Lt Col Milton H. Towne signed the assumption of Command as the first commander of the 256 Mobile Communications Squadron (AFCCP). The squadron began with 4 officers and 52 enlisted members and an authorized strength of 4 officers and 52 enlisted members. The operating location was Paine Field ANGS, Everett, WA.
Initial equipment complement consisted of:
In the early days of the 256th we had nothing, not even a paper clip. The Commander didn't have an office, the technicians and drill-status Guardsmen didn't have a place to hang their hats. Numerous trips to the National Guard Bureau (NGB) pleading for support, slowly solved the problem of funding and facilities.
The first IG inspection was an administrative bust; however, due to the fact we deployed the unit and successfully passed over 300 messages convinced the IG we should get a satisfactory grade. With that beginning the 256th began to build and grow.
The squadron was redesignated from the 256MCSq(AFCCP) to the 256MCSq(AFCH) effective 15 Nov 72.
WESTACS II, in Spokane, was the squadrons first JCS exercise. We were located near a hanger on Fairchild AFB in support of a fighter wing from Illinois. Marv setup six Kleinschmidt machines in the hanger for weather and FRAG orders. The AN/TTC22 switchboard was new to the squadron and Charlie Skoubo was the only person who knew how to run it. The AN/TRC24 equipment was poorly engineered leaving us with the AN/TSC15 as our only means of getting out or receiving the FRAG orders. Because the AN/TSC15 was not designed for continuous key we had to put an air-conditioning duct right on the transmitter to keep it from burning up. Capt Dean Quam was one of the key players in making sure it kept operating.
AFT was conducted at the 244th MCSq's facility in Portland, OR, to conduct proficiency and academic training. We set up our equipment in the 244th compound, a very small area that required great care and driving skill on Eldon Butler's part to back semi-trailers into place.
The 252nd/256th received the Air Force Outstanding Unit Award and MG McGee presented the Adjutant General's Trophy to the 256th for outstanding performance and attaining a C-1 Readiness Rating (1 Jan 74 to 1 Jan 75).
On 1 May 75 Lt Col William F. Tanner assumed command of the 256th from Lt Col Milton H. Towne.
The 256th's next action was the JCS exercise in Yakima. The 256 provided communications support to the Army and much of the equipment was located on Yakima Ridge. Seeing the Army all dusty and dirty made many of us glad we joined the Air Force. Yakima Ridge was almost inaccessible except by foot; however, with care an all wheel drive vehicle could get to the top. Some of the less experienced drivers did a hand-off to those who were more capable.
Maj Minor R. Wallace assumed command of the squadron from Lt Col William F. Tanner on 1 Jan 76. Effective 1 Oct 76 the 256th was relocated to Camp Murray, Tacoma, WA. Equipment on hand now included:
The following photograph shows Building 101 as it exists today.
Maj Douglas M. Smith assumed command of the squadron from Lt Col Minor R. Wallace on 11 Dec 78.
The first "Learning Owl" was held in Astoria, OR. Facilities were crude and for the first week it was a little wet. The cottages were referred to as "HOOTCHES" and they came without heat plus knot hole in the walls for ventilation. The bathrooms had another modern innovation that you might recall; the water tank was up on the wall and it was hooked to the toilet seat so that when you got off the seat it sprang up and flushed the toilet. It would even give you a shower free of charge if you failed to move fast enough. The exercise was a success and everyone enjoyed the ocean.
Brave Shield XVII, Nellis AFB, Las Vegas, NV. This was our first really long haul road convoy. It took four days to road march all our equipment to Las Vegas. We had over sixty eight vehicles on the road when you counted all the units involved. MSG Butler was responsible for the 256th portion of the convoy and managed to get us there with minimal breakdowns. We lived in tents and worked many hours; however we had a good time downtown at the casinos when we were off duty.
The AN/TTC7 was replaced by a AN/TTC22 manual/electronic switchboard.
The 252nd CCG/256th MCSq received the Air Force Outstanding Unit Award.
Maj Robert W. Miller assumed command of the squadron from Lt Col Doug Smith on 6 Oct 80.
Governor Dixie Lee Ray presented the 256th with a plaque for its support of the Mount Saint Helens emergency.
The 256th was recognized by the US Navy for its support in providing electrical power aboard the USS Missouri on its trip to Long Beach, CA, for recommissioning. SMS Emory Earl was the first and possibly the last Air National Guardsman to ever serve on the USS Missouri.
Brave Shield 20 at North Fort Lewis, Tacoma, WA, was one of the biggest JCS exercises that the 252/256 ever participated in. The exercise call for three AN/TGC26s backtoback, and two AN/TSC62s backtoback plus the AN/TTC30 fielded by the 3rd Combat Communications Group.
Gallant Eagle Exercise at George AFB, CA.
Second Learning Owl at Gowen ANGB, Boise, ID. It was hot, as usual, and our administration of the school was all by hand using cards to track students. Sgt Simpson (now SMS Simpson) was the lead training manager and kept everyone straight.
JCS exercise Border Star at Holloman AFB, NM. This was one of our first airlifted exercises and we had three aircraft dedicated strictly to the 256th. We learned a great deal about how to load plan an aircraft and how to get off the airhead once you arrived in theater. Getting in wasn't near as bad as trying to get things organized to get back out. In addition to the airflow we had a rather large road convoy to handle all the support equipment such as tents and oversize cargo. C5s weren't readily available in those days.
On the 28th of August SMS Emory Earl was again tasked to support the Navy with diesel generators. This time it was the tow-voyage of the USS New Jersey to Long Beach, CA, for recommissioning. SMS Earl was the first and possibly the last Air National Guardsman to ever serve on the USS New Jersey.
Gallent Eagle at Nellis AFB, Las Vegas, NV.
In February the 256th achieved 100% manning overall.
The AN/TTC22 was replaced by the AN/TTC30 electronic switch.
Augmented JCS exercise at Vandel, Denmark.
Third Learning Owl at Western State College, Bellingham, WA.
Augment JCS exercise Coronet Moat in Greece.
The 252/256 received the Air Force Outstanding Unit Award.
The 256th Combat Communications Squadron (AFCH) underwent its first Operational Readiness Inspection on Fort Lewis (Buris Field). Personnel were well prepared and the squadron received an "Excellent" rating. Lt Col Miller had coined the phrase "Go for the Gold".
Maj Robert Brodfuehrer assumed command of the squadron from Lt Col Robert W. Miller on 22 Jun 85.
AFT was at Camp Rilea, OR.
Participated in a JCS exercise in Balikatan, Philippines.
Gallant Eagle at March AFB, CA.
UEI with very successful results.
Fourth Learning Owl at Eastern Washington University, Cheney, WA.
Team Spirit Exercise in South Korea.
Participated in Combat Challenge at Tinker AFB, OK.
Brim Frost Exercise in Alaska.
The AFT this year was preparation for the upcoming ORI and was held on Rogers Drop Zone on Fort Lewis
The AN/TTC30 was replaced by three SB3614 portable electronic switchboards.
The 252nd/256th received the Air Force Outstanding Unit Award.
The AN/TSQ111 (Communications Nodal Control Element) replaced the AN/TSC62 (TechControl). The AN/TSQ111 is a bridge between analog and digital communications in the TRITAC upgrade.
The 256th Combat Communications Squadron underwent its second ORI on Fort Lewis (Weir Prairie). Personnel were well prepared and again the unit received an "Excellent" rating. At the same time our AN/MRC108B and two people were providing communications support at a forest fire in the Cascade Mountains.
Commissioned the first AN/TGC27A; designed, engineered and constructed under the supervision/direction of MSG Marv Covington. [NOTE: The 256 built a total of seven AN/TGC27As saving the US Government an estimated $23,000,000.]
In 1988 a photograph of the 256th was taken for Washington's 100 year aniversary of statehood celebration. Washington became the 42nd state on November 11, 1889. The photograph is available in six sizes for download: 640x270 (384KB), 800x337 (585KB), 1024x431 (927KB), 1280x539 (1.36MB), 1600x674 (2.06MB) and 10225x4307 (58.3MB).
Fifth Learning Owl at Eastern Washington University, Cheney, WA. By this time we had computers and a great deal of corporate experience putting on formal training courses. The courses were taught by Technicians, drill status Guardsmen and active duty personnel from all over. The quality of the training was outstanding.
Pre-ORI assist visit to the 1st Combat Communications Squadron at Wiesbaden, FRG. There were five two week groups sent in to help with the ORI practices. With our help and their willingness to listen, they passed their ORI with an "Excellent" rating.
A new Material Control/WRSK warehouse was completed.
JCS exercise in Denmark (Tactical Fighter Weaponry).
A significant upgrade of building 105 (the Tin Shed), now fully insulated, heated, new mezzanine and lighting. The Tin Shed is now a Mobility Warehouse.
Healthy Measure Exercise at Farragut State Park. Its sole purpose was to teach our people how to use the new equipment more effectively. We were faced with a whole new generation of people and equipment requiring a great deal of training. Exercises like this were scheduled to continue for years to come. The cycle is every four years for this type of training. Normal training activities were undertaken as usual.
The 256th Combat Communications Squadron under the command of Lt Col Robert Brodfuehrer is still located on Camp Murray. The unit has eight officers and 150 enlisted personnel. The squadron is 100% manned, every position on the manning document is full.
Equipment on hand is as follows:
Drug interdiction mission at Tyndall AFB, FL, with the DEA using the AN/TSC94A, SATCOM, to provide a telemetry link.
Desert Shield/Desert Storm/Desert Calm saw 252/256 personnel in the field providing communications support. Sgt Kevin Ringer was deployed to the Guard Bureau command center to support the war effort. The 256th had three people in Saudi Arabia during Desert Shield who didn't come home until after the hostilities had been over for nearly a month. They were:
Larry, Tim, and Brian, served more time in the war zone than any members of the Washington National Guard. They also brought back a copy of the original message General Norman Schwarzkopf issued on the first day of the air war. This message was framed and presented to Major General Barlow. The message is on permanent display in the Washington National Guard Museum at Camp Murray.
Seven members of the 256th served in Saudi Arabia during Desert Calm. They were:
They were billeted in fixed quarters at Taif supporting a CommCenter and a SATCOM facility.
Satisfactory ORI, Fort Lewis, forest fire, chaplain's blessing, etc.
Completed the QAFA, change of command, etc.
The histroy presented here is sketchy at best and severely lacks personal stories from the members. What is here comes from various souces, most notably CMS Pennington.
If you have information that could be included or personal stories you'd like told, let me know. I'll happily include anything I can get.