By Senior Airman Johanna Brooks, 141 ARW/PA
/ Published October 31, 2011
FAIRCHILD AIR FORCE BASE, Wash. -- July ushered in a new era for the 242 Combat Communications Squadron. The unit closed their facility at Geiger Field during a ceremony held there July 9. The closing was precipitated by their move onto Fairchild AFB to comply with the Base Realignment and Closure Commission's recommendation. The move marks a new future for the 242.
Originally called the 242nd Airways and Air Communications Service Operations Flight, the 242 Combat Comm activated in 1952 at Geiger Field on land purchased for a WWII B-17 and C-47 training facility. The 106 member unit is comprised of 20 full-time technicians and 86 traditional Guardsmen, many of whom have been with the unit for more than twenty years. The geographically separated unit operated largely independent from the other Air Guard units.
The recent changes will facilitate increased communication and coordination between the 242 and other Air Guard units as well as the 92 ARW. "This is a very positive move for the 242. We look forward to the advantages of being closer to the 141st as our Host Wing, as they support us in a number of areas," said Capt. Christine Wright. One chapter has ended and a new one is beginning for the 242 here at Fairchild. As Lt. Col. Casey McGinn, commander of the 242 Combat Communications Squadron, has said, "It's not where you plant your flag, but the people you have supporting it."
The adaptive nature of the world of Combat Comm contributed to a positive attitude regarding the relocation. Senior Master Sgt. Stanley McLean has been with the 242 since 1984 and said they are used to taking change in stride. "We build from the ground up, literally getting down in the dirt at an austere location, and build a base up from nothing." Said McLean. "We aren't afraid to dig in the dirt. We know how to adapt to changes because that is the very nature of our work."
Many 242 members will now be physically moved from the 242, working alongside other units while still maintaining their position with the 242. "Some of our members joined the total force integration with the 141 and 92 moving into joint facilities, such as vehicle maintenance and supply," said Captain Wright.
Master Sgt. Renee Teston began her Guard career with the 242 in the mid-80s and reminisced of the "home-town feeling" at Geiger but remains optimistic. "Relocating to Fairchild is kind of like moving from a small town to the big city," said Teston, also First Sergeant of the 242. "Both have advantages and disadvantages, but overall, I'm sure the move will be a positive one and full of opportunities."
The 242 Combat Comm's mission is to provide base information infrastructure and connectivity in a deployed environment. Its members develop communications so that their successors can seamlessly transition to their new positions downrange. They must be adaptable, completely self-sustainable and ready to establish a base of operations. "We are the last remaining ANG deployable communications squadron in the state," said Wright. "Due to our dual status, we support both a Homeland Defense mission with our Joint Incident Site Communications Capability equipment and the federal mission when called upon.
Currently, five 242 Combat Comm members-Tech. Sgt. Joshua Oliver, Tech. Sgt. Rachel Golden, Senior Air man Caleb Johnson, Senior Airman Marcus Kimm, and Airman First Class Robert Schoeff are deployed to the AOR and two members- Staff Sgt. Eric Marrazzo and Senior Airman John Omodt have just recently returned. The 242 is located in temporary facilities on Fairchild AFB while they await the completion of their new facilities, previously the home of the 141st ARW Headquarters. The Army National Guard will fill the vacancies at Geiger.