104th Communications Flight provides key support
By Staff Sgt. Matthew Benedetti, Public Affairs Journalist, 104th Fighter Wing
/ Published February 06, 2011
Barnes Air National Guard Base, 104 Fighter Wing - Westfield, Mass -- Although they had not slept much the previous night, the seven man communications unit of the 104th Fighter Wing approached the second day of the Patriot Guard exercise with vigor on a blustery November afternoon on Camp Edwards. Copters hovered overhead and beige Army vehicles rumbled by as the unit worked diligently to assemble the apparatus necessary to link their makeshift post with satellites in the stratosphere.
The exercise is designed to allow units to react, coordinate and respond in the event of a man made or natural disaster. 592 members from Army and Air units, as well as assets from FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) participated in the joint simulated exercise.
In June of 2010, US Cyber Command became fully operational, and this new shield in protecting our computer networks signals the next era in modern warfare.
Communications units, such as at the 104th, have always had an important role, but today their capabilities are imperative due to the rapidly advancing technology and ever changing rules of cyber engagement. Their efforts link each unit with one another, and create an environment where enhanced communication contributes to overall mission success.
The exercise tested the skills and adaptability of the Airmen while operating with Army units and members of the 267th and 102nd. "Working in a joint environment offers new challenges that we would not otherwise be exposed to," said Lt. Dan St. Clair, the Officer in Charge (OIC) of the unit. "The Army uses a different system, and now we know what the user needs," said the veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF). "Everyone knows their role and is flexible," he added.
The unit members had been up late the previous night troubleshooting a problem with the network. They slept in tents in Tactical Training Base Kelly for only a few hours.
West Springfield native Airman CJ Biernia carried out his duties with a can do attitude that reflected the mood of the group. "Our clients are happy-this has been a great training opportunity and we learned a lot," said the graduate of UMass/Dartmouth.
Master Sgt Paul Barsalou of Holyoke, also a veteran of OIF observed, "We achieved success from an emergency response perspective -we learned a lot about the new system and we were able to successfully troubleshoot any problems."
The 104th acquitted themselves well during this often intense exercise. "In the event of a natural disaster, we are better prepared to provide assistance due to this experience," said Lt. St Clair.