Skip to comments.Command post: commander's eyes, ears
Posted on 02/14/2006 5:06:15 PM PST by SandRat
2/14/2006 - SOUTHWEST ASIA -- The 380th Air Expeditionary Wings command post Airmen have one of the most important areas in the area of responsibility to track. With four controllers and a superintendent covering around-the-clock operations this group is ready for anything.
We are the nerve center for the base in this war environment, said Senior Master Sgt. Joseph Howell, command post superintendent. And we all understand our work can have a big effect on the mission here.
That mission impact was evident to first-time deployer Staff Sgt. Lynn Brown the moment he arrived.
There is a definite adjustment we must go through quickly when we enter into this up-paced operations tempo, said Sergeant Brown, a console controller. So we rely on all the units to pass the information to us so we can have the answers to the questions the leadership will have about any given event.
One of the toughest tasks for the controllers is being the main link to decipher information for leaders to run the base, Sergeant Howell said.
We are looking at airmen first class and junior (noncommissioned officers) who are getting on the phone at anytime to speak directly with the wing commander, he said. Thats a big task when you consider a few years ago the same responsibility was carried by a command post officer.
So the pressure for a young troop to brief colonels or even generals and to have the answers to the questions he or she may have can be challenging, explained Sergeant Howell. Not to mention it has to be timely, accurate, detailed, but brief.
That pressure makes it difficult for the Air Force to retain some young controllers.
Ive seen only three senior NCOs in this career field with 20 years of experience, he said. So imagine a young Airman having to answer to the commander without that base core knowledge that a seasoned controller would have.
Here the controllers get a good taste of that seasoning by adding 24-hour operations on top of multiple types of aircraft, regulations and host country policies.
We have to stay vigilant and follow our checklist to the T, said Airman 1st Class Ali Saffarini, a command post controller.
This office and the phones are constantly in use, whether its keeping track of wing and transient aircraft; in-flight emergencies; vehicle ops on the flightline and taxiways; Force Protection Condition updates; medical response coordination and weather advisories, Airman Saffarini said.
They have every kind of phone and radio any electronic junkie would enjoy playing with, but for these Airmen, its all about the war efforts, staying ever vigilant and being the eyes and ears of the commander.
Yes that red coversheet in the background is what you think it is. At least it's just the cover sheet.
What's that in the background?
You talking about the red sheet on the clipboard?
It's a classified materials cover, if I remember correctly. I worked CP for the last two years I was in the Air Force. Our work title was Weapons Systems Controllers. It's been 12 years now - let's see if I can remember correctly...57th FWW had two F-15 AMUs - Strike and Eagle. We had three F-16 AMUs (can only remember one name, that was Falcon AMU). We had one A-10 AMU - Thunder AMU. Each controller sat in front of a console with two computer systems in it, along with a ten or twelve channel radio panel, and a phone with about thirty hotlines on it. We worked in the basement of the wing building, in the bombshelter. There was a big screen TV up on the wall in the corner, and the Controller consoles sat in a half moon with the opening away from the television, so we could sit and watch it. It was tuned to CNN (this was before Fox), except on slow nights :).
The Senior Controller sat at a master console, elevated up a step behind the active Controllers consoles. He had the same phone system, same radio system, but he also had the crash phone up at his console. It was the prototypical red phone - no dial or pushbuttons - and when it rang, it was a long, loud continuous ring until it was picked up.
Behind the Senior Controller's console was the Section Chief's office. It was up a short flight of stairs - maybe four stairs - and if you weren't careful, you'd fall flat on your face when you jumped up to go answer the STU-III that was in the classified section.
Overhead lighting was low - the room was fairly dim, but we had enough light at our consoles to work with. Keeping the lights down helped keep the room cool. I brought my young stepdaughters in one time after getting permission from the Wing King (they were there eating dinner with me, and he asked me if I wanted to show them where I worked). They called it the "Star Trek Room." ST:TNG had been on for a couple years, and they thought the CP resembled the bridge of the Enterprise. They still talk about it, even after over twelve years.
A lot of senior enlisted folks thought that it was a dead end post - where the misfits and miscreants went. But I'll tell you, it was the most intense job I ever did. We oversaw every aspect of the fighter wing's operations. Vehicles didn't move without our knowing about it - because we dispatched them. We were responsible for getting bombs, bullets and gas to the aircraft, making sure the jets were certified for flight, and telling the pilots when they could "step to the jet." You couldn't be a slacker in the CP - you'd get sent out to the special projects team in a heartbeat, and spend your time building cinderblock walls.
Best moment I had in CP - one Saturday, I was Senior Controller, and had one other controller in the section with me, when a strange voice comes over our radios wanting to know where to park all these jets. A Marine Air Wing had come in for an exercise, and contacted us for parking. We parked the jets, got them bedded down with fuel and munitions, and a short while later, a Marine Colonel was knocking on the crypto latched door. He told us thank you, and that if we were ever interested, he had a career waiting for us in the Marines.
Sorry for the long post - started remembering, and wanted to write it down.