By U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Aaron H. Thomason, 422nd Communications Squadron,
Published by 505th Commond and Control Wing, 4 November 2021
ROYAL AIR FORCE CROUGHTON, England — Members of the 501st Combat Support Wing Inspector General team discuss a planned exercise scenario at RAF Croughton, England, Nov. 1, 2021. The scenario, a simulated break in communications between RAF Croughton and RAF Barford St. John, was a test of the 501st Combat Support Wing’s readiness to continue executing its mission in the face of various obstacles.
Airmen from the 422d Communications Squadron proved their adaptability by responding to a simulated network outage and then restoring the connection which links RAF Croughton and RAF Barford St. John, Nov. 1, 2021.
The simulated outage was part of a 501st Combat Support Wing readiness exercise that tests various units’ ability to carry out the mission in the face of potential obstacles.
“This exercise occurring today is testing our Airmen’s ability to stand up an alternate link between RAF Croughton and Barford St. John,” said U.S. Space Force Tech. Sgt. Yomar Valentin, 422d Communications Squadron long haul communications supervisor and Wing Inspection Team member. “That alternate link is established by two microwave antennas which have to physically have line of sight with each other to transmit traffic.”
In this instance, the Wing Inspection Team informed the 422nd CS Airmen on duty that the High Frequency Global Communications System link between the two bases was, for unknown reasons, no longer functioning. The Airmen were tasked with determining the cause of the outage and executing a plan to restore communications.
“HFGCS is a very important system that supports a lot of Air Force missions,” said A1C Connor Sandall, 422d Communications Squadron network infrastructure technician. “When a system like that goes down, we have to drop everything and go fix it because it is a mission critical item.”
Through judicious use of teamwork and the tools still available to them, four Airmen identified that the cause of the simulated outage was damage to ground infrastructure at RAF Barford St. John, roughly 15 minutes from Croughton.
“The expectation here is for them to log in to the switch, see the issues, and then reconfigure the line of sight communications system so that we can see traffic between the two bases again,” said Valentin.
Once they had identified the source of the problem, the Airmen quickly implemented a solution to the outage.
“We received an inject that the HFGCS was down,” said A1C Jenna Ratliff, 422d Communications Squadron long haul communication technician. “Coming out here, we were able to set up a redundancy path to restore communications, which allows missions elsewhere to safely pick up and resume again.”
Exercises like this one ensure that the 501st CSW, and all its units, are capable of operating in any condition.
“The purpose of this exercise is training for our Airmen, making sure that they know the equipment, that they understand the signal flow, that they understand what steps they need to take to reach the intended conclusion of the exercise,” said Valentin. “This is a no-fail mission, so we have to know that they are trained correctly, and we can keep this system alive in the event of equipment failure.”
See: Original Article