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SATCOM delivers critical info for war on terrorism

OPERATION ENDURING FREEDOM (AFPN) -- In today's information age, satellites are a vital link for global communication. Commanders and troops rely on them to ensure information is at least one step ahead of the enemy in the war on terrorism. At this forward deployed location, that job falls to a satellite communications team from the 114th Combat Communications Squadron of the Florida Air National Guard.

"We operate and maintain satellite ground terminal equipment capable of transmitting and receiving data over great distances," said Staff Sgt. Richard Calvert, a satellite operator whose team is assigned to the 379th Expeditionary Communications Squadron. "We can transport, set up, and operate satellite ground terminals virtually anywhere in the world in a short period of time, and we can relocate as needed."

Besides providing information for the war, the SATCOM team is responsible for many other communications links as well.

"There are many computers and phones on this base, and they have to be routed and switched through several types of equipment," Calvert said. "Eventually, their signal comes to SATCOM. You could call around the base with us, but if you want to talk to Europe or to the U.S., you have to go through SATCOM."

The SATCOM equipment is manned 24 hours a day.

"Many people are depending on that link," he said. "We perform preventative maintenance, alignments and repair to off-line equipment such as (drawers or racks of electronics) that can be brought on-line quickly if something fails."

Calvert likens his job to a fireman.

"We monitor the equipment and wait for something to go wrong," he said. "And if it does, we race to get it fixed as fast as possible. Good preventative maintenance makes outages rare."

The most difficult part of the job is the initial set-up, Calvert said.

Setting up the ground terminal in the middle of nowhere is hard," he said. "Once we're in place and we have stable power, we can monitor the satellite. At that point, our job is to make sure the link stays up. That's important to understand. We only use the satellite, we don't control it."

Calvert said he loves his job not only because it interests him, but also because of the role satellites play in modern warfare.

"Throughout time, wars have been won not only by the army with the most proficient fighters on the front lines, but also the army with the best logistics and communications supporting them," he said.

"Satellite technology has transformed combat communications by providing secure, real-time communications over great distances," Calvert said. "This has become the standard today. The incredible scope of the war on terrorism covers several continents with constantly changing situations. Satellite communication is essential to the proper coordination of our efforts against terrorism around the world."

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