379th ECS facilitates critical communication throughout CENTCOM

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Zachary Foster
  • 379th Air Expeditionary Wing, Public Affairs

In the U.S. Central Command, all operations circulate around the ability to communicate clearly and effectively. Whether it be contingency response crews at forward-deployed locations relaying information or Air Traffic Control tower personnel clearing the skies - every mission depends on the 379th Expeditionary Communications Squadron.

At the heart of the 379th ECS are the cyber operations and special missions' flights. These two teams focus on maintaining current systems and innovating new ones to communicate vital information more safely and effectively across the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility.

Cyber operations personnel provide the sole in-garrison cyber support, while special missions cover operations beyond the base, including CENTCOM, U.S. Air Forces Central, and local mission partners.

Every element of the two flights plays an essential role in connecting the area of responsibility, but two teams have become integral to daily operations; the efforts of radio frequency (RF) transmission and Distributed Command and Control (DC2) specialists play a direct role in generating combat airpower every day.

Radios are used everywhere in a deployed environment. First responders, maintenance crews, and coalition partners use 379th ECS resources to connect their members across the installation. The RF transmission crew registers, issues, and maintains more than 1,900 land mobile radios (LMR) for Air Force, joint, and regional partners at any given time.

“At their home station, Airmen don’t get as much hands-on experience with the equipment,” said the 379th ECS cyber operations flight chief. “In the deployed environment, they’re able to both hone their skills and see the impact of their work. With the C-17 humanitarian and KC-135 refueling missions taking off every day, our communication systems have a direct role to play.”

A significant responsibility for the 6-member team is in rapid recovery during an outage. According to an RF transmission specialist, the team recently responded to an outage at the 379th Expeditionary Operations Support Squadron ATC tower, which left only LMR accessible to the crew.

“Within 10 minutes or so, we were able to set up our temporary equipment,” said the RF transmission specialist. “Between the LMRs and our quick turnaround time, there was no stop to the mission while the outage was happening, which is important because every flight is a combat sortie.”

While the majority of the cyber operations flight handles communications inside the wire, the special missions flight is ready to travel anywhere at any time.

DC2 is a dedicated forward-deployable team focused on establishing a command-and-control center in austere environments. Regardless of the location within the AOR, the DC2 can establish a connection within an hour of landing using their “Comm-Fly-Away-Kit.” (CFK)

The CFK is an AFCENT-funded resource utilized by 379th ECS personnel to provide critical infrastructure for primary, alternate, contingency, and emergency (PACE) plans, agile combat employment (ACE) execution, and real-world contingency operations.

“Our CFK allows us to establish a connection to anywhere in the world,” said a DC2 specialist. “Communication is the foundation for all warfare, which is why our role is so important. With this kit and the technicians to set it up, we can communicate with anywhere in the world from anywhere in the world.”

While the radio and DC2 teams are the frontrunners of the 379th ECS, the rest of the squadron also plays a significant role across the AOR.

The cyber operations flight sustains a $391 million network, encompassing 17,000 network devices, 10,000 accounts, and 9 Information Transfer Nodes. Additionally, they maintain a $20 million data center that hosts command, control, communications, computers, and intelligence (C4I) services for multiple entities throughout CENTCOM.

Recently, the flight focused its efforts on implementing PACE plans across the installation, preparing units with primary, secondary, and even tertiary methods of communication.

“When our rotation took over, we noticed multiple units were operating with single points of failure,” said the 379th ECS cyber operations flight chief. “We’ve made a concerted effort to implement different solutions and capabilities to eliminate those vulnerabilities and have trained our customers on how to employ these solutions in the future.”

The 379th ECS serves as the linchpin of communication infrastructure in CENTCOM, ensuring seamless connectivity crucial for mission success. Through its cyber operations and special missions flights, the squadron maintains existing systems and pioneers innovations to enhance communication capabilities.