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Ground radio course marks end of era
During the graduation of the final ground radio communications apprentice maintenance course at Jones Hall Feb. 4, Charles Maggard, a 338th TRS civilian and one of three individuals still working at Keesler who attended the ground radio course back in the 1960s, passes “the ground rat” mascot on to Airman Alexander Evans, the course’s final graduate. (U.S. Air Force photo by Kemberly Groue)
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Ground radio course marks end of era

Posted 2/10/2010   Updated 2/10/2010 Email story   Print story


by Staff Sgt. Ashley Campbell
338th Training Squadron

2/10/2010 - KEESLER AFB, Ms.  -- Feb. 4, the 338th Training Squadron marked the end of an era with the final graduation of the ground radio communications apprentice maintenance course after 48 years.

A realigned course launched Jan. 5 combined ground radio with satellite/wideband/telemetry, visual imagery and intrusion detection, radio operators and network integration communications and information Air Force Specialty Codes.

Since the early 1900s, the ground radio career field has been a leader in the communications spectrum.

The first such long-haul radio communication was the Washington-Alaska military cable and telegraph system introducing the first wireless telegraph in the western hemisphere.

A major role in its construction was played by Signal Corps Capt. Billy Mitchell, who later achieved fame as an advocate of military aviation. Today, the communications community honors Gen. Billy Mitchell as the namesake of the Communications and Information Excellence Award.

During World War II, radio operators monitoring the bomb group's frequencies for changes to the flight plan enabled the pilot to broadcast to other planes in the formation. The radio operator also logged all radio events, noting which planes went down, when, where and the number of parachutes seen bailing from the plane.

The radio operator was also responsible for tending to the wounded crewmembers and signaling when there were wounded on board. The radio operator was also responsible for overall maintenance and repair of the radio systems upon return to the base.

Two ground radio personnel have earned the Medal of Honor. In 1943, Tech. Sgt. Forrest Vosler became the first Airman to receive the Medal of Honor. In 1945, Staff Sgt. Henry Irwin earned the Army Air Forces' final Medal of Honor.

In early 1949, the radio operations school moved to Keesler from Scott Air Force Base, Ill. As the Army Air Corps transitioned to the Army Air Force and later to the Air Force, the Department of Defense moved from World War II to Southeast Asia.

During the Vietnam Conflict, the ROMAD, or radio/operator/maintainer/driver was born. In the mid-1980s, the enlisted terminal attack controller took a more controlling and advanced aspect than the ROMADs, relieving this duty from the officer.

In 1962, ground radio maintainers were brought to Jones Hall, dividing the operation and maintenance into two separate Air Force specialties. Through nearly four decades, the field embraced all types of ground-to-air radio systems, from air traffic control to front-line tactical radios, including many joint-service radio systems.

In the early '60s, the course lasted nearly a year as Airmen learned how to maintain radios that literally had a door to access the interior parts. Over time, the course became shorter and the equipment much smaller and more mobile.

The end of the course also brings an end to the mascot of the career field. For decades, ground radio Airmen have prided themselves on being called "Ground Rats."

Where does the ground rat actually originate from? Some would say that because a rat gets into everything, it was a fitting mascot for the career field that worked on anything that plugged into a wall. However, RAT is actually an acronym that stands for receivers and transmitters.

5/12/2015 8:36:42 PM ET
attended 293x0 school in Keesler march 1970 to june 19702192nd comm sqdr loring afb limestone me jun 1970 to apr 197220th tass da nang rvn may 1972 to jan 1973worked LZ Sally north of hue call sign tokicontrola voice of the past
mike wernicki, plant city fl
4/4/2015 7:38:55 PM ET
Ground radio operator school jan 1969. Then to 21st Tass in Viet Nam. Call sign Walt control in Bam MeThout.
Bill Perkins , New Jersey
7/8/2014 8:00:11 AM ET
Bob Doolittle...Nov 1966 to Oct 1967. sent to Birkenfeld 615 ACW Germany and then to Sembach 601st. Loved working on the GRC' if we connected during this time.
Bob, tulsa ok
4/9/2014 3:46:58 PM ET
Dan Engel, Indiana
1/25/2014 3:49:55 PM ET
I was stationed at Keesler for GR training that lasted 39 weeks. Lived at first in the triangle and later out the East Gate in Biloxi. I arrived at Keesler in April 1969 and left for Tyndall AFB in December 1969. Hurricane Camille came through in August and all the base airmen helped clean up the place for weeks.
C W Camp, Atlanta GA
1/7/2014 3:38:35 PM ET
I was also a 30434 Nov 66 to Sept67 Class was sent to Udorn RTAFB 621st TCS Thailand.Was assigned to the GATR site Looking for Ray Wulf and Tom Brown. Also Joe Daily went to Japan. Finished 4 years at Whiteman AFBMo 351st Comms.Enlisted in St Petersburg Fla
L.H.DeGraaf, Omaha Ne
6/13/2013 3:23:19 AM ET
Attended ABR30434 at Keesler AFB Nov 1966 to SeptOct 1967 and was member of the Keesler Male Chorus. Sure wish we could get together 1 more time.After the course the entire class of about 12 airman received orders for Thailand. Three days later my orders were redlined and went to Ramstein AFB Germany instead. I was nearly in heaven. Best 3 years ever traveling all over Europe with the 2874 GEEIA Sq. At the end of assignment got married in Kaiserslautern and we live in sunny Florida since.Anyway for old time sake sure would be GRRRREAT to get together again.
Laszlo aka Leslie Apathy III, Englewood FLorida
11/19/2012 10:47:18 PM ET
Having been the NCOIC of ABR30434 for six year during the period from 1962-1970 I am sorry to learn that the course ended. But time and technology eventually surpasses both humankind and machines.I have fond memories of the course and the fine people who worked to make it one of the best training courses in the Command. Thousands of young men and women passed through Alley and Jones Hall during its 48 year history. Larry C. Manning Montgomery Alabama
Larry Manning , Montgomery Alabama
2/8/2012 7:42:45 PM ET
I spent 17 of my 20 years in Jones Hall both in the maintenance shop and teaching Ground Radio. Worked with a bunch of fine people I will never forget
Steve Tibbit, Texarkana Arkansas
2/8/2012 7:25:31 AM ET
Course ABR30434 Class 15095 Allee Hall then Wolf Hall for sets. 3406 Student Squadron in the Triangle. Ground Radio does it all
steve fontaine, Tokyo Japan
12/18/2010 9:35:06 AM ET
I attended the GRO School at Keesler inFebMar 1969. Went to Quang Tri and Dong Ha Vietnam in Jan.1970 worked with call sign Trail 20. Any contacts out there OVER Tom Hertweck Clay NY
Thomas Hertweck, Clay New York
12/14/2010 2:52:00 PM ET
Once a dirt rat always a dirt rat - dirtrat since 1971
DMPate, Clearwater FL
4/14/2010 9:16:34 PM ET
I had the honor of being the Division Chief for the Ground Radio Division in the late 1980s. Some of the best most professional airmen and NCOs I ever had the pleasure of working with. God Bless my Ground Rats.
Dave Carothers, Washington DC
2/22/2010 8:10:17 PM ET
I went through the ground radio school in 1959. I was trained to repair GRC-27's which was the main ground to air radio at the time. I was stationed at Cape Newham Alaska Homestead florida and Oklahoma City Air staion. If any body was stationed at these locations from 1960 to 1963 let me know
Len Bell, Simi Valley California
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