By Master Sgt. Jeff Loftin
379th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
SOUTHWEST ASIA -- Location, location, location is a common mantra in real estate sales, but it is also the premise behind a new command and control entity.
The Installation Control Center achieved full operational capability last week after the exercise tested several sections now integrated in a single location.
"The Installation Control Center provides the wing commander a single command and control capability so he can monitor, assess and execute the entire wing's mission," said Lt. Col. Patrick Ahmann, 379th Air Expeditionary Wing plans and programs chief. "He has one spot to go get whatever information he needs for whatever is going on. Whether it's the flying piece of our mission, or whether there is a contingency going on and he needs to know what the first responders are doing, the ICC is there."
The ICC brings together into one facility several command and control entities, including the Maintenance Operations Center, the Command Post, current operations or flight operations and a mission planning cell. The center is also linked electronically to the Base Defense Operations Center, which controls base security.
"It is the single - that is the key - command and control capability for the wing," said the San Antonio, native, deployed from Offutt Air Force Base, Neb. "He doesn't have to get information piece meal. It's all real-time because it is all right here."
In the event of an accident or contingency the ICC also houses an Emergency Operations Center - which controls first responders such fire, police and ambulance - and the commander's senior staff. Wing plans is a primary player in contingency operations.
During day-to-day operations the other four entities work in the ICC full time. The command post is the primary communication node for the wing and has three people available 24/7. The MOC controls all aircraft maintenance operations here. They have a controller for each airframe assigned and a supervisor. They work right in the same room with current operations. Current operations consist of mission directors for the wing's airframes and a senior mission director who is the single point of contact for all current flying operations.
"Each of those [mission directors] there have their finger on the pulse of what is going on with their airframes," said Maj. Cory Bulris, senior mission director. "The KC-135 and C-130 guys do all the planning, create all the flight plans, build the schedule for the next day and send all those flight plans to base ops. The crews don't have to worry about any of that."
"The busiest guy we have is the KC-135 mission director, hands down," said the Coral Springs, Fla., native. "He has the most sorties. He has the most assets in the air at any one time and he is tracking the most stuff going on."
B-1s and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft have a representative in current operations, but much of their planning is done in a different room within the ICC. Aircrews plan out their sorties in the Mission Planning Cell, which includes intelligence and an Army ground liaison officer.
"Having us all in one room is really convenient," said Bulris. "Anytime a question comes up you either have the answer right there or you have a guy who can pick up the phone who can get the direct answer from the flightline. It's basically a one-stop shop to see what is going on with the ATO."
Having maintenance and operations in the same room eliminates some of the barriers to communication and keeps everyone on the same page, he said.
Bringing together all the entities into the same location, though, was not without its challenges.
"One of the biggest challenges was when we moved into the building it was a skeleton of a building," said Maj. John Hancock, ICC director and command post chief. "It wasn't just moving into a fully operational command center and getting used to the new location. It was a battle to build it up from square one to where it is now. When they wanted us to move in here there weren't even any computers in here. As soon as we signed over the building from the contractors, we had to scramble to get computers set up and operating and all the other communications that a command post, a MOC and the others needed. It took from April, when we moved in, until now to piece together everything they wanted in there together. It was quite an undertaking."
Although equipping the ICC with computers, secure phones and interactive wall displays was a challenge, Hancock said having everyone in a single location will pay off in the long run.
"This will increase the situational awareness to all players within the C2 environment and give the wing commander a focal point for control of operations 24 hours a day, seven days a week, year-round," said the Chippewa Falls, Wis., native.
This work, Installation Control Center offers one-stop shop for C2, by 1SG Jeffery Loftin, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.