News>Feature - Communication gurus upgrade base networks
David Grace uses a tool to connect phone lines from one line block to another at Manas Air Base, Kyrgyzstan. The tool terminates telephone line cuts by securing the copper to the phone block. Mr. Grace is a 376th Expeditionary Communications Squadron contractor. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Mitch Gettle)
Tech. Sgt. Juan Luna separates individual wire pairs from a bundle of 25 and places them in a splicing tool at Manas Air Base, Kyrgyzstan. The engineering and installation team is here to help the 376th Expeditionary Communications Squadron transfer all phone numbers and lines to a new, more permanent phone switch. Sergeant Luna is deployed from the 219th Engineering and Installations Squadron at Tulsa, Okla. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Mitch Gettle)
Staff Sgt. Mario Mejia loosens a telephone line splice case in order to feed the line cables into the ends of the case at Manas Air Base, Kyrgyzstan. Sergeant Mejia is one of the five engineering and installation team members helping the 376th Expeditionary Communications Squadron transfer all DSN numbers to the new telephone switch. Sergeant Mejia is deployed from the 272nd Engineering and Installation Squadron at Laporte, Texas. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Mitch Gettle)
by Master Sgt. Mitch Gettle
376th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
1/8/2007 - MANAS AIR BASE, Kyrgyzstan (AFPN) -- The mission of the 376th Air Expeditionary Wing is to move fuel, people and cargo into Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
This mission has been the same since the base was first activated. One other constant has been the base telephone network, which has been overdue for a replacement.
"When the base was first stood up they put in tactical telephone equipment, which works well to get a base up and operating quickly but is not meant for long-term use," said Lt. Col. Raan Aalgaard, 376th Expeditionary Communications Squadron commander. "The bottom line when we deploy is to get the communications going, but these (tactical) systems are what the base has been running on for four or five years now. We need to move into more of a sustained communications environment."
With assistance from Central Command Air Forces, the wing has received a new telephone switch that is similar to ones used at bases in the U.S.
"It is much more robust with more capability and reliability than we have now," said Colonel Aalgaard, who is deployed from the 2nd CS at Barksdale Air Force Base, La. "It will be more stable, easier to maintain and provide additional services."
In the change, the base populace receives new seven-digit DSN numbers beginning with a 441 designation and new four-digit extensions on all phones.
"The cutover process will take about seven days and we expect to be completed by Tuesday," said Capt. Robert Nichols, the 376th ECS Plans and Programs Flight chief, deployed from the 46th Test Group at Holloman AFB, N.M. "We are working nights to make this happen and our goal is to have a limited impact on the mission."
Every phone line has its own wire pair and each pair must be cut and spliced over to the new telephone switch, Captain Nichols said.
"We have an engineering and installation team here to help put the system on line," Colonel Aalgaard said. "They bring a lot of experience to our cutover team and have been doing a super job; we're thrilled to have them here."
Work on this project also is completed behind the scenes and by many members in other base organizations.
"The unit client support administrators are very important in this phone-number change process," said Tech. Sgt. Kent Keiser, base information management functional manager. "This process requires a lot of attention to detail. We rely on them for accurate and timely information updates.
"I am responsible for updating the master telephone spreadsheet and coordinating with the CSAs to make sure the information is correct," said Sergeant Keiser, deployed from Headquarters Air Combat Command Safety at Langley AFB, Va. "Sometimes it's been challenging because there are so many offices and so few CSAs on the base, but we couldn't accomplish this without the support from other people on base."
The new system not only gives the wing a better telephone system, but also provides greater organization and control of the telephone system.
"This new system significantly improves our switch operations and management capabilities," said Colonel Aalgaard. "It will provide much more stability than our current tactical systems and better management analysis tools, improving our abilities to analyze system performance and (telephone) call traffic."
The communications squadron is also installing a new fiber optic cable system to be used as the backbone for the computer network.
"Once we are complete with the telephone switch, we will be starting to migrate the network over to the new fiber-optic backbone," Colonel Aalgaard said. "The base customers will see increased speed on the network within the base, but we will still have limitations going on and off base, because the bandwidth over the satellite is not changing."
Some benefits of the new fiber optics have already been realized by Manas AB people.
"We've used available fiber-optic cable that will not be required for the computer network to expand our (American Forces Network) coverage to all the dormitories," Colonel Aalgaard said. "This has freed up satellite decoder boxes and dishes so they can be relocated to the more remote locations on base where they didn't have AFN access before."