Local Air Guard unit erects high-tech compound at Jefferson Barracks
By Bill Phelan, Special to 131st Bomb Wing
/ Published August 15, 2011
ST.LOUIS Country, Mo -- If you think setting up your home computer is tough try providing telephone and internet service to military personnel in the field.
Airmen of the Missouri National Guard's 239th Combat Communications Squadron, headquartered at Lambert Airport, are doing just that, spending two weeks at Jefferson Barracks in south St. Louis County, testing newly-acquired equipment. The unit has taken over a portion of the parade grounds, setting up a field communications station consisting of several tents and a dizzying array of wires, generators and antennas. The small, high-tech compound is abuzz with activity.
"This gives us a chance to power-up all of our equipment just as if we were going to provide for a customer in the field," explained Tech. Sgt. Matt Kuensting, of Columbia. "We provide both secure and non-secure telephone service and internet service so people can have e-mail in the field. We also have a help-desk capability in case our computer equipment breaks, and we supply our own power. We are completely self-sustained."
"Our tents contain a lot of computer equipment so we have to have climate control - air conditioning," added 1st Lt. Dan Routier, of Columbia, the site commander. "So we have specialists in power, environmental, satellite transmission, voice communications and computer support."
Of the approximately 120 Airmen in the 239th, about 50 are talking part in the training at Jefferson Barracks, while the remainder of the unit is providing field communications to the U.S. Army at Fort McCoy, Wis.
As one might imagine, providing real-time communications from a remote location has both its challenges and rewards.
"As far as weather, wind and lightning can shut us down briefly," said Kuensting. "The satellite dish can move so we might have to secure that. And the equipment is new so we're still getting sped-up on it. But the service we provide is invaluable. It's a real boost for morale as far as outgoing communications, especially when troops are deployed overseas. It's not something you think about every day unless you don't have it, but we all need e-mail and we all need a phone."
Airmen of the 239th will be training at Jefferson Barracks through Aug. 16.
The 239th Combat Communications Squadron is a part of the 131st Bomb Wing, headquartered at Whiteman Air Force Base near Knob Noster, Mo.