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Communicators lay foundation for Afghanistan's future

by Capt. James H. Cunningham
455th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

11/16/2005 - KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan (AFPN) -- Before U.S. forces return the airport terminal and tower here to Afghan control, combat communicators first installed more than a mile of copper and fiber cable.

Airmen from the 451st Air Expeditionary Group communications flight here stepped up to install the critical communications cables when an engineering and installation team could not meet a short suspense.

The flight took the challenge head-on and rerouted more than 6,000 feet of communication lines to ensure connectivity was not lost during the changeover.

The project involved running the wiring through conduit and burying it in trenches. The project has also left room for additional cables for future expansion.

“We were able to get the process started to make sure no capabilities were lost,” said Capt. Paul Perron, the communications flight commander, deployed from the 236th Combat Communications Squadron in Hammond, La. “They’ve picked up the ball and run with it like you wouldn’t believe.”

Charged with maintaining Air Force network communications here, innovation has become a way of life for the flight’s less than 20 Airmen.

Improvements have spread to other areas of communication. The flight completed a project to increase coverage of the land mobile radio service on the base. This involved installing 15 repeaters, testing them and then programming approximately 300 receivers to work with the new system.

“We basically read the books on how to do it and learned as we went,” said Tech. Sgt. Keith Sedwick, the flight’s land mobile radio manager, deployed from the 33rd Combat Communications Squadron at Tinker Air Force Base, Okla. “I always want to leave a place better than I found it to make it easier for whoever comes after us.”

The flight’s effort saved a special three-person team from Qatar five days of work.

“It’s inspiring to know that what we’re doing, in the long run, will make it a whole lot better here than it has been in a long time,” said Master Sgt. Richard Poole, deployed from the 223rd Combat Communications Squadron in Hot Springs, Ark.

Other improvements included increasing the network’s bandwidth capability tenfold by upgrading and installing enhanced network switches.

“This allows us to have fewer network problems and better support the mission,” said Staff Sgt. Jeremy Bellard, the flight’s noncommissioned officer in charge of network management, also deployed from the Hammond, La., unit.

Improving systems, especially those used by operators, has a direct impact on the mission.

“Losing communication here can literally mean life and death to the people we’re supporting,” Sergeant Bellard said.

As Afghanistan begins to take more control, Airmen want to leave a lasting impact in the global war on terrorism.

“This isn’t about making temporary changes,” group commander Col. Gerald E. Szpila said. “We’re taking a long-term approach and making improvements that will last well beyond our AEF cycle.

“The results will benefit not only the rotations to come,” he said, “but will also lay a foundation for a better Afghanistan.”

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