Communications is for the Dogs
By TSgt Jason Rolfe, 148FW
/ Published February 13, 2009
Grand Marais, Minn. -- The Communications Squadron of the 148th Fighter Wing in Duluth, Minn. conducted training on a joint communications platform called Deployable Interoperable Communications Element (DICE) late this January in the bitter cold of Northern Minnesota. This deployment was carried out in conjunction with supporting the 26th running of the John Beargrease Sled-dog Marathon.
The 148th has been conducting this training and providing support for the race for 17 years. Master Sgt. Bryan Druar, 148th Communications Squadron, recalls, "We used to operate a HAM radio out of a pick-up camper and we have now graduated to this large tent that sleeps eight comfortably and a trailer that provides 100 percent more capability."
As the eight-man communications team conducted training and verified its capabilities, it also provided a vital role in the John Beargrease Sled-dog Marathon. The 148th set up camp ten miles from Grand Marais, Minn. on a remote road crossing of the Minnesota State trail. Here, they monitored the passing of the mushers and sled-dog teams. This information was channeled through a HAM radio network know as B.A.R.C. or the Beargrease Amateur Radio Coalition.
Just six out of 21 sled-dog teams finished the marathon that spanned over the course of three days and 380 miles. Jason Barron of Lincoln, Montana won the race with a total trail time of 42 hours 36 minutes.
Master Sgt. Druar states, "It is an enjoyable training deployment. You get to do your job as well as enjoy the beautiful environment of the Northern woods."
With temperatures reaching as cold as -36 degrease Fahrenheit with wind-chill, winter survival played a key role in mission success. The team paid great attention to living and working conditions in the cold in the order to survive and complete the mission successfully.
The Minnesota National Guard operates two DICE systems in the state for emergency response. The communications capabilities of the DICE can provide military and civilian personnel with Internet, radio, telephone, voice and data transfer, and power. The system can be activated by the Minnesota National Guard state headquarters for emergency or training situations throughout the state.