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Deployed Conn. Airmen leave mark on Air Force ops

Senior Airman Sean Vaclavik and Tech. Sgt. Dara Febres, communications computer systems craftsmen, 103rd Air and Space Operations Group, receive a shipment of mission critical computer equipment for the new Combined Air Operations Center facility in Southwest Asia May 29, 2009.  The Airmen deployed as part of an eight-member team focused on enhancing command and control capabilities for Air Force operations in theater.  (U.S. Air Force photo by Lt. Col. Reid Christopherson)

Senior Airman Sean Vaclavik and Tech. Sgt. Dara Febres, communications computer systems craftsmen, 103rd Air and Space Operations Group, receive a shipment of mission critical computer equipment for the new Combined Air Operations Center facility in Southwest Asia May 29, 2009. The Airmen deployed as part of an eight-member team focused on enhancing command and control capabilities for Air Force operations in theater. (U.S. Air Force photo by Lt. Col. Reid Christopherson)

Senior Master Sgt. Scott Brew, superintendent, 103rd Air Communications Squadron, provides oversight and leadership to the team charged with installing a new DSN phone system at the new Combined Air Operations Center facility in Southwest Asia May 29, 2009.  Senior Master Sgt. Brew led a deployed eight-member team focused on enhancing command and control capabilities for Air Force operations in theater.  (U.S. Air Force photo by Lt. Col. Reid Christopherson)

Senior Master Sgt. Scott Brew, superintendent, 103rd Air Communications Squadron, provides oversight and leadership to the team charged with installing a new DSN phone system at the new Combined Air Operations Center facility in Southwest Asia May 29, 2009. Senior Master Sgt. Brew led a deployed eight-member team focused on enhancing command and control capabilities for Air Force operations in theater. (U.S. Air Force photo by Lt. Col. Reid Christopherson)

SOUTHWEST ASIA -- Communications Airmen deployed here from the Connecticut Air National Guard's "Flying Yankees" are heading home soon after implementing skills and techniques they have developed while helping stand- up their home unit's operations back home. Efforts were aimed at enhancing command and control capabilities for Air Force operations in the theater.

The Airmen, assigned to the 103rd Air and Space Operations Group based out of Bradley ANG Base near Hartford, Conn., deployed in an eight-person team to setup emerging command and control capabilities for Airmen stationed here tasked to support air power operations in the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility, said Senior Master Sgt. Scott Brew, the unit's superintendent who serves in his unit as a full-time Air Guard Technician.

"We're definitely one piece of the overall puzzle here," he said, referring to his team's work in setting up communications systems and telephone connectivity amidst other work being done around his work center. "We are in the process of setting up new clients (on computer systems) and installing some of the new equipment."

The team represents several different specialties within the communications career field and each person is considered to be subject-matter experts who have already developed the relationships necessary to perform a critical job within a short timeframe.

"We all work together frequently at our home unit and having that continuity is a big asset for us," Brew said. "We already know everyone's skills and strengths."
Prior to their deployment, the Connecticut Airmen were part of an effort to create an Air Operations Center and Air Mobility Detachment at their state-side base that allows the unit to "analyze, strategize, plan, and direct joint air power during combat operations," according to unit officials.

According to their unit Web site, the "mission responsibilities" include the coordination of sortie execution, close air support/precision air strike, intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, airlift, air refueling, aerial evaluation, air drop and countless other mission critical operations."

Additionally, the functions performed by the 103rd AOG directly support operations of the 609th Air and Space Operations Center, located here.

When the Airmen arrived on-station, all the equipment they needed was already available - but in a warehouse.

"We spent the first month we were here inventorying all of the equipment before we could get started," Brew said. "Just now, we are finally ready to start getting things ready."

With boxes of furniture and computers scattered around the facility, Staff Sgt. Sarah Kiley, a client support administrator, realized her specific skill requiring the actual set up of computers and clients were not yet required at the time of this interview.

"I started out helping to inventory the warehouse and plan for the seating," she said. "Now we're building furniture and creating the 'help desk' function for this facility." Though not yet called upon to perform her actual job function, Kiley knows that when the time comes, she is prepared.

"It's pretty cool being here," she said. "If you don't do your job, nothing here would work - you just need to be ready."

According to Airman 1st Class Chris Fig, a network administrator working on the client installation, even though the majority of his job right now involves connecting all the equipment, setting up a system that will accommodate more than 900 people takes a lot of time and has required the team to put in long hours.

"There was a lot of preparation to get to this point, but I know it will prove to be beneficial when the job is all done," said the Airman, who serves with his unit part-time while attending school at Southern Connecticut State University. "I've been in the Guard doing this job for about a year and I love it."

Staff Sgt. Kiley, who serves in her unit as a full-time ART, attributes the stand-up of the air operations center back at her home base as an experience that has helped her unit hit the ground running. "It really allows us to see how everything works," she said.

For the Guardsmen, the chance to come to the theater, get a first-hand look at operations down range, and see how it all fits in with their home mission was a great opportunity, Brew said.