Cyber commandos offer unique capability for joint force

  • Published
  • By Michelle Gigante
  • 919th Special Operations Communications Squadron

The ability to communicate freely and readily over a secure network is becoming more and more important for combatant commanders in today’s world as technology progresses.

To leverage this capability, the warfighter relies on cyber professionals like those at the 919th Special Operations Communications Squadron to provide seamless communication and agile support in rapidly changing environments.

“This is the only communications squadron in the Air Force Reserve that directly supports special operations,” said Maj. Angela Shalduha, 919th SOCS commander.

There are two sides of the mission, Shalduha described—the base support provided to Duke Field day-in and day-out and the other side of supporting Air Force Special Operations Command.

Airmen in the 919th SOCS continually train to maintain skills using video teleconferencing equipment, voice, data, video, and intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance services. For example, the cyber commandos use broadcast systems at exercises and deployments for downloading commercial and military satellite video feeds.

“Our Airmen continually deliver command and control capabilities at every request,” said Chief Master Sgt. Timothy Thoner, 919th SOCS special missions flight superintendent. “In order to meet this demand, our citizen Airmen have to coordinate time away from their civilian professions and personal lives to enable the success of exercises and contingency operations around the globe.”

The team conducts cross-utilization training to maintain strategic capabilities for contingency operations around the globe. In addition, the squadron uses a strategic approach to maintaining unit readiness by deploying equipment and people to support exercises for joint task force efforts throughout the year.

“The partnerships we’ve developed with other Guard, Reserve and active-duty units make it possible for us to train at locations around the world,” Thoner said.

Recently, 919th SOCS Airmen provided computer access, as well as phone lines and satellite radio networks to connect four geographically-separated command elements throughout a two-week Air Force exercise, ‘Rally in the Rockies.’

The multiday training exercise in Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming involved scenarios designed to test the abilities of Air Force Reserve units to execute rapid global mobility missions in challenging, contested scenarios.

“In the past year, we have had members deliver this unique capability in support of 12 exercises across the country,” Thoner said. “Our support to these exercises as well as overseas contingency operations demonstrates 919th SOCS Airmen are always up to the task.”

Our Airmen continually deliver command and control capabilities at every request.Chief Master Sgt. Timothy Thoner, 919th SOCS special missions flight superintendent

Many 919th SOCS members have volunteered for training opportunities across the country in the past year, and many are traditional Reservists who volunteer to enhance their individual readiness.

“It is always exciting when we go out to the field because it offers us an opportunity to try new things,” said Senior Airman Kimberly Nelson, 919th SOCS radio frequency technician. “In each case, we are not only enhancing our readiness skills but also building relationships and collaborating throughout the Air Force and even across the Department of Defense.”

Nelson has participated in more than ten different exercises around the United States in the last two years.

“We are always looking for more opportunities to support AFSOC missions and exercises,” Shalduha said. “There are a lot of unique missions in AFSOC, and we see the experiences our Airmen gain as invaluable steps to maintaining the same capabilities as our active-duty counterparts.”