USAFE Airman keeps communications running while deployed to Afghanistan for OEF

Master Sgt. Jeff Szczechowski
455th Expeditionary Squadron

***image1***BAGRAM AIR BASE, Afghanistan – Communication is paramount for any operation – especially one like Operation Enduring Freedom. That’s why members of the 455th Expeditionary Group’s Communications Flight work hard to ensure communication is a seamless operation at Camp Cunningham.
Senior Master Sgt. Paul Gorom, 455th Communications Flight superintendent, said that from “day one, everyone here has hit the road running and hasn’t looked back.”
The brisk pace is a good thing at a deployed location like Bagram, said Sergeant Gorom, who is the information assurance superintendent at Headquarters U.S. Air Forces in Europe, Ramstein.
“We’re constantly on the move, whether we’re fixing computer problems, laying new cable or installing antennas,” he said. “We’ve run telephone and network connectivity to the new buildings, removed old wiring and buried quite a few cables.”
Since Camp Cunningham is in a constant state of moving, they have to make sure communication is in place when the new people move in, said Sergeant Gorom.
“We just finished moving telephone and networking capabilities for the security forces squadron supply guys. We are also planning on adding key strategic communications closets, connected via fiber, throughout the base to prepare for future growth and further moves.”
1st Lt. Keith Strandell, 455th Communications Flight commander, said that his unit has maintained and upgraded computers, telephones and radios. They troubleshot cameras, fixed television sets, ran coax for cable, laid down phone and network lines and set up public address systems for distinguished visitors. They also ran cable to an outdoor break area, so that the Camp Cunningham community could watch television there.
“Everyone in the flight has had plenty of opportunities to get their hands dirty,” said Lieutenant Strandell. From the flight commander right down to the information manager, who normally wouldn’t be doing the kind of work.
“Back home, our ‘techies’ get all the hands-on experience and the contractors run the wires and maintain the infrastructure. Here, because we are such a small team, all of us have a chance to step in and work in areas that are sometimes new to us.”
The flight has done a little bit of everything – and more, often tackling issues they wouldn’t be confronted with in a fully-staffed shop back at their home bases.
“The entire communications team is working their tails off,” said Lt. Col. Bob LaBrutta, 455th Expeditionary Services Squadron commander. “They are working daily to enhance our communications network capabilities.”
Lieutenant Strandell said that he is thankful for the opportunity to be a part of OEF.
“I’ve been blessed to work with a great team,” he said. “They came in with a ‘can-do’ attitude and pressed full speed ahead. They are learning other aspects of communications and using what they learn to make Camp Cunningham a better place.”