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March 1, 2013

Combat Crew Communications: A small office with a big job

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by Darnell Gardner
452 AMW public affairs
Comm 1
Combat Crew Communication personnel from the left, Tech. Sgt. Billy Rodgers, 452d Operational Support Squadron, Staff Sgt. Jennifer Willig, 912th Air Refueling Squadron, Master Sgt. Kalikala Jugas, 452d OSS and Tech. Sgt. Edwin Negron, 912th ARS, transport communication material to receiving officers for issuing to outgoing aircrews. The March Air Reserve Base Integrated Combat Crew Communications has a unique mixture of Reserve and active duty personnel. (U.S. Air Force photo / Darnell Gardner)

Our military leaders have determined that the most forthcoming threat to U.S. national security will come from cyberspace. Pentagon Press Secretary George Little stated, while speaking at a press conference held in Washington, D.C., on Nov. 15, 2012, that, “cyber threats are growing at an alarming rate.” He further added that they could threaten the critical infrastructure of the U.S. Government and private sector. 

The March Air Reserve Base Integrated Combat Crew Communications office employs a myriad of measures and countermeasures to ensure our aircrew communications remain secure and out of reach from enemies who wish to impede our ability to maintain secure connection, which is crucial to operational success in a combat environment.

“We provide a package referred to as Identification of Friend or Foe, that delivers positive identification of friendly forces to our warfighters on the ground and in the air, so the threat of friendly fire and misrecognition is minimized,” said Tech. Sgt. Edwin Negron, noncommissioned officer in charge, Combat Crew Communications, 912th Air Refueling Squadron. “Without IFF, mission success diminishes because our forces cannot differentiate friendlies from enemies”

In certain scenarios, the time from initial contact to identification can be measured in milliseconds, so there is literally no time to identify a friendly aircraft by plain-eye visuals alone. Secure communications and the electronic systems programmed with IFF codes, could mean the difference between a successful mission or an aircraft being forced to land or shot down, he said.

The Combat Crew Communications office, here at March ARB, has a uniqueness that sets it apart from most units around the Air Force — primarily, supporting multiple aircraft types. In addition, the integration of reservists assigned to the 452d Operational Support Squadron and active duty at 912th ARS, enable military innovation and civilian ingenuity to converge where it matters most — in the combat zone, an environment entrenched in fluidity and unpredictability.

“With all the integration that has gone on over the years with Total Force Integration and Total Force Enterprise, this is only the second time an active duty Air Force unit has integrated into a Reserve unit,” said Senior Master Sgt. Mike Shyk, superintendent, Crew Communications. “Usually, it’s either the Reserve or Guard unit that integrates into an active duty unit or base.”

Crew Comm. is on scene, Monday through Friday, with a 24-hour alert stand-by roster. Their primary responsibility is to provide peace and wartime planning for nuclear war as well as Strategic Deterrence and Global Strike plan, to the 452d Air Mobility Wing. In addition, they provide annual Communications Security training for three squadrons, which comprise more that 200 aircrews members, here at March.

A major responsibility of crew comm. is to assist aircrews in recording, reporting and processing Spectrum Interference Resolution reports, which report mission data pertaining to electromagnetic interference, Quick Fix Interference Resolution Capability, Electro Magnetic Compatibility measurements and specialized engineering services to commanders for assessment. These platforms are critical to mission success because they alert crews to areas where foes are utilizing EMI to degrade or limit usability of electrical equipment — a form of electronic warfare. If these emissions go undetected, aircraft risk being shot down by enemy forces, subject to friendly fire, or having navigational equipment rendered useless.

“Mission readiness is also a key factor because we are mobility enablers,” said Negron.  “We are not attached to a specific Air Expeditionary Force band, so we can be tagged to deploy anywhere in the world in support of our aircrews, at a moment’s notice.

Combat Crew Comm’s. mission is to save lives and aircraft by providing the best Communications Security, Safe Passage Procedures and Aircrew Training as a component to the U.S. Total Force team.

De’Lena Prentiss (center), 452d Operational Support Squadron, Airfield Ops assumes control of communication material provided by Tech. Sgt. Edwin Negron, 912th Air Refueling Squadron and Master Sgt. Kalikala Jugas, 452d Operational Support Squadron. The material will be signed for and kept in a secure location until aircrews are ready to retrieve it for mission purposes. (U.S. Air Force photo / Darnell Gardner)




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