COMM Flight Once Again Supports Beargrease
By Master Sgt. Ralph J. Kapustka, 148th Fighter Wing
/ Published February 16, 2011
GRAND MARAIS, Minn. -- The 148th Fighter Wing, Communications Flight, Deployable Interoperable Communications Element (DICE) team has supported the John Beargrease sled dog marathon for many years and 2011 was no exception.
The DICE team's deployment site was a wooded area northwest of Grand Marais, Minn. The deployed location had limited road access and no amenities and forced the DICE team to set-up in a place where nothing previously existed.
The primary mission of the Beargrease deployment is to set up and test the Deployable Interoperable Communications Element that the Communications Flight supports. This includes establishing communications via a mobile package called the "Joint Communications Platform 3" or just "JCP3". JCP3 is a joint Minnesota Army/Air National Guard tool that consists of a mobile communications platform mounted on the back of a truck. The equipment and technology contained in this package can support both military and civilian operations. Some of the services that this package can provide include; satellite internet access, radio and phone communications, video teleconferencing (VTC) and satellite television. The package can bridge together separate organizations to allow them all to talk on the same network, be it computer, radio or phone networks.
During the mission, the DICE team took care of a road crossing ensuring that the racers and dogs could cross safely. In addition, they tracked racers movements and relayed pertinent information back to the Beargrease Net Control, also known as the Beargrease Amateur Radio Coalition (BARC). This information was used to provide real time tracking of the marathon to those who were interested. Most importantly, they were available to provide direct assistance to Mushers and their dogs upon request.
The Beargrease sled dog race started with 18 Mushers and by the end of the race only 13 Mushers were left. The DICE team tracked all 13 teams through their checkpoint, plus a team that had to call it quits. The Musher's dogs were too exhausted and could not go on so he spent several hours at their checkpoint resting his dogs and waiting for his handler's to arrive. During this time, the DICE team provided some warmth and shelter for the dogs by giving them extra sleeping bags and pine boughs to lie on. They also assisted the Musher by giving him some chili to help keep him warm.
Master Sgt. Bryan Druar, Deployable Interoperable Communications Element (DICE) NCOIC says that the Beargrease deployment is an excellent test for the DICE team. "Not only are the members themselves immersed in field conditions but it also provides the team with real hands-on training in a sampling of the elements they'll more than likely have to work in. The JCP3 might work great in 70 degree weather, but will it work in sub-zero, snowy weather that is most apt to occur? The Beargrease deployment lets us test that and gives us the opportunity to respond accordingly, whether it be adjusting procedures or repairing equipment."
The Communication Flight has supported the John Beargrease sled dog marathon since 1995.