COMSEC: What is your need to know?
By Senior Airman Alan Ricker, 22nd Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs
/ Published January 29, 2021
MCCONNELL AIR FORCE BASE, Kan. --
MCCONNELL AIR FORCE BASE, Kan. – Imagine the pressure of restricting and maintaining pivotal information that could majorly impact an entire institution’s mission.
This is what McConnell’s team of three communications security (COMSEC) specialists undergo 24 hours a day to ensure the integrity of the 22nd Air Refueling Wing’s and its tenant unit’s protected information.
Staff Sgt. Shawn Kesinger, 22nd Communications Squadron Wing COMSEC noncommissioned officer in-charge, explained that COMSEC equipment, such as keys and codebooks, is used daily for the base to complete aerial refueling missions.
“[Aircrew] are not able to accomplish their mission if we are not there to help them,” mentioned Kesinger, describing if an emergency occurred. “Those planes will not take-off if their COMSEC is compromised.”
Even the Air Force’s newest refueler, the KC-46A Pegasus, is currently undergoing tests and evaluations, challenging McConnell’s COMSEC team to set standards for other installations housing the new aircraft.
The team is also charged with providing liaisons, COMSEC-trained representatives within a unit, updated information and keeping Airmen aware of any change or compromise. They also are required to ensure every user follows guidelines and practices safe COMSEC material and equipment usage.
“Our job — basically — is rule-following,” stated Christine Gaines, 22nd CS Wing COMSEC manager. “When we make a mistake, depending on the mistake, it’s either an incident or a practice dangerous to security.”
Gaines encouraged members of McConnell to be vigilant and report anything that seems to be an incident or compromise. She continued to explain that the team is ultimately responsible for COMSEC users’ actions with the material, equipment and programs.
“A constant endeavor that we face is to make sure that not only we are on the up-and-up of the ever-changing world of COMSEC regulations and security protocols, but that making sure that information is passed down and communicated,” said Kesinger.
As a detail-oriented team of three, they research updated procedures, inspect units, update liaisons and train those who have ‘a need to know’ on COMSEC. These crucial tasks guarantee that McConnell is able to support air refueling missions.
“It’s a serious team effort,” said Gaines, highlighting Kesinger and Airman Joshua Bamba, 22nd CS wing COMSEC clerk.