Communication is the foundation for success. Now more than ever, commanders rely on fast, functional and effective means of information exchange to drive the mission forward and deter adversaries. There is a reason communications are usually the first in and last out during operations; command and control simply could not exist without it.
With growing threats to the safe and secure transfer of vital information, communications operations have needed to become more resilient, sustainable, agile and responsive. If a line goes down, it must be immediately restored or alternative forms of communication must be established. The 1st Communications Maintenance Squadron at Kapaun Air Station ensures these capability demands are met quickly and are available every day across U.S. Air Forces in Europe.
“Whether it be repairing the cabling in the ground, or restoring and reprogramming all of the switches, routers and servers that constitute the Department of Defense information network used for all levels of unclassified or classified communications, we are looked at to be able to restore it back to operational capacity,” said Tech. Sgt. Chad Fisher, 1st CMXS unit training manager.
The unit is focused on network extension and rapid restoration of communications by taking main operating base (communications elements within the USAFE theater and extending those services into other areas, like austere environments. They also provide immediate repair and restore actions between combat and safe zones.
“What we have been developing is the agile concept, as far as communications is concerned,” said Tech. Sgt. Ricardo Hernandez, 1st CMXS network operations section chief. “Going right down the middle between tactical and enduring solutions and being able to get all the benefits and speed of the tactical rollout, the way combat communications is doing, and also giving that capability the way (engineering installation units) are. We are combining the best of both and putting it in a package that is able to deploy.”
Further developing electromagnetic spectrum operations as a 435th Air Ground Operations Wing resource for USAFE, the 1st CMXS provides real-time detection, analysis and mitigation of communication threats.
“The 1st CMXS is able to ensure that when warfighters are employed towards the tip of the spear, they not only have secure and reliable communications, but are also protected in the electronic warfare domain and through enhanced base defense,” Fisher said.
In addition to providing traditional communications maintenance mission sets, the 1st CMXS enables warfighters to accomplish the 435th AGOW’s Inside Out mission to get payloads on time, every time.
“Center your presence within the main operating base, hoard all your resources there, and then when you need them, distribute them out rapidly and pull them back,” Hernandez said. “I can distribute them directly from the MOB, or I can distribute them from the geographically separated units. What if I need another GSU? This is where the 1st CMXS comes in. We can extend more GSUs out, or we can rapidly restore one. This is how we enable our warfighters.”
The versatility and ingenuity the 1st CMXS warfighters bring to communications capabilities gives commanders a tailored competitive edge in establishing and securing command and control.
“We literally fit whatever it is the customer needs,” Hernandez said. “We build it from the ground up, and we can do it fast. You have so many different sites within USAFE that all have different missions, and that’s where nothing we do is cookie-cutter. We have resources that we pull from to be able to develop the best solutions for each unit.”
To ensure solutions are lasting and optimized, 1st CMXS warfighters provide strategic and necessary training to receiving unit personnel.
“When we add to, or change, certain communications equipment, we provide training to the cyber warriors on site to get them operating at not just the fundamental, but minimum intermediate levels on their new networks,” Fisher said. “We are one of the few certified units that can provide tower training and rescue. These types of resources and capabilities are not typically available or able to be maintained at regular comm units, but at the 1st CMXS, it’s what we do almost daily.”
The unit’s successful execution of expanding and enhancing communications capabilities across USAFE has not only identified the 1st CMXS as a premiere communications engineering, installation and repair unit, but has earned them recognition at the major command level.
“Our network operations shop was recently recognized for the General Edwin W. Rawlings Team Award for Air Force Information Dominance at the MAJCOM level,” said 1st Lt. Douglas Boren, 1st CMXS plans and programs flight officer in charge. “As a small but fierce unit, we are able to do the job of just about any other large communications unit in the Air Force.”
The solutions the 1st CMXS is delivering go beyond routine cable and antenna repairs, or fiber optic and server installs, and equips USAFE with the ability to conduct real-time detection of degradation or jamming attempts, analysis of behavioral threat patterns, location mapping, and mitigation or destruction of EMSO threats.