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380AEW Article

380th ECS: Enabling Communication across ADAB

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Darnell T. Cannady and Senior Airmen Riley Obetz
  • 380 AEW/PA & 380 ECS

From the optic fiber running underground to the radio waves transmitted through air and space, the 380th Expeditionary Communications Squadron impacts the lives of every individual who steps foot on Al Dhafra Air Base, United Arab Emirates.

Cyber warriors within 380th ECS, enable warfighters on every front and empower Airmen to exploit various resources to complete the mission. Within the 380th ECS, there are teams of individuals operating 24/7 to keep the mission on track.

“The 380th ECS mission is to support the warfighter by providing unclassified and classified communications to ADAB,” said Maj. Derek Cole, 380th ECS director of operations. “Various assets we bring to the fight are computers, radios, and both landline and cellular phones to the infrastructure that supports them such as routers, switches, servers, and a fiber optic communications infrastructure.”


Comprised of 110 personnel, the 380th ECS faces a unique challenge in facilitating communication between about 3,500 deployers. If a portion of the base loses any capability, the Communications Squadron has to perform maintenance on potentially several fronts spanning local and remote locations. Rarely does an issue come in that doesn’t require prompt attention and detailed labor by the appropriate members.

A typical scenario faced by a Communications Airman is as follows; a 380th Air Expeditionary Wing Airman calls in to the Communications Focal Point to report an outage, system failure, or mishap involving communications software or hardware. A normal day in the CFP consists of 70-100 phone calls, emails, account creations, as well as coordinating with other bases regarding outages and network compliance.

The Communications Focal Point takes down details regarding the case and analyzes which shop can assist the user in the targeted problem area then passes the ticket along to the appropriate location.


“The Communications Focal Point is the heart and soul of any communication squadron,” said Staff Sgt. Charles Cothran, 380th ECS communications focal point technician. “It serves as the first line of defense for anything Comm related. Whether the issue is with another base or local to the installation the CFP is in place to coordinate and delegate any work that needs to be done.”


The ECS is primarily composed of two flights; the Operations Flight and the Plans Flight which receives the tickets.


In the Operations Flight, the Communications Focal Point is the main focal point for ADAB when communications issues occurs, and the Client Support Team works to resolve issues with endpoints user items such as computers and phones. The Network Operations Team manages servers such as the shared drives and make sure the network is secure by applying the most recent patches and updates to the network. The Network Management Team manages network equipment inside buildings such as switches and routers while the Cable Team, also referred to as "Cable Dawgs," are responsible for the physical network infrastructure inside and outside of buildings with some work involves trenching the existing ground and work inside manholes.


The Satellite Communications Team manages all of the satellite communications and is responsible for providing redundant capabilities to prevent single communications points of failure. The Tech Control Team manages long-haul communications circuits that span throughout the AOR and the world. The Mission Defense Team’s primary focus is to ensure a weapon system remains functional even under network attack and they are charged with keeping things running during a worst-case scenario. The Radio Team provides all radio coverage on ADAB from handheld devices to assisting in spectrum management of radio and comm frequencies.


The Plans flight consists of the Plans Team which processes new communications requirements and ensures any and all types of network comms and assets are provided to all ADAB organizations and offices. The Information Assurance team provides information assurance to all users including operations and reports Cross Domain Violations as well as outline requirements for classified systems processing. The COMSEC team provides logical capabilities for classified communications at Al Dhafra. The Knowledge Management team is responsible for Records Management, Freedom of Information Act requests, and ADAB publications.


“Nearly all of our sections work together at various times,” said Cole. “A simple building with a new requirement can involve nearly all sections of Comm to complete the requirement.”


In the event the Airman’s issue is multifaceted, it is not uncommon for several shops to coalesce in order to disentangle the issue and provide a remedy. The ECS is diligently working to get issues squared away.


“If I work elsewhere other than the Communications Squadron and my email stops working, it may become mission critical for me,” said Cothran. "That same day 10-15 other customers may have experienced their own type of mission-critical failure whether it be computer, phone, or printer issues. These customers opened up tickets before me. This creates a line of tickets in which the Communication Squadron will complete in order of oldest to newest. All CFPs worldwide function with similar if not exactly the same guidelines.”


Beyond the mission, they lend ad hoc support to base wide efforts like the CAFNet WiFi. Consider the radio on a Security Force member’s hip, the schematics of a proposed building, or the TVs tuned in at the chow halls.  The ECS’ far-reaching abilities guarantee comfort in base quarters, victory on the battlefield, and USAF superiority in the AOR.


“The presence of communications is supported and accessible only by the combined effort of specialized procedures and skilled Airmen providing comprehensive coverage,” added Cothran. “These Airmen can be found enhancing base capability from the Cable Dawgs reconnecting broken infrastructure to the Mission Defense Team safeguarding aerial radar stability.”