BARKSDALE AIR FORCE BASE, La. --
A B-52 Stratofortress sits at the end of the flight line. The pilot radios to the air traffic control tower, and through the crackling sound waves they hear, “you’re clear for takeoff.” The aircraft jolts forward, rises to the skies and is off to complete another mission. Communication of this kind is possible due to the work of cable and antenna Airmen.
A 23 member Central Antenna Team from the 2nd Communication Squadron cable and antenna shop provided support to these mission essential systems on more than just Barksdale.
“Over a span of five months, we surveyed AFGSC bases as far as what systems were there and what condition they were in. We looked at roughly 250 different antennas,” said Tech. Sgt. John Hines, 2nd CS antenna systems NCO in-charge. “We completed necessary, preventive maintenance inspections and on-site repairs, when applicable.”
The 2nd CS cable and antenna systems shop was chosen for this task due to their expertise. In 2016, an Antenna Health Assessment was conducted by the 38th Cyberspace Readiness Squadron Installation Mission Support Center at Scott Air Force Base, Ill., and the 2nd CS came out on top.
“We were ranked number one out of eight bases assessed,” Hines said. “We had the highest compliance percentage, this was credited to us for having a fully functioning cable and antenna systems manned work center.”
The team identified different mission-impacting discrepancies during their course. The CAT was also able to provide more than just maintenance and inspection. They passed on knowledge, recommendations and tips on what problems to look for and how to identify issues within the systems.
The work completed by the team was also a step taken toward developing a single standard.
“Each base has their own way of doing things, so going out to all these bases allowed us to try and get everyone on the same page with procedures, labeling schemes and other processes we use,” said Senior Airman Matthew Bennett, 2nd CS cable and antenna systems technician. “We are hoping to reach a point where anyone can go to any base, even if it isn’t us, and get the job done.”
Leadership attributes the successful work of the CAT to their Airmen, NCOICs and supervisors.
“These Airmen are doing an outstanding job and it all comes down to their training and attitudes toward getting things done and making the mission happen,” said Master Sgt. Joshua Bedard, 2nd CS cable and antenna systems section chief. “Bases are still contacting us all the time asking about what materials they need to order or what advice we can give them.”
Completing the work is not the only gratifying aspect of the job for these Airmen.
“We’re going to all these different bases, taking new people, showing them what we do and training them, which is really cool to be a part of,” Bennett said. “It’s nice to see people get excited about this kind of work, especially since this job is not easy. Being up on a tower all day is tiring, but seeing them getting the hang of the work, and in return, showing others is the most rewarding part for me.”
As a result of their hard work, the team was awarded the AFGSC Chief of Safety Cyber Safety award, Mission Support Group Gen. Jumper Warfighting Integration award, Air Force Outstanding Unit award, Maj. Gen. Harold M. McClelland Award and MSG Team of the Year, all for 2017.
The CAT plans to continue advising and assisting whenever and wherever they’re needed.
"There are still a lot of hurdles and work to be done for the team, but the outlook is promising. We will continue our work throughout AFGSC and hopefully one day, throughout the entire Air Force," Hines said.