Pacific Air Forces is overhauling its tactical communications operations starting with the decommissioning of the 607th Combat Communications Squadron at Camp Humphreys, South Korea, and ending with a new regional unit at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, by 2008.

The changes support PACAF commander Gen. Paul Hester’s goal of repositioning forces at the command’s U.S.-controlled bases, including Andersen, Alaska’s Elmendorf Air Force Base and Hawaii’s Hickam Air Force Base, officials said.

The changes consolidate and reorganize the tactical — or deployable — communications personnel throughout the theater to create a quick-reaction group capable of racing off to combat zones or natural disasters to link a temporary base to the outside world, said Capt. Paul Whitfield, PACAF deployable communications systems chief.

The first part of the plan is decommissioning the 607th, a process that began in August 2005 and will continue gradually through 2008, helping to trim the number of Americans assigned to South Korea.

It also will free millions of dollars for PACAF through a manpower-for-dollars initiative, Whitfield said. About 170 of the unit’s 220 positions will be cashed in for several years and later will return to PACAF, but not necessarily as combat communications personnel, he added.

The money generated will go toward improving capabilities, he said, “to pay for technology to do what the manpower used to do.”

The remaining personnel from the 607th will be redistributed primarily at Andersen. About 15 positions will be converted into a tactical communications flight under the 607th Air and Space Communications Squadron at Osan Air Base, South Korea.

Meanwhile, PACAF will regroup its tactical communications functions into a new unit, so far called the PACAF Combat Communications Squadron, to be based at Andersen. That unit, with about 145 people, will develop gradually starting in the coming months through September 2008. The slow development will ensure PACAF’s Air Expeditionary Force is not disrupted, Whitfield said.

The new unit will be capable of quick deployments to up to four remote locations to establish voice and data communications for up to 1,200 people, Whitfield said.

The mission is similar to what PACAF did during Operation Unified Assistance following the South Asian tsunami disaster. In that case, the 18th Communications Squadron from Kadena Air Base on Okinawa deployed to Utapao, Thailand, to establish communications at the temporary base there.

Tactical communications personnel at each air base in the theater will continue supporting AEF missions and maintaining small tactical capabilities called “fly-away kits” for very fast responses, Whitfield said.

No numerical designation has been established for the new unit at Andersen, Whitfield said, but it will fall under the 36th Contingency Response Group. The first people and equipment to form the unit will start arriving at Andersen in November, Whitfield said.

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