Courtesy story by Chief Master Sgt. Eugene F. Lewan, 242nd Combat Communications Squadron
FAIRCHILD AIR FORCE BASE, Wash.—On January 23, 2019, the National Weather Service issued a Winter Storm Warning to parts of the Pacific Northwest, with the possibility that areas of Spokane County could see significant accumulations. As this warning was broadcast, members of the Washington Air National Guard’s 242nd Combat Communications Squadron prepared for a battle with the elements, making sure operations at Fairchild Air Force Base continued without interruption. These airmen have volunteered to perform the additional duties required to keep the base prepared to respond to any local, state, or global incident.
Over the years, members of the 242nd have served in a variety of domestic and foreign missions. During the 2008-09 winter season these airman rapidly deployed across the Spokane area to quell multiple building collapses caused by that season’s record breaking snowfall. They cleared the roofs of many local schools, preventing the potential for serious injury, or damage to these public structures.
Severe weather conditions occur often here in the Inland Northwest during the winter months. But there are other kinds of challenges all throughout the year, and the members of the 242nd Combat Communications Squadron have been responded when called.
Recently, the increase in the need for wild land firefighting has required effort from the 242nd. When many are enjoying their summer months in Washington State, the airmen of the 242nd volunteered to take on some of the largest forest fires the State of Washington have ever endured. In 2014, members of the 242nd helped establish the base camp just outside Leavenworth, Washington to battle the raging wildfires. Then in 2015, members of the 242nd divided forces and took on multiple conflagrations across the state.
In 2016, members prepared for the projected response to another natural disaster, an earthquake. Along with local, state and federal agencies, teams of communicators traversed the state to initiate a communication backbone designed to bridge potential gaps caused by problems associated with tectonic movements within the Cascadia subduction zone.
Then 2017 brought about the largest mobilization in the unit’s history. With over half the unit serving overseas in the Middle East and Africa, the remaining airmen, some who also recently returned from other overseas deployments, stepped up to support recovery efforts after Hurricane Maria devastated the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico. The JISCC team rapidly set off to assist in the recovery efforts. The JISCC (Joint Incident Site Communications Capability) suite of equipment provided communications links and wifi connectivity to areas where the communication infrastructure was destroyed.
Not only are these volunteers battling these natural disasters, they also volunteer to make a local environmental impact by participating in the “Adopt-A- Highway” program. Since 2009, members have provided their time to clean Washington highways, and during this period they performed over 500 hours of volunteer work beautifying the roads in the community.
As the current winter season progresses and the fire season approaches, members of the 242nd CBCS are on call for duty. They will be there as Red Card trained fire fighters, snow plow operators, caretakers of our causeways, and communicators who will serve around the globe.
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