32nd Combat Comm Squadron supports New Horizons Panama 2010
By Tech. Sgt. Eric Petosky , New Horizons Panama 2010 Public Affairs
/ Published July 30, 2010
METETI, Panama -- An 11-person team from the 32nd Combat Communications Squadron is deployed to Meteti, Panama, from Tinker Air Force Base, Okla., to bring phone and data service to engineers and support personnel participating in New Horizons Panama 2010.
After supporting earthquake relief operations in Haiti, this is the second deployment supporting a 12th Air Force (Air Forces Southern) mission this year for the squadron, but setting up communications at austere locations is the bread and butter of the unit.
"There is no other type of communications unit that can set up equipment in a place that was previously just an empty field and provide a full communication suite within hours," said 1st Lt. Charles Cadwell, the officer in charge. "We are serving 200-plus customers, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and you can see the impact we're having every day."
Lieutenant Cadwell explained that the 32nd CBCS is one of four squadrons at Tinker AFB which specialize in setting up bare-base communications at deployed locations. It takes 13 short tons of equipment loaded on pallets and in containers to make the mission happen. The equipment is pre-configured and stored to expedite rapid response, and communications packages can be tailored to suit customer requirements at each unique mission location.
"Other than food, fuel and water, we deploy with everything we need to completely sustain ourselves and the mission," said Master Sgt. Rodney Norman, NCO in charge. "That includes satellite and networking equipment, computer servers, phones, laptops, printers, radios -- even the tents and power generators."
Sergeant Norman, who has deployed to Panama six times during his 18-year career, said that after the unit arrived on June 13th, it only took 19 hours to have secure and un-secure data and phone service available to New Horizons Panama personnel. The communications specialists in the team also travel to each of the six work sites every day with mobile satellite radios so engineers can communicate with the base camp.
Senior Airman Cesar Morales, cyber operations technician, said the work is fulfilling because of the crucial role communications plays in the mission
"From troop morale and force protection, to coordinating medical assistance for Airmen during an emergency -- our team impacts the lives of every Airman, Soldier, Marine or Sailor involved in New Horizons in some way or another," he said. "It feels amazing to be part of it."
For Lieutenant Cadwell, the impact New Horizons has on schools and medical clinics in the Darien region of Panama holds special meaning.
"It's incredible to watch the difference in the everyday lives of the children and communities that are benefitting from the projects that we're supporting," he said. "To be a part of an exercise that has such positive long-term effects on people's lives is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for us."
New Horizons Panama 2010 is a U.S. Southern Command sponsored humanitarian assistance exercise designed to provide medical care and quality-of-life improvement projects for the people of Panama. In total, four schools and two medical clinics will be renovated by a force of U.S. Air Force and U.S. Army engineers. Additionally, five medical teams will deploy for two-week rotations in the towns of Chitre, Veraguas, and David to provide care in the fields of ophthalmology, ear-nose-throat surgery, and dentistry.
Since New Horizons started in the mid-1980's, Airmen and members of USSOUTHCOM have built schools and community centers, dug wells, provided medical care, and constructed clinics year after year at the request of numerous countries in the spirit of cooperation and friendship.
All these missions revolve around USSOUTHCOM's ongoing commitment to theater security cooperation, and are requested by the host nations. By sharing experiences, information, vital skills, tactics, and techniques, the United States continues to build enduring partnerships with nations in Central and South America, as well as the Caribbean.