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Expeditionary command post Airmen eyes, ears

by Tech. Sgt. Scott T. Sturkol
416th Air Expeditionary Group Public Affairs

5/6/2005 - KARSHI-KHANABAD AIR BASE, Uzbekistan (AFPN) -- They might receive an incoming declaration by an aircrew for an in-flight emergency, or they could be calling a first sergeant about a Red Cross notification -- or even both at the same time.

Whatever the message, command post controllers of the 416th Air Expeditionary Group are there to pass the word in their command and control responsibility for the Operation Enduring Freedom mission here.

“Being a command post controller, you never know what's going to happen,” said Senior Airman MaRyha Self, a controller deployed from Barksdale Air Force Base, La. “There are aspects of our job that are routine, but for the most part, when the phone rings, you never know what you are going to get.”

And work does not stop when the calls come in.

“While handling the telephone calls, we still maintain radio contact with aircraft and agencies on the base,” she said.

The command post Airmen serve as the “eyes and ears” for the group commander, said Lt. Col. Bob Champion, 416th AEG deputy commander for operations.

“They are (the) centralized command and control agency on base,” he said. “They are, in many ways, the commander’s execution arm for the mission.”

With C-130 Hercules aircraft constantly flying in and out of the airfield the command post Airmen help keep things on schedule and all the “power players” informed about mission tasks and changes, said Master Sgt. Rob Fredrickson. He is the command post superintendent deployed from Ellsworth AFB, S.D.

“That’s why someone is here all the time getting information to those people who need it,” he said. “As the central location for the collection, verification and distribution of critical and noncritical information, we ensure the group commander and other key players are fully aware of any current situations occurring.”

These controllers have checklists, operations reports and other tools at their disposal to get the “information mission” done, Airman Self said. They also work in a joint effort with their Army counterparts in the command and control side.

“Most Air Force command posts handle day-to-day base operations along with the flying mission,” Airman Self said. “Since the Army has their version a command post here as well, we are here mainly for the flying mission. We monitor all inbound and outbound missions for (here), and we can also monitor missions at different locations throughout the (U.S. Central Command’s) area of responsibility.”

Command post Airmen respond to all ground emergencies, in-flight emergencies, bird watch conditions, and transient and diverted aircraft, Airman Self said.

None of the controllers come from bases with the C-130 airlift mission, so they said their deployment here has helped them gain valuable experience.

“Working with C-130s has expanded the knowledge of my career,” said Senior Airman Kia Young, a command post controller deployed from Beale AFB, Calif. “I’ve learned a great deal about C-130s, especially since we work alongside maintenance operations center controllers.”

With the C-130 mission here, the controllers can monitor and manage all flights, Airman Self said.

“We use a unique program where any controller can track a specific mission, aircraft or crew anywhere in the theater as well as when they are rotating back home,” she said.

Colonel Champion said the controllers have excelled meeting mission needs and requirements.

“Covering a busy airlift mission in a deployed environment is no easy task,” he said. “They came here, formed a team, and got the coverage flowing smoothly 24 hours a day, seven days a week. They’ve shouldered a tremendous responsibility and have done a great job.”

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