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Face of Defense: Airman Keeps Air Force Connected

By Gina Randall, 100th Air Refueling Wing DoD News Features, Defense Media Activity

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RAF MILDENHALL, England, October 14, 2015 — As military members and civilian personnel go about their day-to-day tasks, they may not think about how communication plays such a vital role in their business.

Each time they open an email or place a call, it's the men and women in the 100th Communication Squadron who make it possible.

"I monitor the network status on RAF Mildenhall, and take care of all the phones and video teleconferencing machines," said Air Force Staff Sgt. Christerfer James, 100th CS cyber transport technician supervisor. VTCs are used by base agencies to brief wartime decision-makers, allow people to testify remotely for court proceedings, and help with training requirements, he said.

“We take care of the secure internet protocol router network for all of the secure systems for the base, which processes air tasking orders and other classified communications," he added.

"There's never a typical day in our shop," James said. "We're constantly busy monitoring the base network. Anything that goes down, we're the first responders to go and fix it. However, we mainly deal with customers moving offices. We have customers requiring new phones and computer drops, where we go out and program the port and patch it, then make sure the phone and computer work. Occasionally, we do have analog lines, but they are being phased out with new technology."

The airmen are not only able to fix systems in order for people to communicate; they are communicators themselves, building a rapport with customers around base.

"To be honest, the most rewarding thing about my job is not the job itself, it's more the people I get to interact with," James said. "I've been at Mildenhall for about six years now, so I know a lot of people around the base and they know me. Getting to know them and seeing how they do their job gives me a better understanding of what they need. When they do call up and say, 'We need this set-up done relatively soon,' I say, 'OK, you need this and this.' I can have everything all planned out so when I go out there I can make it short and sweet and fix everything in one go. The people I meet and can help are definitely what I love about the job."

Even with limited resources, they continue to provide quality service.

"We do a lot with a little," he added. "We only have 10 people in our shop right now and we're taking care of the entire base. All of them are well trained, knowledgeable and eager to learn. It's hard trying to manage an entire base with so few people, but we do, and I believe we do a great job! We always perform our customer courtesies each time we go out."

Working With British Counterparts

"We have a great relationship with British Telecom," James said. "They control the fiber and the analog lines on base. So when the customer requests a new fax line and analog line for the building entry point, we ask BT to come out and patch the port. Or if we have a new building we need BT to go out and blow fiber, connecting fiber from one building to another. They come out, run the fiber and test the line. We make sure it's good, install the switch and add our network components to it."

James said he sees networking in his future.

"I definitely want to continue in this career field," James said. "I want to see how the Air Force is going to transition from the analog lines to the digital internet protocol address. It's fun, I enjoy coming to work, and I enjoy my job and meeting people. The work can be stressful, but you know there are people to help you out."

"This career field has more options in the civilian world," he said. "I would like to be in the Air Force for 20 years and I wanted a career field that helps in seeking employment outside. Communications is always thirsty for employment on the outside, new bodies, different ideas."

The 100th CS shop's leaders are proud of what their airmen and their team do each day.

"Sergeant James has become a linchpin in our work center and we are proud to have him with us," said Air Force Tech. Sgt. William Baine, 100th CS noncommissioned officer in charge of infrastructure. "He has continually shown that he is willing to go the extra mile to ensure our customers have the required communications access they need to never let an air tasking order fail."

Communication makes the mission happen, so for James and his team, they work day and night to provide the best customer support possible to keep pilots in the air and help the people that keep them there.