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NEWS | Nov. 5, 2013

Langley Airman serves as voice, eyes, ears for Kandahar Airfield

By Capt. Jason Smith 451st Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

The 451st Air Expeditionary Wing command post operates 24/7, acting as the "voice, eyes and ears" for the commander of Kandahar Airfield and 451st AEW commander.

Any events or information that could influence the people, equipment or mission are reported through the command post to the commander, or through the commander to the command post for dissemination to base personnel.

"We make sure the commander is informed about anything that affects his assets," said Tech. Sgt. Sandra Bell, 451st AEW command post controller. "Whether it's good or bad, we let the commander know so he can make important decisions that affect everyone.

"Our job falls under emergency management, so typically, notifications aren't good," added Bell, who is deployed from Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Va.

Things that a commander might need to be notified of can happen anytime, and Bell said while waking the commander up in the middle of the night might make some people nervous, it is a neccessary part of the job.

"The general and colonel know we're not waking them up for fun," said Bell. "We're all deployed, and we're in the mindset of being inconvenienced at times."

Senior Airman Luther Bernard, 451st AEW command post controller, said his deployed duties have significant differences from his duties at his home station, Aviano Air Base, Italy.

"As a tenant unit here, our role is different than at home," said Bernard. "We are the 'go between' for aircraft and 451st AEW resources, and the NATO-run [Joint Defense Operations Center]."

Bernard said the majority of his work includes flight tracking and coordinating cargo movement, fuel, maintenance and parking for aircraft. Anything aircraft-related on the ground goes through command post -- not the air traffic control tower, as many would assume.

"To put that into perspective, we do about 42 flight missions per day, and that doesn't count other things we handle like in-flight emergencies," said Chief Master Sgt. Richard Eicher, 451st AEW command post superintendent.

"We send about 115 higher headquarters and commander reports per month," said Eicher, who is also the command post career field functional manager at the Pentagon. "We also do the coordination for about 32 air medical evacuation operations per month."

Eicher said the controllers at the 451st AEW are "fantastic" at their jobs and are capable of dealing with a lot of stress while multitasking. Some of them didn't have previous deployment experience, and handling deployment-specific situations will help them in their careers, he said.

"Without a doubt, it will make them better controllers," said Eicher. "They will talk about their experience here and share the lessons they learned. It will inspire other controllers to want to deploy to get this experience. It is dangerous, but it's worth it."

The experience of dealing with aircraft movement on the ground, coordination with NATO partners, rocket attacks and many other deployed scenarios is fine with her, said Bell. It's only as busy as there are emergencies, and she "hopes not to be busy."