SOUTHWEST ASIA – Airman 1st Class Basil Kim, 379th Expeditionary Communications Squadron Network Management apprentice, fixes a problem on the moral network Nov. 28. At any given time between 3,000 and 6,000 people might be using it. The network comes to the base commercially, but the hardware and infrastructure is completely maintained by the communications squadron. Kim is deployed from the 31st Communications Squadron at Aviano Air Base, Italy. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Joel Mease)
SOUTHWEST ASIA – Staff Sgt. Jason Townsend, 379th Expeditionary Communications Squadron Network Management supervisor, works on a solution for an issue with the non-secure internet protocol network at a hub Nov. 28. The communications squadron uses multiple hubs to create redundancies on their network, so if there is a problem with one it does not affect the entire network. Townsend is deployed from the 31st Communications Squadron at Aviano Air Base, Italy. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Joel Mease)
SOUTHWEST ASIA - Airman 1st Class Basil Kim (left) and Staff Sgt. Jason Townsend, both assigned to the 379th Expeditionary Communications Squadron, fix an issue with the non-secure internet protocol network in a dormitory Nov. 28. Aircrew often require access to the NIPERNet where they live, so they can get the appropriate amount of crew rest needed to maintain mission capabilities. Both Airmen are deployed from the 31st Communications Squadron at Aviano Air Base, Italy. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Joel Mease)
by Senior Airman Joel Mease
379th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
12/5/2012 - SOUTHWEST ASIA -- Some people get visibly upset when their network fails and they can't surf the web. Now imagine how frustrating it would be for a down-range commander if it resulted in total mission failure.
"We have a saying in the communications community, 'no comm, no bomb,'" said Master Sgt. Gregory Kahl, 379th Expeditionary Communications Squadron Network Infrastructure Management section chief.
For Airmen of the 379th ECS this means 'round the clock attention', because network failure simply cannot happen.
"We have our Airmen on 12-hour shifts to provide 24/7 coverage 365 days a year," Khal said. "We can't take a day off, because if the network fails then the mission fails."
The Network Infrastructure Section is the communications squadron's version of first responders in the digital world.
"This is without a doubt one of the most important jobs out here," said Staff Sgt. Jason Townsend, 379th ECS Network Infrastructure Management supervisor. "If we get a get a call at midnight because the (operations) guys can't get their (air tasking order), because the network has failed then we have to be on our 'A' game. We have to get communications up and running, because there are people on the ground, down range who require that mission."
Every piece of classified and non-classified internet protocol router network information, known as SIPERNet and NIPERNet, goes through the miles of spider-web like network of ethernet cable is the Network Infrastructure Management's responsibility. Even the morale network is maintained by these Airmen.
"All this information places a constant demand on the overall network and on our team," Khal said. "All network needs are treated with urgency. The morale net alone can have around 3,500 people using it at any given time and as many as 6,000 during peak hours."
Because not all needs are the same, some orders are placed based on urgency but all are taken seriously by the team.
"We realize if your unable to connect to the network at your desk it's really not feasible to work at another desk, because someone is probably working there," Townsend. "We may have more than 50 tickets in a week, which can take a few minutes to a few days to repair. However we make it a point to get as many jobs done in a timely manner."
The work pace for this team can be grueling at times, but the Airmen working on this team understand the importance of their work.
"What makes my job satisfying is when people didn't realize how important communications was to them on a daily basis, until it was gone," said Airman 1st Class Basil Kim, 379th ECS Network Management apprentice. "Then getting communications back up and running, so they can accomplish the mission - it's what makes this job worth it because you know you made a difference."