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January Commander's Corner

Portrait of U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Wade Rivers, commander of the 169th Communications Squadron at McEntire Joint National Guard Base, S.C., Nov. 26, 2019.

Portrait of U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Wade Rivers, commander of the 169th Communications Squadron at McEntire Joint National Guard Base, S.C., Nov. 26, 2019. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Master Sgt. Edward Snyder, 169th Fighter Wing Public Affairs)

MCENTIRE JOINT NATIONAL GUARD BASE, S.C. --

It was June of 1991 and I had just enlisted in the South Carolina Air National Guard as Airman 1st Class Rivers. My first Air Force career field specialty was as a “Communications Computer Systems Operator” and the Communications Squadron was located in the 169th Operations Group building. Computer systems and local area networks were becoming fairly common in the civilian sector and slowly finding their way into the military world. The main methods of communications was primarily paper, either typed or hand written. Base cable television did not exist and base-to-base messaging was transmitted via Automatic Digital Network System (AUTODIN) through your local communications center. Outside of the academic and scientific communities, the internet as we know it today did not exist. When it did open up to the military, it was wide open, slow and unmonitored.

Today’s environment looks much different. High-speed internet access is used on both NIPR and SIPR local and worldwide networks. Documents are created, transmitted and stored electronically. Paper documents are only maintained if mandated by law. Email is the main method of communications and NIPR email can be accessed from almost anywhere if you have a computer connected to the internet and a CAC reader. Base cable is available in every building and consist of eight satellite receivers and forty-plus, over-the-air digital channels. With all of these technological advancements, timely information is available almost instantly. Information technology has advanced more over the last thirty years than all of the years preceding it. With developing quantum computing, artificial intelligence and 5G technology, the sky appears to be the limit.

Our reliance on communications technology is only increasing and with that increase comes risk. In order to maintain security of our networks from our adversaries, a well-trained and dedicated team of communications experts work diligently to ensure this happens. These Airmen are members of the 169th Communications Squadron and I consider it an honor to be their commander and serve with them.

McEntire Joint National Guard Base is one the few stand-alone reserve air bases in the nation. It is roughly 2,400 acres and we do not share services with an active duty unit or civilian airport as most other bases do, yet we do not receive any additional manning than these other co-located bases. We are funded at roughly 73 percent of the authorized full-time positions on our unit manning document.

Communications services are not normally on people’s minds until they go down. Fortunately for us our communications services are highly reliable and rarely down. I know you have heard the phrase “the network is down and the NOSC (now called the NOS) is working the outage”. Rarely are communications outages due to local base issues. It is in most cases a problem with the distant end website you are trying to access or a main communications line issue with the commercial circuit provider. The country is divided into regions and each base falls into a certain region. When the communications path to any region goes down, that region is automatically routed over to another region. When this happens the amount of traffic doubles for the fail-over region resulting in slower internet speeds.

The 169th Communications Squadron consist of many AFSCs design to support base communications needs and they include the following. Commander, Chief Enlisted Manager, SCX (Plans) Superintendent, SCO (Operations) Superintendent, Quality Assurance Manager, Plans and Programs Manager, Knowledge Operations Management, Cyber Systems Operations, Cyber Surety, COMSEC Manager, Client Systems, Cyber Transport, RF Transmissions, and Spectrum Systems. In addition, we will soon be picking up a Mission Defense Team assignment. Each of the members assigned to these areas is hard at work to ensure that we provide the best service possible even with the manning and fiscal restraints we operate under.

With that said, I would like to thank each and every Swamp Fox member for their service and dedication to this outstanding organization, state and nation. Remember, “Integrity First”, “Service Before Self” and “Excellence In All We Do”.

Semper Primus.