Exercise BUMBU 22: The 254th Combat Communications Group puts their abilities to the test

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Adrian Brakeley
  • 131st Bomb Wing Public Affairs

The Air National Guard’s 254th Combat Communications Group (CCG), based at Hensley Field, Texas, put its deployable communications capabilities to the test during an extensive training exercise. During two weeks of annual training in the heat of June, five combat communications squadrons assembled at Camp Shelby near Hattiesburg, Mississippi, for Exercise BUMBU 22. These units train annually and exercise periodically, but this is the first time in nearly 18 years that this many squadrons from the 254th have gathered as a group to exercise alongside one another.

Exercise BUMBU 22 kicked off this summer in the heat of Southern Mississippi to train up expeditionary combat communicators. “Bumbu” is the Indonesian term for a blend of spices, and is a staple foundation for all sorts of dishes. It is an apt description for this large-scale training exercise as these units come together to blend their knowledge and experience into one cohesive, capable and combat-ready communications group with a strong training foundation.

Beginning early Thursday morning on the 2nd of June, teams of combat communicators sporting “XCOMM” patches, signifying expeditionary communications forces, hurriedly pitched tents at “Bravo sites” and set up their mission-essential communications arrays. Meanwhile, cyber troops established “Alpha sites” for command and control centers and began initiating lines of communication that would support the mission for the next two weeks. In order to reach their crucial deadlines, these Guardsmen utilized their knowledge, training, and years of experience to work as a team and ensure a successful mission while also improving upon their processes in real time.

The deployment of a flexible communications package requires specialized divisions of labor among all members of these combat communications squadrons, all while training to set up their individual bases of operations from the ground up and maintain their equipment. From installing communication focal sites to setting up perimeters and security, while tracking crucial messages and orders, this training exercise asks all of those involved to work to the best of their abilities and then some.

“We’re here to flex our expeditionary skillset, practice what works, and improve upon what doesn’t,” said Chief Master Sgt. Kasey O’Brien, superintendent of the 239th Combat Communications Squadron (CBCS) based at Jefferson Barracks, Missouri. “To do that, we’re conducting readiness and equipment evaluations, reviewing and playing through mission-essential tasks, and hardening our shelters and areas of vulnerability.”

These squadrons have all performed their own annual training through the years, but this is a rare opportunity for combat communications squadrons from all over the country to congregate and train together in a setting like this.

“It’s awesome that we’re getting so many of us out here and cultivating teamwork by networking, developing a rapport, and sharing best practices with our mission partners in a high ops tempo,” O’Brien said.

Wing Inspection Team members kept watchful eyes on the communicators, evaluating their performance during the exercise and ensuring they remembered their training while injecting scenarios that prepare Guardsmen for a failure of communications or a fight from adversaries.

"So far they've been doing really well," said Master Sgt. Alejandra Rosales with the 147th CBCS based at San Diego, California. "Our job out here is to validate the readiness abilities of these squadrons, but also to educate, guide and make sure they follow their training."

Training was at the core of Exercise BUMBU 22, and Guardsmen of all units saw to it that they got their fill. Much of the exercise saw the construction and operation of a variety of critical communications packages, but members dedicated training time to practice chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear training, tactical combat casualty care, first aid training, suicide and sexual assault prevention and even some leadership and mentorship seminars.

Senior leaders say that because of BUMBU 22, the 254th CCG as a whole is becoming better prepared to fight in a contested, degraded and operationally-limited environment while ensuring vulnerabilities are identified and mitigation tactics developed. They are optimistic that the exercise’s successes and the hard work of these Guardsmen will surely yield significant results in the near future. By far the most readily obvious benefit of this training exercise is the opportunity to gather together and learn in this mock environment, an event that senior leaders hope to replicate again soon.