USAFE Communications Experts Take Part in Combined Endeavor 04 in Bulgaria

CAMP SARAFOVO, Bulgaria - Arriving here for Exercise Combined Endeavor 2004, Airmen from the 735th Communications Squadron and the 1st Combat Communications Squadron quickly jumped in to create possibilities for the thing they're known for - expeditionary communications. In roughly a day, a group of 26 communications experts from Ramstein Air Base, Germany, made friends with more than 200 people from eight different countries by providing access to phones, Internet and e-mail.

That move didn't just give them new buddies, it also got them ready to kick off Combined Endeavor, which began May 6 and runs through May 19.

Combined Endeavor 2004 is a U.S. European Command-sponsored exercise, designed to identify and document command, control, communications and computer (C4) interoperability between NATO and Partnership for Peace nations. This year marks the first time in Combined Endeavor's 10-year existence that the exercise is operating in parallel from two different countries. The main site is located at Lager Aulenbach in Germany and the second site is located at Camp Sarafovo, Bulgaria.

The overall exercise objective is to achieve a level of communications interoperability and compatibility that will allow partner nations to conduct future humanitarian, peacekeeping and disaster relief operations.

To achieve the objective, different tests take place each day. Some of those tests include high frequency transmission systems, digital and analog switchboards, information systems, information assurance and wide area and local area networks.

So far, the exercise is going well for the 735th Expeditionary Communications Squadron, according to Capt. Robert Kitchen, 735th ECS commander.

"Through coordination with network operations in Lager Aulenbach and great cooperation with our multi-national counterparts at Camp Sarafovo, we've been able to overcome ongoing challenges of interoperability," he said.

Those challenges create opportunities for his troops, Capt. Kitchen said.

"You can't expect that your equipment will be compatible with everything you might find on-site. Making our equipment work as a coalition network, without the luxury of going to the local electronics store for parts, is exactly what we would expect in future military operations. This means we have to scrutinize our own planning efforts and build a coalition mindset into our readiness training," said Kitchen.

For Staff Sgt. Jason Bryant, from the 1st Combat Communications Squadron, the best part about being here is having access to equipment not available at Ramstein.

"I get to test out equipment here that I can't even touch in my shop. This is a great learning bed. There is a great knowledge base with the U.S. Marine Corps and military members from countries such as Bulgaria. We all work together to figure things out," said Bryant.

"This has been a fantastic experience to see how other nations would support the operations in a coalition environment. Each nation has brought some great resources to the table, and we must take advantage of that," said Kitchen.

Master Sgt. Ronald Rouse, superintendent of the 735th ECS, agreed.

"One thing is that we found out that we all do things in different ways," said Rouse. "Building the network, telephone switches and providing Internet are sometimes done completely different than in the United States. But, it's an interesting concept."

"(Participants in Combined Endeavor 2004) are very, very intelligent and they see these challenges as puzzles to solve," Capt. Kitchen said. "The willingness of this international team to overcome any obstacles in our path is our greatest strength. Without this attitude, interoperability of machinery brings nothing to operations."

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