JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, AK, UNITED STATES
JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- A team of airmen from the 3rd Wing and the 673d Air Base Wing here helped JBER become the first base in the Air Force to successfully rekey all of their F-22 Raptors for the next year.
The effort of maintainers from the 3rd Maintenance Group and the communications security office of the 673d ABW directly contributed to this accomplishment. As a direct result, JBER has been first to annually rekey all their F-22s, not once, not twice, but three years in a row - setting the pace and standard for other bases operating the Raptor.
"Every year we meet up with the maintainers and discuss the challenges," said Eric Coleman, the 673d ABW COMSEC security manager. "Last year, the fleet was grounded so it was simple to do. This year with them constantly flying, we have to work around their schedules. Basically, we worked around the clock [shift work] with our maintainers in order to get our fleet rekeyed."
The rekey of the F-22 is the communications security portion of the aircraft maintenance. Like the keys to a car, the rekey is vital to the operations of the F-22.
"We don't actually key the jets ourselves," Coleman said. "We work hand-in-hand with the maintainers. The actual maintainers are the ones that go out and touch the jet."
The rekey itself is a change made to the encryption key and helps to establish a secure line of communication.
"It is not strictly between aircraft," Coleman said. "It is Department of Defense wide, since it involves everyone, it is important that we are all communicating correctly."
"Every year the material needs to be changed out," he said. "The whole F-22 fleet changes out annually."
"I can't stress enough the importance of the teamwork portion between the COMSEC office and the maintainers that were out in the cold doing the work," said Tech. Sgt. Samuel Cogburn, COMSEC assistant manager.
"They have a good understanding of what our job is," Coleman said. "We have a good understanding of what their job is. With that kind of understanding, we know what to expect - look for ways to help them out and make the process easier."
The planning for the rekey begins six months out. Members of COMSEC communicate with the maintainers four months out.
"We would never be able to accomplish this without the airmen working around the clock," Cogburn said. "They are all professionals and individually want to complete the mission. Sometimes, you have to pry them off the machine."
"Over the years, just the relationship we have - the level of respect that they have for us and we have for them and our ability with communication," he said.
Rekeying the jets this year was a challenge, Coleman said. "If that material is not in that jet, then that jet is considered broken."
"If you have a fleet that is actually flying, then we have a small window of time to figure out how to do this and not impede their flying mission," he explained.
Four members were recognized and coined by Air Force Col. Brian Duffy commander of the 673d ABW, and Air Force Col. Dirk Smith, commander of the 3rd Wing, for their accomplishments that represented the synchronization of the team and the foundation of this accomplishment.
"Today we recognize four individuals for their excellence and leadership," Smith said during the coin ceremony. "But you really are standing on the shoulders of many others that worked as a team, with your leadership, to accomplish this achievement. We know there are scores of additional airmen and civilians that deserve a piece of this recognition as well."
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This work, 3-peat: JBER airmen first again to rekey Raptors, by SrA Omari Bernard, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.