Opening the Lines of Communication

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Brittany Cannon
  • 131st Bomb Wing Public Affairs
The 131st Communications Flight supports and maintains six missions at four locations across Missouri, with four sections working as one to facilitate communication between Airmen and the world.

The communication flight's mission is to ensure that everyone on the installation is able to communicate with one another in an efficient and timely manner.

"We are like Charter (Communications), except without the TV," said Senior Master Sgt. Greg Schumacher, flight superintendent. "We provide and take care of your hardware, internet and phones."

They also provide customer service to Airmen having challenges with those systems. However, the 2014 transition to regional communications operating centers, a move to protect against cyber threats, also removed administrative rights from local communication units.

"Since the migration of the system many things are now self-service actions through vESD," said Staff Sgt. Cassie Telishevsky, a Communications Focal Point administrator.

When having communication issues, Airmen should first turn to the Virtual Enterprise Service Desk, or vESD, available on all computer desktops. The system reduces downtime with many common communication issues, including software installation or reloads, troubleshooting hardware and email issues and more. The vESD will perform a health check on your operating system, or submit trouble tickets for follow-up service if the program can't resolve the issue.

"We want to help people in a timely manner, but now there is a process that involves making requests for most fixes which used to be immediate for us," said Telishevsky. Trying to resolve the issue at the earliest level keeps the CFP open for bigger-ticket items that could take more manpower, she added.

The Plans and Implementation section is a unit's liaison to receive any equipment, approvals and repairs that are needed to perform communication duties.

"We connect the dots between the different agencies," said Master Sgt. Tia White, noncommissioned officer in charge of plans and programs. "We are the ones that take in all the requests for needs and find a way to make it happen."

In the event of a downed wire, the need for a new laptop or when new programs are needed to perform the mission, a specific justification and mission-impact statement must be routed through Plans and Implementations before approval and funds will be given, per the life cycle management program.

White joked that "you can talk about us, but you can't talk without us," meaning that everything a person receives that deals with communication runs through her office. Approvals take time, and if one piece of the puzzle does not fit correctly, then they have to start looking for the right piece all over again.

The Infrastructure section installs, configures and maintains any of the communication cabling that runs between computers and walls, as well as building to building.

"There are two main types of communication positions," said Technical Sgt. Timothy Dohack, noncommissioned officer in charge infrastructure and cyber transport. "There are the hardware/ physical guys, like me, and then there are the software / virtual guys."

Since there are so many different responsibilities within the communications flight most people believe we all have the same knowledge, said Dohack.  However, "I can't do the things that a sergeant in the CFP can do," he said. "I can try to help but I can't always take care of it."

The fourth section in the flight, Information Assurance, protects systems and information against tampering, misappropriation, misuse or unauthorized access. The four pillars of information assurance are: communication security, emission security, computer security and remanence security.

"It is incredibly impressive to see how professional and dedicated the people of the 131st Communications Flight support the mission at Whiteman (Air Force Base), Jefferson Barracks, Lambert Field, Cannon Range, and State Headquarters," said Capt. Christopher Harris, 131st Communications Flight commander. Harris took charge of the unit as its full-time leader in September, and was previously a drill-status guardsman commanding the 131st Maintenance Operations Flight at Whiteman.

"In my short time with the Comm Flight, no matter the request, no matter the customer, I am very proud to serve with the men and women of the 131st Communications Flight and how they handle an astounding workload, in an outstanding, professional manner," he added.