Comms prove crucial to mission success

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Jessica H. Smith-McMahan
  • 23rd Wing Public Affairs

Exercise Mosaic Tiger 24-1 had several moving pieces and players throughout the week, but there was one crucial component to ensure success across the board – communication capabilities.

The 23rd Communication Squadron was met with an inject nearly halfway through the exercise –relocate the entire Wing Operations Center – which required every bit of communication equipment to be deconstructed, packed up and moved.   

“Command and Control relies on specialists from the intelligence, communications and operations communities,” said Maj. John McGowan, 23rd Wing A-Staff director of operations. Communications Airmen ensure we’re able to securely transfer information through proper channels, so challenging them to move communications in the middle of a readiness exercise really tests their capabilities as well as the capabilities of the entire 23rd Air Expeditionary Wing.”

With help from personnel across the WOC, the physical move began.

First, cables were pulled up and transferred to the new WOC. As individuals packed up and moved non-communications equipment, client systems technicians began piecing together a quick setup for the A-Staff, composed of NIPR and SIPR phones and workstations, explained Staff Sgt. Chase Jordan-Alcañiz, 23rd CS network infrastructure supervisor.
Once the A-Staff established a successful setup, the rest of the communication assets were moved, bringing secure communications to the new WOC.

From there began the troubleshooting.

“We had to bundle up all of our cabling and equipment and set it up quickly at the alternate location, adapting to a whole new networking environment,” Jordan- Alcañiz said. “Relocation meant reconfiguring our networking devices to work with the “host nation” base network. This was a particularly challenging troubleshooting process as we ran into a handful of issues that we hadn’t seen before.”

Members from Network Infrastructure, Radio and Client Systems worked together to set up communication to and from the Forward Operating Station and Contingency Location, providing the backbone to connect the Main Operating Base’s isolated network to the larger AFNET.

“Thanks to some quick thinking from Airman Harris, who isn’t in network infrastructure but is studying to get certified in it, we were able to identify one of the major issues and pave a way forward. Harris had been studying on his downtime, and happened to have just covered a chapter relating to our issue,” Jordan-Alcañiz, said. “I think the success ultimately rests on the shoulders of my technician, Senior Airman Jenkins, and Harris for bringing a fresh perspective to our team.”

While those in the WOC were met with less network availability in the new location due to reduced communication capabilities, there was never a full communication blackout, as the A-Staff transitioned to the new location before network capabilities were taken down at the initial location.

“The fact that the communications team was able to successfully maintain comms at two locations in the middle of a simulated mortar attack is both impressive and reassuring,” McGowan said. “These types of scenarios coupled with degraded communications is exactly what we can expect to face with strategic adversaries when projecting power through contested environments.”

Although the relocation was technically a success, the comm team still found valuable lessons learned.

“Exercises are just a sandbox that we get to play in and mess up without risking actual lives. If we mess stuff up or break something, we’re able to specifically tailor our configurations to address that. We learned what we need spares of, what we brought too much of and who works best in what role,” Jordan- Alcañiz explained. “This exercise helped sharpen my team’s critical thinking skills and introduced them to problems that required research to solve – the techniques and commands we had to use will help us significantly in the future.”