation.

Awakened by a ringing phone, you attempt to shake the cobwebs from your head as you glance at the digital alarm clock while fumbling for the handset. The display reads 2:39 ... A.M.! This cannot be good news. Upon finally getting the correct end of the phone to your ear, you hear, "This is the Scott AFB Command Post controller and I have Colonel Smith requesting to speak to you; may I patch him through?" The ensuing conversation reveals an F-16 has crashed in a remote location, the terrain is unknown and there is no communications capability to that site. It's time for deployable communications … Hammer ACE style!

This is how it all begins—and how easy it is—to initiate a request for Hammer ACE. Hammer ACE, or Adaptive Communications Element, is the Air Force's quick-reaction, special-purpose communications team assigned to the Air Force Communications Agency at Scott AFB. Our primary mission is to provide secure communications support for Air Force aircraft and nuclear mishaps worldwide. Secondary missions include supporting military exercises and equipment testing. Hammer ACE personnel and equipment can support up to four missions simultaneously.

After the initial command post alert, Hammer ACE technicians spring into action. Three-person teams are on stand-by, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Personal gear is maintained at the shop and the communications gear has been checked and is on primary status. We ready the gear for movement and get ready to deploy. Final travel arrangements are made, safety briefings given, and Hammer ACE departs within three hours from initial notification. After securing transportation at the destination, Hammer ACE arrives on site with an equipment package, consisting of 26 medium sized transit cases, ready to go to work. This package is tailored to provide essential communications for numerous emergency situations.

The team's first priority is to establish long-haul communications using International Maritime Satellite terminals, Iridium handsets, Ultra-High Frequency Tactical Satellite systems or cellular telephones. Eight telephone lines can be activated within five minutes of arrival. If Ultra-High Frequency Tactical Satellite is used, secure or non-secure phone patches can be extended via the Hammer ACE Ground Entry Point. Once long-haul communications is established, numerous peripherals can be interfaced to them, such as secure telephones, facsimile machines or ruggedized laptop computers, providing a variety of data services. Long-haul services may be used by on-scene commanders to satisfy secure and non-secure voice, data, electronic mail and record communications requirements. Situation reports can be up-channeled, technical specialists requested, life support coordinated, and digital images transferred to headquarters for analysis.

The next priority is providing intra-site support. A tactical land mobile radio system is installed, consisting of hand-held radios, a repeater and a base station. The LMR system is capable of operating in remote locations and sustains itself using remote power units and a solar blanket for recharging. Other support includes multi-band, multi-mode ground-to-air radios compatible with all Department of Defense fixed wing and rotary aircraft. Additional intra-site services include photographic capabilities, both video and digital stills, and the military Global Positioning System. These services are available to the on-scene commander for securing the site; denying the intercept and exploitation of sensitive information; coordinating manpower, personnel and administrative support; removing unexploded ordinance and hazardous aircraft components; and plotting the locations of aircraft wreckage.

Missions in 1999 and 2000 took Hammer ACE members to such places as the swamps of Florida, the mountains of Colorado, the farmlands of the Midwest, the muskeg of Canada and the deserts of Kuwait. Hammer ACE supported C-130, F-15, F-16, HH-60, MH-53 and UH-1 mishap investigations, Hurricane Floyd flood relief in North Carolina, and Y2K contingency operations at Maxwell AFB, Ala.

Hammer ACE has one goal … providing capability to meet any Air Force communications requirements at the exact location needed, when and where none exists. They may be operating out of a vehicle or tent serving as the incident command post, huddled under a solar blanket for shelter against a biting wind on a mountain ridge, or trying to keep equipment and personnel from sinking into swamps and bogs. Remember, you do have an option when emergency communications support is needed for Air Force customers with unique requirements … Hammer ACE can provide those vital services to you.

Emergency Hammer ACE support can be requested by contacting the Scott AFB Command Post at DSN 576-5891 or commercial (618) 256-5891. For all other types of support, contact Hammer ACE at DSN 576-3431 or commercial (618) 256-3431. There is no cost to major commands or wings to receive emergency support.