Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Comm powers friendship's voice

by Senior Airman Michael Washburn
374th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

9/10/2014 - YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan -- When Yokota opened its gates on Sept. 6 and 7 for this year's Friendship Festival, more than 150,000 patrons flocked to the flightline to experience the food, music, culture and aircraft the U.S. and Japan operate as part of their alliance.

With that many people on the base at one time, keeping the masses informed on important notifications became paramount. Leading up to the festival, Airmen from the 374th Communication Squadron radio frequency shop have worked on and installed a new public address system to ensure when alerts needed to go out, the system worked every time.

"Yokota's had a system like this before, but it was only a temporary one and it needed to be upgraded," said Staff Sgt. Kevin Joseph, 374th CS noncommissioned officer of radio frequency base operations. "We set up 18 new speakers located on nine buildings by the flightline. We made the system a more permanent setup that we'll be able to use for the foreseeable future."

For a job of such magnitude, careful planning and consideration went into deciding how to set up the new PA system.

"We started planning about two to three months ago," Joseph said. "We knew what needed to be done, but it took about a month of coming up with new ideas of how we were going to accomplish this until the final plan was set."

The PA system filled two needs for Friendship Festival -- the ability to inform the public and the capability to communicate between key personnel.

"We were able to announce upcoming events and inform people to be on the lookout for a potential lost child or if hazardous weather was close," Joseph said. "We developed the system to be used in coordination with land mobile radios. If a problem did arise that specifically dealt with Friendship Festival, we were able to communicate with emergency responders without tying up other dedicated real-world base emergency systems."

Building an innovated new system from scratch brings new challenges that could potentially affect real-world operations.

"The main obstacle that we faced was how do we get a signal from one end of the flightline to the other by copper wire, while not hindering flightline abilities," said Airman 1st Class Daniel Wood, 374 CS project co-lead technician.

The problem was resolved by running the system's wires through existing phone lines and by utilizing the base switch system. The switch for the PA system works just like how phone and internet work in offices around the base.

When it mattered most, the system did just what was needed from it.

"The main system helped reunite 49 lost children with their families and aided the Japanese National Police by helping get all 158,000 Japanese Nationals that attended the festival across Highway 16 with zero incidents," Wood said. "We know there is room for improvement with the setup and will learn from this year to continue making it better for future events."

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