211th EIS provides assistance to Alaska ANG during Exercise Frosty Spear

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Claire Behney
  • 193rd Special Operations Wing
Sixty-three Airmen assigned to the 193rd Special Operations Wing, 211th Engineering Installation Squadron, Fort Indiantown Gap, Annville, Pa.,  descended upon the 176th Wing, Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Anchorage, Alaska, and 168th Air Refueling Wing, Eielson Air Force Base, Fairbanks, Alaska, for Exercise Frosty Spear, July 13-24. 

"A culmination of over two years of planning, the exercise proved the mettle of the 211th EIS telecommunications infrastructure experts, delivering Alaska Air National Guard customers world-class project management and C4ISR (Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance)
installations,"  said Lt. Col. Aerick Paxton, commander, 211th EIS. "Of note, project teams and support personal conclusively coalesced, completing six mission-essential cyber infrastructure enhancements, saving the AKANG more than $270,000 over contractor estimates."

To accomplish these feats, a team of 27 211th EIS Airmen completed two projects at the 176th Wing and a team of 36 personnel completed four projects in support of the 168th ARW.  The projects not only benefitted fellow Air National Guard units in maintaining pervasive mission readiness, but also resulted in hands-on training with a distinctive purpose.

Furthermore, Exercise Frosty Spear demonstrated the 211 EIS' mission effectiveness. 

"The benefits of this exercise were the on-the-job training, focused on career field education and training plan tasks, flexible installation, and cost savings," said Senior Master Sgt. Kevin Eisenhauer, project manager, 211th EIS. "In addition, the exercise enabled mastery of mobility tasks such as personnel processing, pallet build up, vehicle training, and medical readiness."

Frosty Spear was years in the making, requiring strategic planning and budgeting, beginning in 2013. 

"During multiple site visits, six projects were identified as priorities for the effected Air National Guard wings," said Eisenhauer.  "Throughout 2014, our unit engineered the solutions to include comprehensive installation instructions and lists of materials. In 2015, we installed the projects."

211th at 176th Wing, Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson

The 211th EIS team participating in Exercise Frosty Spear at the 176th Wing completed radio-antenna grounding and communication room grounding projects in multiple buildings throughout the base.

For the 176th Communications Flight, the support and expertise of the 211th EIS is unmatched, according to Senior Master Sgt. Chad Demro, plans and resource superintendent, 176th CF.

According to Paxton, the 211th engineering team established the foundation for project success, skillfully translating general customer requirements into actionable project plans, to include exactingly detailing all installation instructions, project materials, tools, test equipment, and allied support requirements. 

In turn, project managers and installation team chiefs grabbed the reins, forming project teams consisting of a cross-section of seasoned trainers and freshmen journeymen, optimizing training and installation efficacy, he added.

In this case, customer projects focused EI engineers, planners and team members on telecommunications grounding and radio systems competencies. This ensures the elimination of stray voltage risks to personnel and equipment, and also increases the clarity and range of air-to-ground communications, Paxton said.

Ensuring antennas and communications are properly functional could be a matter of life or death to the Airmen of the 11th Rescue Coordination Center, 176th Wing.

The 11th RCC is located in a small, high-tech facility on base. These guard members, most of them full-time, work in shifts around the clock monitoring Alaska's skies and responding to distress calls. Working under the guidance of the national search and rescue plan, they are responsible for all aeronautical SAR cases, both military and civilian. The 11th RCC coordinates the life-saving work of not only the wing's rescue units, but also those of the Alaska State Troopers, the U.S. Coast Guard and the National Park Service.

"Radios are important in our mission. They really are a critical, life-saving tool and we need them to maintain constant contact with the aircraft out on assignment," said Tech. Sgt. Sean Mitchell, search and rescue coordinator, 11th RCC. "The 211th team has been good about making sure our radios are clear and functioning properly."

The impact of their work doesn't go unnoticed by the Airmen of the 211th EIS.

"We're working to make their coms better and faster," said Staff Sgt. Robert Murphy, airfield systems technician, 211th EIS. "Better and faster coms help improve their mission capabilities."

Murphy explained most of the antennas weren't previously grounded, which could have potentially caused large problems in the case of lightening.

"Grounding the lines not only helps elevate any static, but also helps with safety issues," said Murphy. "Grounding the lines would give the energy an easier place to travel - to the ground. You hope at the end of the day the path isn't to an individual or a piece of expensive equipment, so our work is making sure that doesn't happen."

Along with helping to improve communication for the 11th RCC and the rest of the 176th Wing, the Airmen of the 211th EIS participating in Exercise Frosty Spear are getting hands-on training to benefit their careers.

"We have been able to check off more than 15 of our core tasks for our career field education and training plan while being here," said Murphy. "It has been really great training and I feel confident going into my next assignments with the knowledge I've gained while here."

211th at 168th ARW, Eielson Air Force Base

The 211th EIS team participating in Exercise Frosty Spear at the 168th ARW is also working on radio-antenna grounding and communication room grounding projects. In addition, they are completing video distribution and a paging systems project in multiple buildings throughout the base.

"Our video distribution was archaic," said Maj. Kevin Geese, communication flight commander, 168th ARW. "It was also hit or miss as to quality, with some buildings not having any at all."

It was with that sentiment in mind that Geese was able to call upon the 211th EIS for support to complete these four projects.

"We're tapping off the active duty television feed to distribute it to 11 Air National Guard buildings," said Master Sgt. Jason Markel, non-commissioned officer in charge of radio frequency transmissions, 211th EIS, and team member on the video distribution team. "This work will also elevate the back scatter of the fiber optic receiver."

Along with creating and updating the video distribution, the 211th was able to install a base-wide paging system for the 168th ARW.

"In terms of the wing-wide paging, we now have a way to alert all buildings of any issues or emergencies," said Geese.

Geese explained that the base relied on the Alaska land mobile radio system prior to the 211th EIS implementation of the wing-wide paging. Some buildings had stand-alone paging systems, but the new system links all buildings and allows the 168th ARW to not have to strictly rely on the giant voice system, which is run by the active duty side of the base.

The grounding work done by the 211th EIS now brings all grounding up to code on the antennas and the communication closets of the 168th ARW.

"We had over a dozen rooms that we were responsible for doing all the rack grounds, installing bus bars when needed, bonding ladder rack, and fixing existing grounding, but there wasn't a whole lot of grounding present when we got here," said Senior Airman Austin Buckingham, frequency transmissions, 211th EIS, and team member of the cable room grounding team. "We've been able to protect thousands of dollars worth of equipment by installing all the grounding we put in."

Being tasked with project work like this allows the Airmen of the 211th to work together and learn from their teammates.

"Any of the jobs we get to go on are extremely beneficial because it's hands-on application of the career field that we work in and we get the on-the-job experience from the people who are qualified," said Buckingham. "We're all trained on paper, but we don't always all know the same practices and tricks of the trade. This project work allowed us to learn from each other."

Exercise Frosty Spear was a full team effort, from the planning and purchasing to the installation and product delivery.

"This is a big deal for us to be able to prove our mission effectiveness," said Paxton. "We don't usually get to work in such a large-scale group, so we were able to utilize a full mobilization process."

Paxton explained the project work in Alaska was an over-arching unit effectiveness exercise for the team and included long-term project planning, engineering plans, working with contracting to work the list of materials, working with the customer to ensure allied support was rolled in, assembling teams to take on the project work, and utilizing organic air transportation through a fellow Pennsylvania Air National Guard unit, the 171st Air Refueling Wing, Pittsburgh, Pa.

"This was not only a great training exercise, but we've been able to safely deliver a customer a finished product," said Paxton. "We provide mission critical services to our clients. We're IT infrastructure experts. There's no project too small or too large for us to support."