On Thursday August 6th a group from the 143rd Combat Communications Squadron based at camp Murray came to the airport in Blaine for a joint communications exercise with members of the Blaine Auxiliary Communications Service. The military was testing an extensive range of communications gear designed to be kept packaged and ready to deploy when called upon by the State of Washington.
The comm systems are split into two parts. There is an interoperability unit that provides radio comms from HF through 900 MHz and can link among them using the Raytheon ACU-1000 communications switcher. The setup includes a 36 foot carbon fiber mast and a slick device for raising and lowering the antenna package. There is also a Motorola Quantar UHF repeater with handhelds for local staff comms.
The second package is a satellite unit that provides IP and telephone services via a four foot diameter dish. Included in this package is a cellular telephone server/transceiver and 100 mobile phones. When the Micor HF radio in the interop tent revealed a bad coax connector, the solution was to run a simple twisted pair from the ACU-1000 over to the sat-stack allowing for changing the Camp Murray link from HF to Ku band digital satellite link. Captain Gonzales invited Chief Haslip to contact the C.O. at Camp Murray from his P25 handi-talkie using the Blaine PD frequency and it worked just great.
All of the gear is stored in rugged Pelican cases and is transported in two trailers, each pulled by a Ford Crew-Cab Pickup. Smaller generators are a part of the package but in this instance there was a separate truck that pulled a larger generator. The staff consisted of a Captain and nine sergeants, who had all systems on line about 90 minutes after rolling in. No doubt that time would have been cut considerably if we had not been underfoot and bombarding them with questions.
By the end of the day the list of suggestions for additions or changes in the gear was growing, but they were all mostly minor things like coax adapters and test gear. I was very impressed with the quality of the electronics and even more impressed with the caliber of the crew. This is some very complex equipment and these guys know how to use it.