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CAP Talk  |  Operations  |  Tall Tales  |  Topic: TAC COMEX XXV (2003)
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« on: July 31, 2012, 10:52:53 PM »

Fairfax Squadron Hosts 25th Annual Exercise
September 8, 2003

For over 25 years members of the National Capital Wing have taken part in what’s called “TAC COMEX”, or Tactical Communications Exercise.  TAC COMEX, developed by Maj Derrill Ballenger, a retired Air Force Chief Master Sergeant and forward air controller in Vietnam, was the "new" Communications Officer at Mt Vernon Squadron and wanted to test the two new radios that Mt Vernon had just acquired. His goal was for the teams to unload, be given a map, a quick briefing, a radio and be on their way within one hour of arrival.  It worked.  Attendance was good.  The sorties were simple radio range tests along with map and navigation tasks to get to their testing points.  They all went home with high morale, good radio test reports and a positive outlook for the next year's COMEX.

Mt. Vernon opened up the exercises to the entire wing during TAC COMEX VI. Major Ballenger says, “I guess there is no such thing as ‘ownership’ of an exercise, but my association with this is as close as they come, since I am the only person who has attended all past 25”.

TAC COMEX I was held in April of 1978.  Only one year has gone by without a COMEX, and that was due to a lost training area last minute.  This activity has been held at George Washington National Forest, Quantico MCB, Ft. Belvoir, and Ft. AP Hill, but always in Virginia.

The motivation of making this a special exercise was the result of several consecutive SARCAP's where National Capital Wing Ground Teams spent inordinate amounts of time awaiting sortie assignments, lengthy briefings and then spent hours riding in the back of hot vans.  “I could sense a feeling of frustration and that the cadets didn't want to go on any more activities”, said Maj Ballenger.

This year’s TAC COMEX was hosted by Fairfax Squadron and held at Ft. AP Hill, Virginia over a 3-day period.  As always, Maj Ballenger and few advanced radio operators set out to the field one day prior to get the mission underway.  No different from the 24 exercises before, cadets and seniors alike were trekking through the woods, streams, and marshes of Virginia’s rolling hills.  Additionally, aircrews flying 4 aircraft flew 8 training sorties totaling 23.1 hours.  Ground teams were tasked with gaining visual contact with the aircrews throughout their regularly assigned tasks using mirrors, panels, smoke, and flares.  Total number of participants this year included 26 ground team and radio operators along with 11 aircrew members.  Incident Commander for the mission was the National Capital Wing Commander, Colonel Frank McConnell.

Story by Lt Col Stonewall
Commander, Fairfax Composite Squadron
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Salty & Seasoned Contributor

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« Reply #1 on: July 31, 2012, 10:57:05 PM »

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Lt. Col. Randy L. Mitchell
Historian, Group 1, IL-006
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CAP Talk  |  Operations  |  Tall Tales  |  Topic: TAC COMEX XXV (2003)

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