52nd Communications Squadron keeps Spangdahlem connected

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Chad Warren
  • 52nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs
In modern warfare, battles can be won or lost miles from the combat zone. Cyberspace is today's battlefield, making communication one of the most powerful weapons in the U.S. Air Force's arsenal, and the men and women of the 52nd Communications Squadron aim to ensure Spangdahlem is on the cutting edge of cyber security and communication superiority.

The 52nd CS is divided into two flights, the operations flight and the plans and implementation flight, encompassing more than 200 Airmen across 15 career fields. These Airmen play a part in nearly every aspect of daily operations, from computer systems to postal operations.

"From aircraft identification and landing systems, to first-responder radios, email servers, blackberries, wireless routers and microphones for speakers, [the communications squadron] is deeply ingrained in every mission," said U.S. Air Force 2nd Lt. Christopher Jamison, 52nd CS Cyber Readiness officer in charge and San Jose, Calif. native. "Each piece of equipment and software ensures the successful completion of every other mission on base."

As its name implies, the operations flight is responsible for most of the hands-on maintenance and upkeep of the wing's communication systems. Communications Airmen are responsible for the secure and non-secure computer networks, ensuring the $45 million system is maintained and operational for more than 6,000 members who use the networks. Additionally, they maintain more than 260,000 miles of underground fiber optic cable.

Most people associate the communications squadron with computers and telephones, and although that is a large part of it, it encompasses much more, explained U.S. Air Force Senior Master Sgt. William Hebb, 52nd CS Operations Flight chief from St. Albans, W. Va.

Flying operations are also a large part of the communications mission.

Airmen from the airfield systems section maintain and operate navigation equipment, which allows aircrew to communicate with the air traffic control tower and also to assist in instrument-guided landings.

"The equipment we work on allows pilots to land aircraft in inclement weather when they cannot visually see the runway until just before touching down," said U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Richard Oliver, 52nd CS Airfield Systems NCO in charge. "Without our equipment, air traffic controllers would not be able to communicate with pilots and aircraft would have to be diverted to other airfields to land."

One vital system they control is the Tactical Air Navigation system, or TACAN, which is the primary navigational aid for pilots who arrive to or leave from Spangdahlem. It sends a signal that tells pilots where they are in relation to the airfield.

"The flying mission would cease if our equipment was not operational," said Senior Airman Taylor Anliker, 52 CS Airfield Systems technician from Columbia, Mo.

The mission doesn't stop at digital communication - 52nd CS Airmen keep Spangdahlem physically connected to the outside world as well by managing the base postal system.

"We get a chance to help the military populous maintain communication channels and regularity within their ever-changing lifestyles," said Master Sgt. Melvin Graham, 52nd CS Postmaster from Nashville, Tenn.

An upcoming inspection proves just how important cyber security and communication dominance is for the U.S. military. In August, representatives from the Defense Information Systems Agency will arrive for a week-long inspection of Spangdahlem's cyber security and information assurance compliance.

"Most users don't realize how reliant and vulnerable they are because of the amount of trust they put in their devices," Jamison said. "This inspection is important to Spangdahlem because it ensures we hold ourselves accountable to the strictest information security standards in order to prevent some of those vulnerabilities from being exploited."

Airmen from the 52nd CS strive to ensure every mission across the wing runs smoothly and has all of the communication assets needed to defend American and allied interests.