689th Combat Communicators Supporting Haiti Relief

ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. -- When the call came to support relief efforts in Haiti, the 689th Combat Communications Wing answered.

Eight members of the wing's 5th Combat Communications Group left Robins Sunday for the earthquake-ravaged nation. They will be joined shortly by 31 Airmen from the wing's 3rd CCG at Tinker Air Force Base, Okla.

The Robins Airmen include two satellite communication technicians and a six-person Deployable Initial Communications Element team. The DICE team will provide initial ground communication capabilities for an Air Force Expeditionary Medical Support (EMEDS) unit, said DICE team leader Capt. Joel Nelson.

"We'll be setting up both voice and data capabilities," he said.

Staff Sgt Jarrell Williams, one of the two satellite communications technicians, will have a different mission, but one which will also aid the recovery efforts.

"I'll be providing full motion video from surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft flying overhead," he explained. "What they see in the aircraft, I'll see with a five-second delay, then take the video and put it onto a server so agencies (on the ground) can use it."
Some of those who deployed Sunday recently returned from a six-month rotation to Southwest Asia. Though they hadn't been home long, most volunteered for the 120-day assignment, said Nelson.

"This is what we do. We train and we deploy," said 5th CCG Commander Col. Jose Rivera. "The earthquake hit 17 days ago and we were ready 16 days ago. When the news hit, we started revving up."

The colonel added it takes more than just the communicators themselves to make something like this happen.

"We couldn't do it without the support the people of Middle Georgia have been giving (us) for 46 years," he said.

The 5th and 3rd CCGs have a long history of supporting humanitarian missions around the world. They've supported relief efforts in the United States following Hurricanes Ike, Katrina and Gustav, and deployed to Pakistan after an earthquake devastated parts of that country, said 689th CCW Commander Col. Theresa Giorlando.

"We are proud to be able to support this humanitarian mission and hope that our efforts lead to Haiti's speedy recovery," she said.