News: Airmen integrate, keep COB Speicher connected to the world
Story by Staff Sgt. Richard Longoria
TIKRIT, Iraq - Airmen are an integral part of Operation New Dawn and joint operations throughout Iraq. The communications site, or Task Force Palmetto, at Contingency Operating Base Speicher is no exception.
The 30 contractors and 34 service members, including 18 airmen, assigned to the task force are responsible for installing, operating, maintaining and defending the communications network for COB Speicher.
“We take care of every aspect of the Central Command network here from the satellite signal to the cables in the ground to the user’s desktop computer,” said U.S. Air Force 1st Lt. Jesse A. Nelson, the task force’s officer in charge for the base. “If a problem comes up at any level, we fix it and the entire team is doing an excellent job.”
The joint team works on a network that supports more than 70 units, including U.S. Division – North.
“Our job isn’t glorious but it is critical,” said USAF Staff Sgt. Ted Lee, service desk non-commissioned officer in charge and Los Angeles native. “We provide strategic communication for the entire base.”
It all starts with a satellite signal. The signal transfer to the technical control facility and then gets distributed to the entire base via fiber optic cables and other wires. Technicians continuously monitor the facility to mitigate network outages.
“Without the TCF, all the users on COB Speicher wouldn’t have network access or the ability to communicate,” said USAF Staff Sgt. Timothy Voliva, a Colorado Springs, Colo., native deployed from Royal Air Force Croughton, England. “If there is an outage, it affects our customers’ ability to complete their mission and it’s important we fix it quickly.”
The network is available but all devices must visit the automated data processing and equipment section to undergo a configuration process consisting of more than 30 steps before they can be plugged into the network.
“We standardize every computer,” said USAF Staff Sgt. Gissell Gilbert, NCO in charge of the ADPE section and Brooklyn, N.Y, native. “We ensure all systems have the proper software and drivers installed before they are hooked up to the network.”
With more than 4,500 users accessing the network, the task force’s service desk stays busy. The service desk handles 400 to 500 trouble tickets a week.
“Our main focus is tier one trouble shooting,” said Lee, who is deployed from RAF Lakenheath, England. “We have never had a day when with no tickets. Computers are always breaking.”
With the network being so important to mission success, maintaining the network’s security is essential. Network and site administrators work to ensure the network is always protected.
“We try and maintain as much network security as possible to ensure it doesn’t get compromised by the enemy,” said USAF Senior Airman Raymond Harmon, network administrator and Ventura, Calif., native. “If the system goes down, COB Speicher loses its ability to communicate.”
In addition to the job, airmen have had to adjust to working with the U.S. Army.
“It very beneficial for the Airmen to work side-by-side with the Army,” said Lieutenant Nelson. “They see a new perspective on how to do their job and it breaks down all the inter-service stereotypes.”
Although they wear different uniforms, the soldiers and airman work well together to accomplish the mission.
“It’s as smooth as it can be,” said USAF Tech. Sgt. Brian Bowles, NCO in charge of the base’s Direct Signal Support Team. “We are very successful as a team. It is definitely a joint effort.”