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    Air Force EI team spark communication improvements at Camp Taji

    Air Force EI team spark communication improvements at Camp Taji

    Photo By Staff Sgt. Luke Kitterman | A member of the Iraqi Army’s digging team, who supports the Air Force Engineering...... read more read more



    Story by Staff Sgt. Luke Kitterman 

    Task Force Air

    The ability to communicate quickly and effectively is critical to any successful military operation. With today’s continually-evolving technology, it is important that the foundation of military communication systems also be updated, especially in a deployed location where the rapid disbursement of information to the masses is key when responding to a threat.

    In support of Combined Joint Task Force-Operation INHERENT RESOLVE, the responsibility for creating and improving the communication systems here at Camp Taji falls on the shoulders of the Air Force Engineering Installation team.

    With members hailing from EI units located in Pennsylvania, Utah and Mississippi, the 20-member team is the fifth rotation of personnel to work at Camp Taji over an approximate two-year period and is the second to last crew scheduled to complete strategic telecommunication modernizations at the near-enduring installation. However, the planning process for a job such as this starts before any shovel hits the dirt.

    “Initially, EI engineers conduct exhaustive site surveys, identifying manpower and material needs necessary to translate communications requirements into scalable, strategic solutions.” said Tech. Sgt. Austin Buckingham, EI Team Chief from the Pennsylvania Air National Guard’s 211th Engineering and Installation Squadron. “In turn, to meet current and future mission requirements, they develop the most efficient solutions and remain with the team, ensuring changes to a project’s scope are attainable and deliver desired operational capabilities within time, cost, and material constraints.”

    Figuring out what needs to be done can be an intensive process when dealing with hundreds, sometimes thousands, of cables buried underground but is a challenge EI professionals tackle with zeal.

    “A lot of the time, when we are called out to troubleshoot what has gone wrong with an information system on a base, we’re not just installing equipment,” said Senior Airman Trevor Wells, 85th EIS installer. “Often, in these instances, we solve problems on the fly as quickly as possible in the least invasive way to reestablish mission-critical communications systems. A lot of it is process of elimination and critical thinking. You have to be able to understand how the person who installed it was thinking to figure out what you need to do to right the wrong. It adds an element of investigative work that I really like.”

    Regarding project implementation, once the logistics are worked out, the installation team executes everything from digging trenches and manholes, installing conduit pathways, setting up complex grids of fiber-optic cables, termination and testing, and documenting their efforts.

    A manhole is a 5x5x5 ft. concrete cube that is inserted into the ground acting as a ‘checkpoint’ in the communication grid, where someone can get inside to make changes, repairs, or upgrades. Since mid-July, the team has already installed more than 35 manholes throughout the entire base.

    “Putting in a full manhole/duct system will ultimately provide an enduring solution rather than a temporary one,” Buckingham said.

    To achieve this end state was no walk-in-the-park for the team, as they overcame numerous challenges along the way, according to the Team Chief.

    “We definitely had to be creative in the beginning, because we didn’t have all the equipment we might have back home which led to a lot more manual labor and hand digging,” explained Buckingham. “Yet, the team rose to challenge, maintaining an irreproachable attitude, about it which is easier said than done when working in 120-degree heat. They have exceeded expectations and have gotten more efficient week after week.

    By rotating their work hours to the cooler parts of the early morning and taking shifts during the labor-intensive work, the team successfully combatted the harsh and unfamiliar desert climate. They also collaborated with contractors, Army Horizontal Engineers, British Combat Engineers, and an Iraqi digging team who provided larger equipment when the job called for it.

    “The help has been tremendous for us and making our lives a little bit easier,” Buckingham said. “It was really an all hands on deck mentality with people stepping up to do their part when we needed it the most. I think we all understood the importance of this project since the strategic modernization of the communications systems backbone will benefit all Task Force-coalition parties involved.

    The Air Force EI team’s efforts will expand Command and Control (C2) capabilities for US and allied forces in Iraq. Our enhanced fiber-optic backbone will allow for near instantaneous communication with the warfighter while improving mission effectiveness and success moving forward. In an age where we cannot afford mistakes, Air Force EI ensures that information will continue to be disseminated quickly and accurately across the AOR.

    The team has just over three more months of work before the last EI crew comes in to finalize any finishing touches. Even though the team’s hard work will be unseen and covered by a layer of earth, the lasting effects of their efforts will be used every day for years to come by everyone communicating within the walls of Camp Taji.



    Date Taken: 10.10.2019
    Date Posted: 12.09.2019 18:44
    Story ID: 354926
    Location: IQ

    Web Views: 184
    Downloads: 1