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'Cable Dawgs' keep Kirkuk connected

by Tech. Sgt. Rease Wold
506th Expeditionary Communications Squadron

12/2/2004 - KIRKUK AIR BASE, Iraq (AFPN)  -- Many people take for granted the luxury of having a dial tone when they pick up the phone, and e-mail when they turn on their computer, but there is a special group of Airmen working behind the scenes here to make it happen.

The "Cable Dawgs," as Airmen of the 506th Expeditionary Communications Squadron call themselves, recently installed new fiber optic and telephone cables which increased the base's network and telephone reliability by 50 percent.

The project, part of a program called the "Fighter Loop," provides a redundant communications path for more than 75 percent of the people deployed here. The Airmen said this project was of the highest importance in helping to keep phones and e-mail working.

Kirkuk's communications cables are frequently cut by contractors, crushed by heavy vehicles or gnawed on by rats and mice, which stops network and telephone traffic.

"The completion of this project is a significant improvement for the base" said Maj. David Hluska, 506th ECS commander. It provides a backup communications path which eliminates downtime because of damaged or cut cables, he said.

The squadron is staffed for maintaining and running existing communications systems, but the Airmen pooled their resources to form a large enough team to complete the project.

People from unrelated career fields even volunteered to help, Major Hluska said.

"Together they pulled more than three miles of duct and almost one and a half miles of fiber optic (cables) through manhole systems" he said. "Even more difficult was pulling the almost one and a half miles of fiber optic (cables) as a continuous length."

They did this by pulling the cable in 500-to 700-foot increments, the major said.

"It was a hard pull, with a few minor snags, but we got it done," said Tech. Sgt. Don Ward, team lead and noncommissioned officer in charge of the Cable Dawgs. "The installation (of the fiber optic cables) is a big improvement for the base. This job will help reduce the frustration of losing telephone capabilities and enhance phone connectivity for command and control, business and morale calls."

Besides improving communications for the base, the "Fighter Loop" is critical to future initiatives, officials said. It provides the infrastructure needed for the upcoming network control center and telephone switchboard installations.

"(These) will greatly increase the capacity and abilities for users at Kirkuk," Major Hluska said. "It will also improve reliability by replacing the overburdened tactical equipment we have with standard systems we're trained to maintain. Unlike the systems we have now, the new systems come with tools to warn of problems before a communications outage occurs."

The Fighter Loop is also critical to base perimeter security and force protection, he said. Its completion provides the ability to expand telephone reporting capabilities to additional security forces guard towers, which is the Cable Dawgs' next project.

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