News: No comm, no bomb
Story by Senior Airman Michelle Patten
HURLBURT FIELD, Fla. - Silence. Picking up the phone or transmitting over a radio to get no response on the other end can be an eerie feeling, especially when airmen deployed to a remote location seek directions on what they need to do, where they need to go, and how to get there.
The 1st Special Operations Communications Squadron's tactical communications flight keeps the lines of communication open in remote locations, whether it's by phone, radio or computer.
"Everything necessary to support deployed communications is self-contained in the flight," said Staff Sgt. Christopher Wessels, 1st SOCS power production craftsman. "We have all the tactical satellites to mobilize quickly out the door to remote locations. We can pretty much operate anywhere."
The tactical communications flight focuses strongly on providing communication support in the deployed environment, while other elements of 1st SOCS focus on base communication infrastructure.
"The three core missions we do here at [the tactical communications] flight are advanced echelon (ADVON) pallet, deploying, and training the younger airmen so they can step up and be in our boots," said Senior Airman Brandon Seyl, 1st SOCS radio frequency transmissions journeyman.
ADVON pallets contain everything airmen need equipment-wise to set up initial communication in a place where there hasn't been time for a site survey.
"Here at the work center, our biggest package is ADVON," Seyl said. "We constantly keep building the pallet up, and if a hurricane or a typhoon hits, we would be able to respond and sustain 30 days out in a remote environment."
To ensure airmen are ready to deploy at a moment's notice, the tactical communications flight performs necessary routine maintenance to their equipment, which ranges from quiet generators to a variety of antennas.
"Home environment, we're doing preventative maintenance inspections just to make sure the equipment is running properly," Wessels said.
Communication in deployed environments aid commanders in executing missions by enabling them to provide orders. Aircrews also use tactical communications' systems to relay messages back to the ground.
"We use radio frequencies to transmit voice and data for commanders in deployed environments, setting up the systems from the ground up," Seyl said. "While deployed, communications are everything. If commanders and aircrew don't have communications, missions can't happen."
Once tactical communications airmen deploy, they can see the vital role they play in a larger mission.
"When you actually go out in the field and you see the operational side, it opens your view to what you're really here for, why you're doing it, and the people you get to help, especially if it's a humanitarian mission," Seyl said.
While the flight places strong emphasis on the deployed mission, training at home station is necessary to equip Airmen for their deployments.
"If you don't know what you're doing, you're not able to set up and maintain networks out in the field," said Senior Airman Derek Geisbert, 1st SOCS cyber transport technician. "Then, people can't get the phone calls they need or intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance feeds. They can't do any type of command and control if they're basically in a blackout."
Even though Seyl and Geisbert are trainers for their specialties, they both said one of their favorite aspects of their job is the constant hands-on learning.
"I think as new troops come in, it can be challenging to learn to be a trainer," said Tech. Sgt. Scott Fischer, 1st SOCS noncommissioned officer in charge of tactical communication training. "We get new people in and we spin them up, that's a vital part of our culture."
For Wessels, who previously worked at a base civil engineer squadron, the tactical communications flight mission is rewarding and unique in its focus.
"Just knowing we're ready to go at a moment's notice and able to do our job is [the flight's] biggest accomplishment," he said.