Antenna removal in a war zone

Thursday, 18 July, 2013

Removal of communications equipment from Afghanistan is a large-scale job requiring significant planning as the Australian Defence Force (ADF) approaches the end of its mission in Uruzgan.

Radios, towers, antennas and the many kilometres of cable link the communications infrastructure in Kabul, Kandahar and Tarin Kot.

The challenge for the communicators is removing the bulk of this infrastructure while maintaining mission-essential capabilities until the final day.

The Tarin Kot-based communications extraction team consists of 13 Army and the nine RAAF personnel who are part of Alpha Squadron, Force Communication Unit (FCU).

Coordinated planning is required between FCU, civilian contractors and the small team responsible for winding up communications support to the mission in Uruzgan.

Sergeant Warren Dunn from 127th Signal Troop, 1st Signal Regiment in Brisbane, is part of the extraction/installation team and said they were well ahead of the timeline to pack up and return to Australia.

“We can’t leave anything until the last minute,” he said.

“With our planning and coordination we have been able to get the jump on any problems before they actually happen.

“It has also been good having Army and Air Force working together, especially with the broad range of skill sets the RAAF personnel have brought.

“The cross-pollination has given us a greater spectrum of the work we can complete.”

Army personnel dismantling an antenna tower

Signallers Jacob Wilkinson and Christopher Martin from the Tarin Kot-based communications extraction team prepare to hook a section of antenna mast to a crane as the Australian Defence Force begins to scale down its infrastructure at the Multi National Base - Tarin Kot.

Climbing the 25 m antenna masts is a task for the riggers and can be a test of endurance with current temperatures in Tarin Kot in excess of 40°C.

Signaller Jacob Wilkinson, 1st Signal Regiment, is on his first deployment to Afghanistan and said the riggers had completed dogging and rigging courses which allowed them to climb the antenna towers safely.

“When climbing you have to be fairly coordinated and switched on as there is a lot happening simultaneously,” he said.

“Communication is very important when completing as you rely on the people working around you and you don’t want to let anyone down.

“We don’t get to climb the masts that often, so when we do it is very enjoyable.

“My deployment has been better than expected as there is a high tempo of work for our close-knit team and I am getting to see a fair bit of Afghanistan.”

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