Airmen provide vital link in Japan earthquake and tsunami relief|
by Senior Master Sgt. Alexander Hall
561st Network Operations Squadron
4/21/2011 - JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM, Hawaii (AFNS) -- From a windowless vault within the Pacific Air Forces headquarters building, Airmen from the 561st Network Operations Squadron, Det. 1, provided the network support required to allow more than 770 sorties to deliver aid workers and supplies to Japan, starting March 12.
"I'm excited to be part of bringing cybercapabilities to the organizations helping Japan," said Senior Airman Zane Williams, a Det. 1 directory and authentication services technician. "It's through missions like this relief effort that I'm reminded of the importance of what we do in the Air Force."
The 561st NOS, Det. 1, a sub-organization of the 67th Network Warfare Wing, is one of only five enterprise service units in the Air Force and an extension of the 561st NOS, located at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo. The detachment delivers core network services and support to create integrated cyberspace effects primarily for the Pacific Air Forces area of responsibility.
The earthquake and subsequent tsunami March 11 temporarily severed computer communications between the continental U.S. and air bases in Japan, Korea and Guam. As part of what is now called Operation Tomodachi, the assistance operation to support Japan disaster relief following the earthquake and resulting tsunami, Det. 1 Airmen coordinated repairs between the affected bases and the Defense Information Services Agency. They were able to restore network connectivity in less than five hours.
"The critical focus was to ensure that all equipment providing network core services throughout the Pacific Air Forces theater were online and operational," said Capt. Eric Rudolph, the Det. 1 director of operations. "The cybercapabilities we provide are the heartbeat to recovery operations, and I'm very proud of our cyberprofessionals who worked together with cyberunits across half the globe to identify, repair and stabilize the network."
Det. 1 officials immediately applied a USCYBERCOM order to limit the number of network service interruptions that could disrupt Pacific Air Forces' ability to move people and supplies through the region. These interruptions, normally scheduled for system upgrades and maintenance, were minimized in order to provide effective precision engagement to the relief effort.
The members of the 561st NOS, Det. 1, who are responsible for operating PACAF's portion of the Air Force network, increased vigilance and monitoring of network services to allow units participating in the relief effort to operate their systems without the threat of data loss or cyberattack during this high-operations period. Network services provided by Det. 1 officials directly enabled several C-17 Globemaster III sorties flying out of Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, and Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska.
Through their network posturing, they also permitted Yokota Air Base, Japan, to recover civilian airline traffic in the hours immediately following the earthquake, and helped turn Misawa AB, Japan, into a primary hub for relief airlift operations. As a result, by Apr. 6, about 20,000 U.S. service members and 140 aircraft were involved in relief operations that brought more than 486 tons of relief supplies to Japan.
"Through the network services and capabilities provided by Det. 1 Airmen, Pacific Air Forces is able to successfully generate missions that are saving lives daily," said Lt. Col. Evan Watkins, the Det. 1 commander. "Cyberspace operations are at the heart of Operation Tomodachi."
This is the detachment's first involvement in a large-scale humanitarian effort since its activation in 2007.