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Combat communications squadron hooks up tent city

By Staff Sgt. C. Todd Lopez

LOUIS ARMSTRONG NEW ORLEANS INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT, La. (Sept. 07, 2005) -- One combat communications squadron convoyed more than 600 miles to provide support to an Air Force tent city here.

More than 100 Airmen with the 33rd Combat Communications Squadron from Tinker Air Force Base, Okla., arrived here Sept. 5 with more than 30 military vehicles after having spent more than 40 hours on the road, said Maj. Paula Gregory, the unit's commander.

Senior Airman James Torrey installs a satellite dish at the newly constructed tent city near the New Orleans airport. The dish will provide telephone and Internet capability to Airmen living in the city.

"It was a haul, but airlift is at a premium these days," she said.

The squadron convoyed to New Orleans to be part of ongoing operations supporting the Hurricane Katrina disaster. For almost a week after the storm, hundreds of Airmen slept and ate prepackaged meals here to help with the evacuation of flood victims who had been trapped in the city.

But now, the movement of evacuees from New Orleans has slowed to a trickle, and the Air Force mission here is changing. Airmen have moved from the airport terminals to a newly built tent city just south of the airport.

Crews from the 33rd CCS will provide communications support to that tent city, Major Gregory said.

"For the whole group here we will provide voice and data services and any communications capability they need," she said. "There will be Internet and DSN capabilities. We'll offer both unclassified and classified voice and data."

The major said her group will also establish land-mobile radio service and the ability for the command post to speak with aircraft.

Two satellite dishes the squadron brought with them will connect them to the outside world. Together, the two satellite dishes can provide a two-way communications rate of about 12 megabytes per second.

Most of the communications capability provided by the group will be limited to a tent hospital and an "industrial area" in the tent city, which will comprise offices and maintenance tents. Major Gregory said the group is thinking about providing some of that communications capability to Airmen.

"We were talking with group leaders about that," she said. "Once we get the mission set up we will coordinate with services about setting up a morale tent with phones and Internet."

Major Gregory said she expected to have communications capability ready for distribution in the city within 36 hours -- just a few hours short of what it took to convoy here.