News>Radio Communication Operator Course Comes to an End after 61 Years
Staff Sgt. Steven Gatlin and Senior Airman Kyle Brown are among the last graduating class of the Radio Communications Operator Apprentice Course taught at Keesler Air Force Base, Miss. (U.S. Air Force Photo/Unknown)
Staff Sgt. Steven Gatlin receives his diploma as part of the last graduating class from the Radio Communications Operator Apprentice Course at Keesler Air Force Base, Miss. (U.S. Air Force Photo/Unknown)
by Capt. Shane O. Huff
927th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs Office
9/13/2009 - MACDILL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- As the United States Air Force prepares itself to utilize and protect the most advanced communication technology available, it's marking the end of an era for radio operators. For 61 years the radio communication operator apprentice course has been taught at Keesler Air Force Base, Miss.
The last radio communications course was taught earlier this summer with the final class graduating in July. There were ten graduating students, two of which belong to the 927th Air Refueling Wing, Staff Sgt. Steven Gatlin and Senior Airman Kyle Brown. Both are reservists of the 45th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron's Communication Flight.
Some of the material covered in the course was information security, computer systems, antenna systems and wavelength propagation. A key aspect of the course was learning how to establish air-to-ground and satellite communications. "It was a strenuous course, I had to study every night, but it was an honor and privilege to be part of this historical last class", said Gatlin. "It was exciting and neat to see a lot of the retired radio operators at our graduation ceremony. Some served in the Korean and Vietnam conflicts," said Brown.
With the end of the radio communication course comes a new career path called "RF Transmission Systems." According to the Communication Flight Superintendent Senior Master Sgt. Scott Shore, "This new career path combines six Air Force career fields into one, and will begin 1 November of this year." Despite the end of radio communication, the mission will not change, we will still conduct barebones communications operations in deployed locations, said Shore. A large part of the Communication Flight's operation is classified as they are responsible for providing secure voice, digital and analog encryption operations while supporting air and ground stations. "We are usually the first on the ground to set up satellite communications in order to talk to aircrew. We pass along information on the medical status and number of patients being transferred from a medical staging area on the ground", said Shore.