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Keeping Us Talking: The AFCENT Communications Directorate
by U.S. Army by Spc. Travis Terreo, AFCENT Public Affairs - 2016

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AL UDEID AIR BASE, Qatar -- Communication is a necessity for every military branch. In a time when the War on Terror and Operation Inherent Resolve call for small units of highly-trained “operators” to conduct low-profile, confidential missions, reliable and secure communications and connectivity have only become more essential.

In the Air Forces Central Command area of operations, supplying these capabilities falls on the shoulders of the “Six Shooters” of the Communications Directorate.

Members of the Air Forces Central Command Communications Directorate pose near a t-wall at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar April 6. The directorate members, known as the "Six Shooters" are responsible for maintaining secure, reliable lines of communication across the AFCENT area of operations. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Travis Terreo)
Members of the Air Forces Central Command Communications Directorate pose near a t-wall at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar April 6. The directorate members, known as the "Six Shooters" are responsible for maintaining secure, reliable lines of communication across the AFCENT area of operations. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Travis Terreo)

“Our role is to resource and advocate for all of the units and service providers within the AFCENT area of operations,” explained Col. Jeffrey “Jeff” Granger, director of Cyber and Command, Control, Communications, and Computer systems. “We work with elements at Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina, to provide C4 infrastructure that allows the Combined Forces Air Component Commander, Lt. Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr, to accomplish the mission.”

One aspect of Brown's mission, as explained in his AFCENT priorities, is defending the region. Within the scope of this priority, he has stated that it is AFCENT's responsibility to “aggressively plan, prepare and present executable options while standing ready to lead or support U.S. Central Command contingency operations.”

In order to fulfill that task over a geographical area that stretches from Egypt to Yemen to Pakistan to Kazakhstan, Service members must be able to stay in contact across vast distances and from remote locations.

“The Communications Directorate is also responsible for forward deploying several teams to directly support mission objectives,” said Granger. “The teams, consisting of mostly Air National Guardsmen, are charged with engineering and installation of communications infrastructure anywhere it is needed. They are hugely instrumental in building our communications abilities across the area of operations.”

In addition to constructing and maintaining a foundational communications infrastructure, the Communications Directorate has established a Communications Contingencies Branch.

“My Airmen and I are responsible for managing emergency communications in the AFCENT area of operations,” said Capt. Lisa Phillips, officer-in-charge of the Contingency Communications Branch. “We place, maintain, and update custom tailored communications kits with selected units so that, no matter what happens, their commanders will always have a link to higher command.”

The Contingency Communications Branch also ensures that Service members in the most remote locations have the communications capabilities they need, explained Phillips. The inability to run a cable out to those locations does not make communications ability any less important for the people there; it just means the Communications Directorate will find another way.

“We are also responsible for the AFCENT Communications Control Center,” said Granger. “It is basically the area of operation's communications watchdog.”

The ACCC tracks and coordinates all communications and events, conducts frequencies management in the area of operations and uses that information to ensure that any systems maintenance or issues do not significantly disrupt ongoing operations. They also notify Service members of any upcoming down-times or maintenance so they can schedule or act accordingly. In this way, they minimize the effects of unfortunate, but necessary, periods of inaccessibility to the various systems in use.

“We have our hands in pretty much everything,” said 2nd Lt. Ryan Faucher, the executive officer for the AFCENT Communications Directorate. “We have become an electronics based fighting force, and it is the Communications Directorate's job to make sure all of these systems and devices are operating the best they can.”

The scale of what the communications directorate does is huge, explained Granger, and the only way to keep up with the demand, and do the best job possible, is to integrate our forces across the AOR. To that end, the directorate has Service members placed throughout southwest Asia fulfilling the mission.

“Most of the time, if someone calls, it is because there is something wrong,” said Granger. “That means the most important aspect of what we do is ensuring we don't hear from anyone.”

By U.S. Army by Spc. Travis Terreo, AFCENT Public Affairs
Air Force News Service
Copyright 2016

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