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Comm squadron handling many changes

By Master Sgt. Becky Roady | 37th Training Wing Public Affairs | Nov. 20, 2006

Lackland Air Force Base, Texas — The network is down. Voice mail is misdirected. E-mail is gridlocked.
These, and perhaps worse, problems regularly confront base personnel who
increasingly rely on communications equipment and programs to meet their
missions. For a generation of Airmen who grew up playing video games and
learning to "keyboard" rather than "type" in school, technology in the workplace
- like air in the lungs - is not fully appreciated until it is interrupted.

Of late, myriad circumstances are contributing to intermittent episodes of
communications choking around Lackland.

"The continuing transition to the new Combat Information Transport System
equipment, along with the 'Go West' initiative to move communications equipment
off Kelly, has really stretched our capabilities recently," said 1st Lt. David
Thompson, 37th Communica-tions Squadron Commander Support Element officer in
charge.

He said the squadron is anticipating additional challenges as it shrinks from
400 to 80 troops in the coming years, as several Air Force Specialty Codes are
migrating from communications to other career fields.

"Our entire air traffic control and landing systems shop is scheduled to move to
(the 37th) Operations Support Squadron in the near future," said 2nd Lt. Jimmy
Addison, 37th CS Mission Systems Flight commander, "and the move will include
our maintenance career fields."

Air traffic controllers rely on the flight's Maintenance Operations Center when
they experience outages affecting air field systems, but the MOC also fields
priority outages involving telephone systems, cable systems and secure
communication interruptions. The shop annually handles more than 1,800 routine
telephone outages alone, Lieutenant Addison said. But lately, the adjective
"routine" is absent from his vocabulary.

"We are currently in the process of moving our main telephone switch to main
base Lackland," said Lieutenant Addison. "Ten Airmen will relocate with the
move, but a handful will remain on KellyUSA to man the switch as it is
converted."

While physical relocation of people and equipment may stretch the Maintenance
Flight, outright loss of personnel is of concern elsewhere in the squadron.

"Starting in fiscal year 2007, the video maintenance career field will be merged
with other maintenance career fields. Also, impending cuts will reduce available
videographers by 25 percent," said John Bender, 37th CS Support Flight chief.

"The military graphics position, here and across the Air Force, will also be
merged with the video production career field. The remaining videographers will
merge with the broadcasting career field, in what has tentatively been
identified as a combat journalist career field."

Though visual information and public affairs career fields are also scheduled to
combine by December 2007, details of the restructuring are still being planned,
Mr. Bender said, so he is unable to predict how the reorganization may affect
Lackland multimedia customers.

Like the Support Flight, the Information Systems Flight is losing personnel.
"Our network tech control members are being retrained in two phases - the
volunteers, then the non-volunteers," said Capt. Jason Russell, 37th CS
Information Systems Flight commander.

And like the Mission Systems Flight, the Information Systems Flight is moving
whoever and whatever remains.

"All network equipment - firewall, e-mail and proxy servers, domain controllers,
user authentication - has been relocated under the Go West plan to satisfy anti-
terror-ism/force protection issues," Captain Russell said.

Concurrent with the work required to implement the plans already mentioned, and
along with the work required to compensate for the cutbacks already mentioned,
the Communications Squadron is working to upgrade technology basewide and
regionally. CS has already assumed responsibility for the multifunction switch
that provides Defense Switch Network service to 86 southwest and central
Department of Defense installations.

"We are installing fiber optic cable throughout Lackland, new data transport
equipment in 277 facilities and 466 communications rooms in those facilities as
part of the Combat Information Transport System," said Gary Watts, 37th CS
technical adviser. "CITS will increase our network capability and enable voice-
over-Internet protocol."

CITS is scheduled for completion in December 2006. CS will then begin work on a
new Storage Area Network scheduled for completion in March 2007, Mr. Watts said.
With this upgrading and replacement of what Captain Russell and Lieutenant
Addison each called "antiquated equipment," both said they expect resolution of
the issues and inconveniences currently flooding their helplines.