News: Communications airmen prove vital to Regional Command-West mission
Story by Master Sgt. Kevin Wallace
HERAT, Afghanistan - Imagine a small group of elite soldiers on patrol in the mountains of the northern Herat province of Afghanistan coming under heavy attack by a large group of insurgents.
What if these outnumbered and outgunned soldiers called back to camp for close-air support but found no answer on the receiving end?
In a struggle for survival, envision them using their radios, telephones and then electronic transmissions -- and all attempts to reach back to base failed.
Without the small team of specialized airmen at Camp Arena, operations may as well regress to smoke signals and indication mirrors, because any modern communications lie in their hands.
"The services we provide allow leaders to manage and maintain the mission of U.S. forces across the west," said Staff Sgt. Matthew Haas, a U.S. Forces-Afghanistan Det. West technician.
Det.-West is responsible for supporting joint-American forces, as well as Italian, Spanish, Afghan and many other coalition nations in the region.
A team of five communications airmen are vital to detachment operations as they create an auspicious environment favorable to base-wide progress and are the backbone of communications.
There's always a significant threat to cybersecurity here, said Airman 1st Class Neil Langgaard.
"We are in place to deter threats and create a boundary between attackers and users," Langgaard said. "At the same time, we are tasked with maintaining the user's ability to communicate effectively and timely."
Keeping network speeds at maximum speed while keeping cyberthreats at bay takes effort.
Recalling days where he started work at 8 a.m. and didn't finish until about 6:30 a.m. the following morning, Hass admits that the team is incredibly busy, but takes heart and relishes in a dream for Afghanistan's future.
"In the next five years, I'd like to see less of a (coalition) presence, with Afghans maintaining security and stability for the country," he said.
Soon the team will re-deploy back to their home units, but their commander will remain for several more months.
"These guys are workhorses and truly dedicated to this mission. They'll be sorely missed by most of this camp," said the lieutenant colonel, citing the work ethic his team had and the commitment they showed as truly a testament to what Airmen are capable of.
"As American airmen we truly are the best and brightest of our population," said Lt. Col. Travis Tankersley, the detachment communications officer. "I'm proud to have commanded such a professional team and look forward to continuing to see their hard work help shape Afghanistan's future."