Airmen keep COB Speicher connected to the world

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. R. Michael Longoria
  • 9th Air and Space Expeditionary Task Force-Iraq Public Affairs
Airmen are an integral part of Operation New Dawn and joint operations throughout Iraq. The communications site, or Task Force Palmetto, at Contingency Operating Base Speicher is no exception.

The 30 contractors and 34 service members, including 18 Airmen, assigned to the task force are responsible for installing, operating, maintaining and defending the communications network for COB Speicher.

"We take care of every aspect of the (U.S.) Central Command network here, from the satellite signal to the cables in the ground to the user's desktop computer," said 1st Lt. Jesse A. Nelson, the task force's officer in charge for the base. "If a problem comes up at any level, we fix it, and the entire team is doing an excellent job."

The joint team works on a network that supports more than 70 units, including U.S. Division-North.

"Our job isn't glorious, but it is critical," said Staff Sgt. Ted Lee, the service desk NCO in charge. "We provide strategic communication for the entire base."

It all starts with a satellite signal. The signals transfer to the technical-control facility and then gets distributed to the entire base via fiber-optic cables and other wires. Technicians continuously monitor the facility to mitigate network outages.

"Without the TCF, all the users on COB Speicher wouldn't have network access or the ability to communicate," said Staff Sgt. Timothy Voliva, the technical-control-facility NCO in charge. "If there is an outage, it affects our customers' ability to complete their mission, and it's important we fix it quickly."

The network is available, but all devices must visit the automated-data-processing and equipment section to undergo a configuration process consisting of more than 30 steps before they can be plugged into the network.

"We standardize every computer," said Staff Sgt. Gissell Gilbert, the NCO in charge of the ADPE section. "We ensure all systems have the proper software and drivers installed before they are hooked up to the network."

With more than 4,500 users accessing the network, the task force's service desk stays busy. The service desk handles 400 to 500 trouble tickets per week.

"Our main focus is tier-one troubleshooting," Sergeant Lee said. "We have never had a day when with no tickets. Computers are always breaking."

With the network being so important to mission success, maintaining the network's security is essential. Network and site administrators work to ensure that the network is always protected.

"We try and maintain as much network security as possible to ensure it doesn't get compromised by the enemy," said Senior Airman Raymond Harmon, a network administrator. "If the system goes down, COB Speicher loses its ability to communicate."

In addition to the job, Airmen have had to adjust to working with Soldiers.

"It's very beneficial for the Airmen to work side-by-side with the Army," Lieutenant Nelson said. "They see a new perspective on how to do their job, and it breaks down all the interservice stereotypes."

Although they wear different uniforms, the Soldiers and Airmen work well together to accomplish the mission, said Tech. Sgt. Brian Bowles, the NCO in charge of the base's direct-signal-support team.

"It's as smooth as it can be," he said. "We are very successful as a team. It is definitely a joint effort."