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The History of the 1st Mob

(Note: This is a history of the 1st Combat Communications Squadron, a direct descendant of the 1st Airways and Air Communications Service Squadron Mobile. The originator of this document is unknown to us, although it is thought to be from the 1st Combat Communications Squadron at Ramstein Air Base, Germany. 1st Mob alumnus Dick Gillis, contributed this information.)


Mission: The 1st Combat Communications Squadron's mission is to rapidly provide deployable communications and air traffic control services throughout Europe, Africa, and the Middle East. The unit also supports training exercises, deployments, contingencies, and special military projects for the United Nations, Joint Chiefs of Staff, North Atlantic Treaty Organization, United States European Command, and the Department of State as directed by United States Air Forces in Europe. In many cases, the unit's mission requires its members to be some of the first US forces to arrive at an operating location. Because of the nature of the operation and the services the unit provides, unit members are frequently among the last personnel to leave. Hence the motto, "First In--Last Out."

People: The people of this unit are its most important resource. It is incumbent upon every flight commander, superintendent, work center NCOIC, and supervisor to ensure that their personnel are adequately prepared to perform the mission of the unit. This includes providing the best training, equipment, and work environment. The leadership of this unit ensures it provides an environment which nurtures professional and personal growth of every member.

History: The 1st Combat Communications Squadron is an organization rich in history and fiercely proud of its heritage. The unit has existed, in one form or another, since 1952, and has made its home in the heat of the Philippines, exotic Japan, and quaint and strategically located central Europe. Combat Comm has earned no less than 27 Air Force Outstanding Unit Awards, 3 of them with Valor devices. In fact, the unit has received one every year since 1963, except once -- when it took the Presidential Unit Citation. The squadron has also garnered the Navy Meritorious Unit Commendation, the Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross with Palm device, and the Philippine Republic Presidential Unit Citation.


The stated mission of the squadron is "to deploy, operate, and maintain mobile communications such as telephone switches, satellite ground terminals, various radios, and air traffic control and landing systems as directed by the United States Air Forces in Europe and United States European Command." Thus, the unit has provided these temporary facilities and the manpower to operate them during exercises, contingencies, and emergencies. It also supports requirements when permanent facilities are not yet built, or to temporarily replace damaged or destroyed facilities, as apparently was the case in Bosnia.

The 1st Combat Communications Squadron began life as the 1st AACS Squadron, Mobile on January 28, 1952. However, the 1st AACS Mobile was officially activated on March 1, 1952 at Johnson AB near Tokyo.

On July 1, 1961, the 1st AACS Mobile was re-designated the 1st Mobile Communications Squadron and transferred to Clark AFB in the Philippines. This was the first time that the words "First Communications Squadron" appear in its history. The squadron was upgraded to Group level and became the 1st Mobile Communications Group on the first of October in '61. Its mission then was to provide personnel and equipment for emergency mobile support to carry out every kind of operational commitment for communications, air traffic control, and air navigational aids in the Pacific area -- a sort of blending of the missions of an AACS outfit and a communications outfit.

During the late unpleasantness in Southeast Asia, the 1st Mobile Communications Group won a lot more awards than we ever did during the equally unpleasantness in Korea. They were given a Presidential Unit Citation, a Philippine Republic Unit Citation, and a Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross with Palm. The unit also received 23 Air Force Outstanding Unit Awards, three with "V" devices for gallant service in Southeast Asia. The Group was also awarded a Navy Meritorious Unit Citation from the 26th Marine Division, Reinforced, for actions and support at the Khe Sanh Combat Base, RVN. All of this makes the current 1st Combat Communications Squadron the most decorated communications unit in the Air Force.

In January of 1976, the unit left the Pacific and went to Europe where it was posted to Lindsey Air Station in Wiesbaden, Germany. Here it was re-designated as the 1st Combat Communications Squadron. On New Years Day of 1981, the unit was again upgraded to group status and became the 1st Combat Communications Group. On the first of October 1984, its name was changed to 1st Information Systems Group. On the last day of July 1991, the unit was again downgraded to squadron status and again became the 1st Combat Communications Squadron. In September of 1992, the squadron was relocated to Sembach Air Base near Kaiserslautern, Germany and in August of '94, it became part of the 32d Air Operations Group and began its relocation to its present posting at Ramstein Air Base in Germany. The move was completed in January of 1995.

Since being located in Germany, the unit, under its various designations, has provided support for such dignitaries as the President of the United States, the Queen of Great Britain, the Secretary of State, Secretary of Defense, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs and the Supreme Allied Commander in Europe. It was used to provide communications support in 1989 when Congressman Leland's plane crashed in Ethiopia and to provide communications support for the return of the American hostages from Iran.

The 1st CCS also provided communications support for the "Beirut Air Bridge" for potential evacuation of the American Embassy in Lebanon for 11 years. it was also involved in Operation Eldorado Canyon (the 1986 air strike against Libya) and operation Ernest Will in the Persian Gulf. It was heavily involved in Operation Desert Storm as well as Operations Proven Force and Provide Comfort out of Turkey after the end of the Gulf War. It has been extensively involved in NATO and UN Operations Deny Flight, Provide Promise, United Nations Protection Forces, and Joint Endeavor in the former Republic of Yugoslavia. Personnel and Equipment from the squadron have been deployed to locations in Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Macedonia, Italy, France and Zaire in the former Belgian Congo in Africa.

The unit has also been at the forefront of NATO's Partnership for Peace initiative. 1st Comm led the planning and provided 100% of the operational communications for the first communications only PFP exercise, Combined Endeavor in September of 1995. This exercise brought together eight former Warsaw Pact nations in order to test the interoperability of their deployable communications systems with each other and with the U.S. This was arguably America's most historically significant military exercise.

The current 1st Comm is the only non-flying unit to receive the coveted Air Force Maintenance Award. The unit twice received the Air Force's highest recognition of communication-electronics excellence, the Major General Harold M. McClellan Award, first in 1979 and again in 1983. The First Combat Comm has earned three other prestigious awards: The USAF Outstanding Communications-Electronics Activity Award (for Large C-E Units), the AFCC Outstanding Maintenance Award (Category I), and the AFCC Commander's Achievement Award.

Since its beginnings as the 1st AACS Mobile at Johnson in 1952, the unit has had twenty-eight commanders -- five in Japan, twelve in the Philippines, and eleven in Germany. The first commander of the 1st AACS Mobile is unknown but he commanded from 20 July 51 to 30 April 52. The first known commander was major Ted H. Tanner, who took command on 1 March, 1952. The current commander is Lt. Col. Thomas H. Brown, who took command of the 1st Comm on the 1st of August, 1998.

Over the past several years the unit has supported more than 100 real-world and exercise deployments per year. In many cases, these deployments require unit members to be the first U.S. forces to arrive at an operating location, and quite frequently, because of the nature of the unit's mission, 1st Comm members are the last to leave -- hence the squadron's motto, "FIRST IN -- LAST OUT". As apparently was the case in Bosnia.

1st Combat Comm supported Kosovo operations from the start of U.S. involvement. In July 1998, a unit representative supported the joint Department of State/Department of Defense Kosovo Diplomatic Observer Mission. This fact-finding mission involved direct daily contact with Serbian and Kosovo Liberation Army forces in an effort to conduct a situational analysis and report observations directly to the President of the United States and international community.

The unit continued its support in October 1998 by deploying to Cervia AB, Italy in support of Operation NOBLE ANVIL. 1st Combat Comm provided the communications architecture for a Joint Task Force (JTF) supporting F-15 flying operations. 1st Combat Comm was once again called upon to simultaneously provide JTF support to two geographically separated locations. The unit established communications in Tirana, Albania and again in Cervia AB, Italy. These operations demonstrated the unit's capability to support myriad communications requirements across the area of responsibility.

1st Combat Comm provided communications support to Operation ATLAS RESPONSE in Mozambique and South Africa. Support included initial command and control communications with follow-on JTF communications support for all humanitarian relief operations. The unit has provided backbone communications support for Air Expeditionary Forces at various locations supporting perations SOUTHERN WATCH, NORTHERN WATCH, DELIBERATE FORGE, and JOINT FORGE, throughout Southwest Asia, Turkey,Peru, Ecuador, and Curacao.

In January 2002, the 1st Combat Comm took part in the commencement of America's global war on terror with the initiation of Operation ENDURING FREEDOM. The 1st Combat Comm supplied communications to U.S. special operations forces in Pakistan and satellite communications on Diego Garcia.

In January 2003, the 1st Combat Comm was again called on to support the global war on terror. This time it was in support of Operation IRAQI FREEDOM. Members of the squadron deployed to Bulgaria, Israel, Turkey, Hungary, Italy, and England to render communications and air traffic support for a number of different operations. The diversity of the mission taskings showed the numerous capabilities that the 1st Combat Comm is capable of providing. These capabilities include political escort duties, airborne radio support, Air Operations Center communications, and navigational aids and precision approach radar for the heavy bombers that pummeled Iraqi's heavy armored divisions. The 1st Combat Comm continues to send troops into Iraq to render communications and air traffic radar support for the rebuilding effort.

In July 2003, the 1st Combat Comm participated in JTF-Liberia to assist in the evacuation of U.S. personnel from the embassy in Monrovia, Liberia and to curb violence among the groups vying for power. The 1st Combat Comm provided services in Freetown, Sierra Leon; Akara, Ghana; and Dakar, Senegal. The mission required a small "footprint", so limited personnel and equipment were used while providing complete secure and non-secure voice and data services. The operations involving JTF-Liberia showed that Air Force deployable communications had to be scaleable, flexible, and provide the full spectrum of communications services.

Today, the 1st Combat Comm supports two AEF rotations every 15 months and has almost half the squadron identified as part of the worldwide enabler air expeditionary force. Additionally, the 1st Combat Comm is involved daily in exercises and contingencies throughout the U.S. European Command area of responsibility on any mission requiring rapid deployment and flexible communications.

The unit has received the Air Force's highest recognition for communication-electronics excellence on five occasions; twice in the "Large Unit" category, the Major General Harold M. McClellan Award, first in 1979 and again in 1983; and three times in the "Small Unit" category, the Lieutenant General Harold W. Grant Award in 1996, 1997 and in 2001. The 1st Combat Comm has earned three other prestigious awards: the USAF Outstanding Communications-Electronics Activity Award (for Large C-E Units), the AFCC Outstanding Maintenance Award (Category I), and the AFCC Commander's Achievement Award.

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