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‘No Comm, No Bomb’: Cable, Net Man build deployed cyber body

  • Published
  • By Tech Sgt. Nicholas Rau
  • 455th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

(Editor’s Note: This is the second part of a three part series on the deployed communications Airmen at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan. Part three will take an in-depth look at the remaining two major sections of Air Force communications: Client Systems Technician, and Network Operations.)

A cyber network is much like a human body. It needs bones to stand up, arteries to transmit information, and veins to relay that information back. It’s the job of the Cable and Network Management sections of the 455th Expeditionary Communications Squadron to build the cyber body that the expeditionary network will operate.

The Airmen of these two sections work hand-in-hand to establish the hardware a building will need to function properly. The Cable section is responsible for the infrastructure from outside the building up to the wall.  The Network Management section is tasked with installing and maintaining the physical assets inside the building.

“This is a total team effort on the squadron’s part,” said Staff Sgt. Patrick Little, 455th ECS cyber transport supervisor. “Each shop is like a brother and we work together to support every communications mission on base.

“It all starts with Cable,” he explained. “They come in, lay the wiring, build the communications closet, and connect the building to the distribution node. The Network Management comes in and connects everything in the building. We all build on top of each other’s efforts.”

For the Airmen in the Cable section, they have a particular set of skills that they employ in order to complete their mission. They are required to build their own communications closets and other hardware housing set-ups. This means that they complete a lot of engineer-style projects in order to ensure that the infrastructure is in place before the next section can come in and do their job.

“I like to think of it like a road system,” said Staff Sgt. Adam Nichols, 455th ECS Cable technician. “We build the roads and bridges. Then Network Management comes in and puts in the stoplights and the signs to direct traffic. They tell the data, or cars, where to go and we give them the path to get there.”

The other part of this $8 million network foundation is all the technology that keeps it operating. The Network Management section fixes and sustains the old hardware, while also upgrading to new devices. One major change they are making is installing a new cyber network power grid in case of power failure.

“When a building loses power, some of the old devices run a risk of breaking, even though the chance is small,” explained Senior Airman David Baer, 455th ECS cyber transport technician. “The more times we lose power without proper backups, the more likely these expensive pieces of technology are to break. That is why we are putting in these new power systems, to prevent breakdown and give us seventy five percent more back up power. It saves the Air Force money and helps the base accomplish the mission.”

These new power devices that will be installed in all Air Force communications assets are just one of the functions of Network Management. The other function is one that is near and dear to every deployed Airmen’s heart — the morale wireless network.

With more than 120 requests for Wi-Fi access a day during a military rotation, the section is busy setting up accounts so that Airmen can contact their families back home. They also maintain all the equipment and install the new routers into areas to better reach the deployed service members.

Through all this, both functions have had the opportunity to do something that they would not have been able to do back stateside. Both Little and Baer talked about how they learned new skills and had the chance to apply techniques they only read about during their Career Development Course. They agreed that with all the moving pieces of an expeditionary communications system, they are now more well-rounded technicians ready to train the next generation.

Whether it be with installing new wires, building structures, or upgrading hardware, the Cable and Network Management sections build the 455th ECS cyber network body from the ground up; and it is something that whole base cannot live without.