Alabama Air Guard Red Tails Conducts Communication Exercise Published Sept. 11, 2023 By Billy Blankenship, 187th Fighter Wing MONTGOMERY, Ala. –The 187th Fighter Wing’s 226th Combat Communications Group conducted Exercise Copperhead Beacon 2023 throughout the east coast Sept. 8-10. Exercise Copperhead Beacon 2023 was an expeditionary communications east coast group exercise built with the objective of increased coordination and relationships between disparate Air National Guard Combat Communications Squadrons, Joint Communications Support Squadrons, a Special Operations Communications Squadron, and higher level ACCC and command entities. “We have to prepare for the real thing,” said Master Sgt. Caelen Love, one of the 226th Communications Group’s ACCC team leads. “The exercise allows us to figure out what we need to work on to be better at our job, to document our processes to ensure all Airmen know what to do, and to ensure that we are always ready.” Copperhead Beacon tested communications pathways and efforts across the eastern U.S. for synchronization while allowing each participating unit to train and exercise at their respective home stations. Participating units included members throughout the East Coast, Puerto Rico, and naval assets at sea. As an Agile Combat Employment enabler, communications in an austere environment have become increasingly important. With a growing theatre and consistently changing technology, ensuring legacy and new systems and joint service systems can communicate is one of the more critical factors of operability moving forward. “Generating combat airpower takes a lot of coordination and communication,” said Maj. Stephen Sides, the 226th Comb at Communications Group’s section chief of plans and programs. “Bringing everyone together and ensuring we can use all of our equipment with fluidity between the units and get quality training reps at the individual units provided realism and assured we can all do ACE as intended. This is a good test because of how separated we all were during the exercise. The 226th serves as one of two Air National Guard Combat Communications Groups nationwide, amounting to almost 60% of the Air Force’s tactical communications capability.