Radio Stars: 90th CS electronics mechanics keep base, complex connected

  • Published
  • By Capt. Eugene Jordan
  • 90th Missile Wing Public Affairs

 The 90th Communications Squadron radio section is a shop with a titanic responsibility — maintaining the communications of F.E. Warren, which has operations in three states, from below the ground to beyond the atmosphere.

An image comes to mind of dozens of skilled technicians going to and fro in the quest for crystal clear communications.

It may come as a surprise then, to know that the squadron’s radio section is manned by three men. Al Martinez, Jerry Stoffel and Sean Daugherty, 90th CS electronic mechanics, who can also be recognized for providing audio support for commander’s calls, graduations and other functions.

“Our area of responsibility is ‘everywhere,’ over 9,600 square miles,” Daugherty said. “We only have three people in the shop, but we are also the largest radio frequency transmissions and land mobile radio section at least in [Air Force] Global Strike Command if not the Air Force. We have the most assets.”

The assets of the radio section cover many needs across much of the radio spectrum. From the nuclear-survivable launch control center systems implemented in the days of Strategic Air Command to the ubiquitous, modern handhelds carried by security forces, the radio shop’s expertise keeps every part of the base in touch over the airwaves.

There are more than 2,100 pieces of radio equipment distributed across the base and missile field. The number of agencies subscribed to the radio section’s care is a long list – virtually every agency on the base, as well as Camp Guernsey and, Rivet Minuteman Integrated Life Extension, a service life extension and security upgrade program for Minuteman III.

Many base agencies rely on the “trunked” radio system – a shared set of frequencies for communications with a large number of individuals. It needs to be maintained for communications across the base and with the missile field.

Stoffel spoke to the importance of the trunking system to AFGSC. New upgrades are in store for the trunking system to increase the standards of reliability and redundancy for land-mobile radio equipment.

The radio section sets up LMR equipment, establishes radio communications networks and conducts repairs on all LMR equipment. They are also responsible for installing and maintaining the radios in all government vehicles. Personnel in need of radio equipment such as hand-held radios can sign out sets from the shop.

The radio unit is responsible for massive amounts of equipment and is constantly working to improve the base.

“We can always find things to do; some of the additional duties include spectrum management, mobile satellite system management, response task forces and base equipment custody of all LMR equipment,” Daugherty said.

Spectrum management and mobile satellite system management involve deconflicting the frequencies used by non-military base equipment. Anything that sends a signal, from remote controls to satellite phones to Wi-Fi routers, must meet a process of approval which the shop provides.

In addition to supporting the base mission, the shop can be called to action for extraordinary events.

 When a response task force stands up in the event of a natural disaster or an event involving strategic military assets, the radio section is responsible for ensuring communications.

While the radio shop conducts an entire flights’ worth of tasks, some of their labors are supplemented by the work of facility managers and missileers in the field, who are trained to conduct troubleshooting and minor repairs to their systems. The ability to receive feedback from the field and to remotely troubleshoot allows the CS radio shop to evaluate the state of equipment while minimizing the need for trips into the field.

“Their contribution is important to us.” said Stoffel.

However, when needed, the radio shop team is ready to answer the mission’s communication needs.