Science and Technology News

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Keeping the flow of information going

by Senior Airman Michael Washburn
374th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

4/12/2013 - YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan -- For the Air Force to run as a well-oiled machine, communication between bases around the world needs to be flawless. Helping Pacific Air Forces maintain this global contact is a close-knit group of Airmen from the 374th Communication Squadron.

A group of 34 Airmen, from four different career fields work around the clock at Camp Zama's Operating Location C to provide this communication capability.

"A lot of daily computer traffic from the Kanto Plain, which includes classified and unclassified e-mail and other information, comes through us," said Master Sgt. Christopher Ballard, 374 CS. "We provide that connectivity back to bases in the states or wherever else it needs to go."

The site is comprised of a satellite and the equipment needed to run it. Three separate sections make up the satellite site, and each play an important role in keeping the site operational.

The satellite communications equipment floor deals with the satellite dish itself and all the equipment necessary to run it.

"In this section, we can take a weak signal from the satellite dish and use a device called a low noise amplifier to beef up the signal before a downconverter converts it to 70 megahertz," said Airman 1st Class Willie McNair, 374 CS radio frequency technician. "We do this because 70 megahertz can easily travel through our cables."

The site also has an area called the tech control floor. This section brings together computer circuits from bases around the Kanto Plain. From here, Airmen can perform tests on the circuits to ensure they're working properly or to diagnose problems.

Lastly, the site needs backup power in the case of emergency. Generators and batteries are in place to ensure the site will continue to run. If power outage occurs, the batteries would take over until the generators started.

"In the events that the power is lost or terrestrial lines fail, we are still able to provide strategic communications and long-haul defense," Ballard said. "During the earthquake, when the base lost power, we were still able to transmit communications to where they needed to go."

The 34 Airmen assigned to the site make communication happen, and it is because of that they won the Defense Information Systems Agency Pacific Outstanding Facility of the Year Award for 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012.

Operating Location C plays an important role in keeping communications flowing between Japan and bases worldwide.

"That is our mission, and that is what we do every day," Ballard said.

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