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Command post Airmen are eyes, ears for Bagram

  • Published
  • By Capt. Bryan Bouchard
  • 455th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

Nestled inside the confines of the 455th Air Expeditionary Wing headquarters building lies a small room with no windows, with a non-descript door, yet an immense responsibility.

“Overall, we are the eyes, ears and voice for the wing commander,” said Master Sgt. Daniel Mujica, 455th AEW Command Post superintendent deployed from Andersen Air Force Base, Guam. Mujica has been a command post controller for 17 of his nearly 20 years in the Air Force, and always finds satisfaction in doing the job.

“Every day is different,” he said. “A lot of people relate the command post to the Giant Voice (base-wide mass notification system), but there’s a lot that goes on in this small room.”

The duties performed inside the command post at Bagram Airfield cover the gamut of Air Force activities including flight following, relaying priority communications, operational reporting, as well as emergency responses on the airfield involving first responders.

For command post controller Senior Airman Patrice Craig, on her first-ever deployment from Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M., working inside a deployed command post allows her to learn tasks for which she’s not responsible back home.

“Here we flight-follow missions, which is different,” she said. “It’s a growing experience.”

When conducting flight-following, command post controllers like Craig use the Global Decision Support System to track and monitor mission-essential aircraft movements.

They also relay parking information for the aircraft to pilots to ensure they are positioned where they need to be for whatever follow-on task is needed. Additionally, if an aircraft has a mechanical issue or worse-case, if there is an emergency landing, the controllers can dispatch first responders to the scene.

It’s this exciting, every-changing dynamic of the job which keeps the attention of senior controller Staff Sgt. Dayne Sandrock, deployed from Dyess AFB, Texas.

“There’s a mental stress to this job that most people don’t realize,” Sandrock said. “People think we just sit here, but there’s a lot more to it. We can do a great job and people think, ‘hey, they’re just doing their job.’ But if we screw something up, it comes down on us pretty hard.”

Tracking aircraft, monitoring multiple radio frequencies, dispatching first responders; it can all be stressful. Add on to this managing the ever-changing shift work, and the people at command post have an oftentimes taxing, but essential job--a job which requires 100 percent of their attention 100 percent of the time because missions or even lives depend on it.

“If I’m having a bad day in here, someone out there is probably having a worse day,” Sandrock said. “But we learn lessons and move on.”

They move on because there’s another flight to track, another message to pass to the commander or people in need of first responders.

“Here you’re at the tip of the spear; you have real dangers,” Mujica added. “It’s a reality check.”