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Help desk 'makes bits flow' to support war on terrorism

OPERATION ENDURING FREEDOM (AFPN) -- They call it "making bits flow." That is how members of the 379th Expeditionary Communications Squadron help desk refer to assisting customers at this forward deployed location.

The help desk is responsible for troubleshooting and repairing computer problems for about 2,000 warfighters here.

The mission is critical in the war on terrorism, according to Staff Sgt. Kim Korber, noncommissioned in charge of the help desk. In a technological age, computers are one of the primary tools used to complete the mission. The help desk ensures these tools are maintained and kept operational.

"Our mission is two-fold, really," Korber said. "We provide unclassified and classified e-mail access, and also small computer needs and repair."

"Computers are essential in completing the mission for many units here," she said. "For example, the weather folks use computers to access the various weather sites in order to brief the aircrews. Fuels uses software to upload their monthly transactions to a server in the United States. Other organizations use (secure computer) to transmit and receive classified information vital to supporting Operation Enduring Freedom."

The 24-hour help desk is a fast-moving operation, answering up to 200 phone calls per day on a variety of computer needs. "It can get pretty crazy," Korber said.

The process begins with a phone call.

"We fill out a 'trouble-ticket,' which lists the problem and who in the shop needs to address it," Korber said.

The help desk then tries to solve the issue over the phone. Problems such as e-mail failure and minor software issues can usually be resolved by walking the customer through the steps to fix them.

"If it can't be solved over the phone, we assign it to a maintenance technician, and give it a precedence, which determines how quickly a technician needs to respond," she said.

The help desk boasts a rapid turnaround rate, with 90 percent of all work orders completed within 24 hours.

"To me, computers are a means to an end," she said. "I see them as just a tool to complete the mission. But most of our technicians get into them. They love cracking the cases and digging in there. I think it takes that kind of passion to work here."

Airman 1st Class Eric Carter, a help desk technician, said the job is fast-paced, but very rewarding. He spends his afternoons traveling to different units, tinkering with computers and "almost always" fixing them.

"The demand can get pretty stressful," he said. "But I like interacting with people and meeting all sorts of personalities. That's really the best part."

Korber agrees.

"It's great to bring a computer in, troubleshoot it, then hand it back to the customer and see (him or her) happy," she said.

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