News: Deployed comm airmen dig it
Story by Staff Sgt. Christopher Willis
CAMP MARMAL, Afghanistan - Most airmen don’t think of communications as the guys who get dirty using shovels and digging ditches.
However, members of the 272nd Engineering and Installation Squadron based at Camp Marmal are digging the first trenches before laying down the fiber optic backbone for nearby Camp John Pratt.
The 272nd E and I team are tasked with constructing the communications infrastructure that will be used by thousands of service members and military contractors at military camps near the city of Mazar-e-Sharif.
Currently, there is not a permanent fiber optic setup for Camp John Pratt, a new development located near Camp Marmal. The $1.7 million engineering project to build the camp has the E and I team building a sustainable structure for running the cable networks.
Installation of fiber optic communications line provides for both secure and non-secure telephones as well as the bandwidth required for web-based logistics systems. The fiber optic network will also allow for the recovery and distribution of line-of-site tactical radio equipment.
“Every tactical communication asset installed in theater helps our troops on ground,” said Maj. Ari Jimenez, 272nd Engineering and Installation Squadron officer in charge. “We are helping to keep more soldiers out of harm’s way through reliable communications.”
Jimenez also serves as the Regional Command-North project manager and lead engineer for 22 projects across northern Afghanistan.
While typical communications airmen are tasked to fix or update fiber cable problems, the E and I airmen set the groundwork first.
“We aren’t doing the more traditional ’comm’ roles like back in the States, “said Staff Sgt. Jonathan Baker, 272nd EIS craftsman. “Our job is to get dirty and dig those trenches for the cable infrastructure.”
Day in and day out, the E and I team are shoveling and moving dirt to provide the camp’s service members the voice lines for strategic communications or the bandwidth to keep in touch with family members back home.
Senior Airman Shawna Fowler, 272nd Engineering and Installation Squadron journeyman, knows the importance of what her team is doing for the future of the camp.
“It will be pretty cool to come back years from now and know that I helped build this camp’s communications,” said Fowler, a Houston, Texas, native. “We were the first ones to do it.”