Malmstrom's Comm Squadron helps Airmen stay connected

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Collin Schmidt
  • 341st Missile Wing Public Affairs
Most people don't really think of the systems that allow them to stay connected. These devices may always be in sight and in mind, but what about the infrastructure these tools are built on? Everything from phones to computers have an intricate system of hardware and software that allows people to contact one another at a moment's notice.

For Malmstrom Air Force Base and bases across the globe, these systems are an integral part of daily operations. To keep them maintained and functioning around the clock takes the support of many skilled individuals. This is why Malmstrom's 341st Communications Squadron has some of the most highly trained Airmen working hard to keep them functioning 24/7.

"We take care of everything that has to do with client systems," said Tech Sgt. Kevin Fouty, 341st CS client systems center NCO in charge. "We have personnel who are trained to work on the hardware, software and systems that keep Malmstrom running.

"If you can picture the chord coming from the wall and plugging into your computer, we maintain everything from that point on," he continued. "The computer and its components, software, the phone, printers and everything in between is what we are trained to service for the customer."

There are seven specialties within the communications career field, which when combined, provide an all-encompassing network of infrastructure support. At Malmstrom, two Air Force specialty codes from this group provide the bulk of the base's support. These specialists are client systems technicians and cyberspace systems technicians.

Client systems technicians provide first tier support to communication system users. In this specialty, these technicians are the first responders for all computer, telephone and personal wireless system issues. When a problem arises, these are the Airmen who provide hands-on service to fix the problem.

Cyber transport technicians maintain the backbone of the communications infrastructure. In both fixed and deployed locations, cyber transport technicians install, troubleshoot, maintain and repair voice, data and video communication systems. In select locations, they may also maintain studio and broadcast equipment for the Armed Forces Network.

"Our AFSC is very broad," Fouty said. "Depending on location and if you are deployed or not, there is an almost endless list of things we maintain.

"On an even broader spectrum, here at Malmstrom we also support the missile alert facilities," he continued. "A lot of what we do out there is preventative maintenance inspections. These mainly consist of opening up the computers on site and cleaning them out. We keep them running smoothly by loading a program called a GPO-4, which deletes user profiles older than 30 days. Everything plays a part in helping the system continue to be reliable."

While keeping the technical infrastructure of Malmstrom in check, communications support technicians also have the responsibility of ensuring physical mediums, which may contain sensitive data, are disposed of properly.

"We have a process to ensure we dispose of electronics and hard drives with information on them correctly," said Senior Airman Andrew Taylor, 341st CS client support technician. "When someone brings a hard drive to us for disposal, the first thing we do is degauss it. Degaussing shoots an electrical shock into the device, which destroys the data. From that point, we punch a big hole right into the center of the unit so that it is physically destroyed and the damage is clearly visible.

"It's just one of many things we do in house, but this process is essential to keeping important information out of the hands of people who would use it to do harm," he continued.

On average, communications personnel close out about 1,000 work request tickets per month. They orchestrate client support functions and troubleshoot for more than 4,000 warfighting assets while operating in the Department of Defense's largest missile complex, all in hopes of providing excellent, well-rounded service to the end-user.

"My favorite part of this job is working with my hands," Taylor said. "I also like that we have to get out there and interact with the customer. Before I joined the military, I went to school for this career field and couldn't find anything in the civilian sector. I entered the Air Force as open electrical and somehow ended up getting this job, which is exactly what I was looking for. It pushes me every day. Some problems are easy fixes but others require you work harder to fix the problem. For me, when I find out a solution to these problems I get a sense of accomplishment."