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Airmen climb up while reaching out: 211th goes to great heights for community, OJT

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Erin Heiser
  • 193rd Special Operations Wing
On the morning of Sept. 11 as people around the world paused to reflect on the events that rattled our nation nine years prior, the members of the 211th Engineering Installation Squadron, Fort Indiantown Gap, Annville, Pa., were carrying on their mission, 140 feet up in the air.

The community-based initiative brought together men and women of the Pennsylvania Air National Guard and the Lebanon Valley Society of Radio Amateurs, to install a Very High Frequency antenna and repeater in the antenna shelter sitting on top of Blue Mountain, Annville, Pa.

The goal of the project was to provide an additional amateur radio communication link as part of an emergency service to Lebanon County Emergency Management Agency and area hospitals in the event of a major disaster. For the 211th this was right up their alley, as their mission is to engineer, install, and relocate fixed command, control, communications, and computer systems in facilities.

When the need for an additional antenna presented itself, Doug Lefever, president and member of LVSRA, reached out to the 211th for assistance.

"For liability reasons we're sometimes limited in what we can do," said Lefever. "Our members are not allowed to climb the towers and this was something that we couldn't have pulled off on our own."

LVSRA is a local non-profit organization, whose goal within the local community is to support the Federal Communications Commission in the event of an emergency situation. The use of amateur radio operators, otherwise referred to as hams, according to Lefever, is an effective rapid response tool for the FCC when systems are overloaded.

On hand to oversee the install was Master Sgt. Doug Killinger, Lightning Force Academy instructor and project manager.

"From an OJT perspective, this job helps us build the confidence of our climbers, specifically our traditional Airmen who don't really get the opportunity to climb a lot," said Sergeant Killinger. "This is an opportunity to climb, work on safety and the proper use and wear of equipment. On top of that, we get to work with the local community and that's a great benefit for all."

And the benefits are plentiful.

Maj. Michael Stateler, 211 EIS Detachment commander, emphasized the importance of this community service project, highlighting the much needed opportunity for on-the-job training.

"This job provided essential tower climbing and electronics training to our troops," Major Stateler said. "It allowed us to better prepare for our real world mission, all the while giving back to the local community."

In addition to training, the partnership provided a hefty cost savings benefit.

According to Major Stateler, for a typical job of this magnitude it would have cost LVSRA approximately $125 per hour, per contracted climber.

"For a team of five, it would have been well over $6,800 and the installation of the radio repeater would have been another $2,000," Major Stateler said.

When it all adds up, the 211th helped LVSRA save more than $8,000 and that's a welcomed cost savings for all.

But the cost savings pales in comparison to the training and community outreach components of this effort.

"It's more than just the use of the resources," said Lefever. "It's the opportunity to work side by side with these men and women in a joint, community effort. The 211th has provided us with the manpower, equipment and assets that we simply don't have on hand. For that, we're truly thankful."

The members of the 211 EIS are "Above All Others" in providing C41 communications capabilities to our nation, state and community. In this case, they worked 140 feet in the air side by side with local hams, to provide a much needed community service, maintain mission readiness and carry on the legacy of the 193rd with style and grace.