Military News

Thursday, August 06, 2015

Combat crew communications: Taking care of aircrew, ensuring mission security

by Senior Airman Christine Halan
100th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs

8/5/2015 - RAF MILDENHALL, England  -- Whether assisting transient aircrew members or 100th Air Refueling Wing aircrew members, the 100th Operations Support Squadron's combat crew communications Airmen have it covered.

Their main mission is to ensure all KC-135 Stratotanker crew members have the required communications security material required for their training, along with the correct materials and equipment for secure communications while flying missions.

COMSEC is cryptographic material, both electronic and physical, that is used to communicate via secure means.

"We provide COMSEC material to all 100th ARW aircrew members," said Senior Airman Brett Leary, 100th OSS combat crew communications technician from Hohenwald, Tennessee. "If they have a mission that requires them to communicate securely, they have to get a kit and take it with them. We train them on how to use those kits when they're in the air, so that they can communicate and identify themselves in a secure manner."

Each kit consists of a security key loader, fill cable (to connect the SKL to the actual radios) and a binder containing all relevant books, paperwork and checklists.

The three-man shop is tasked with a variety of responsibilities, including giving annual training to 351st Air Refueling Squadron Airmen on how to use their communication kits.

Providing the correct material to aircrew members is vital in helping aircrew members, communicating securely or identifying themselves correctly as a friend or foes to other U.S. air NATO forces.

By trade, these Airmen are specialists, but at RAF Mildenhall they work solely alongside 100th OSS and 351st ARS aircrew. This allows them to focus all their attention here, rather than making it an additional duty.

Acting as a COMSEC responsible officer, an individual appointed by the commander of a unit to manage the local COMSEC material, the Airmen are responsible for maintaining and disposing of all COMSEC material and paperwork, such as hand receipts, destruction reports and inventories, which are issued from the base COMSEC office.

"Our job as crew communications is as detailed as a COMSEC-responsible officer, which is essentially what we are," Leary said. "In most units, the job is very involved but it would usually be an additional duty as a COMSEC custodian. Here, they wanted people to actually deal with COMSEC on a daily basis, which means we just take care of the aircrew. Having that specific knowledge and experience means there are fewer issues."

Every day, the communications trio ensures all kits are in place, inventories are checked and correct, and paperwork is updated.

Being in the 100th OSS means the communications Airmen see the real impact of their job.

"I enjoy the direct mission involvement here," Leary said. "At my last base I worked in the communications squadron, and although we supported the entire base, we didn't always see the big picture.  Working in the 100th OSS means we work directly with the boom operators and pilots, see the missions going out and coming back, and have a better idea of what's actually going on."

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