Command post: brain of the wing

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Victor J. Caputo
  • 22nd Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs
One does not simply enter the command post.

Through a couple of doors, and after passing a few small offices, the full command post comes into view. More than dozen monitors connected to multiple computers, radios and telephones are spread throughout the room and ringing.

Such is the world of every command post controller every duty day.

"On an average eight hour shift for a controller, they probably receive 150 telephone calls," said Capt. Eric Waldo, 22nd Air Refueling Wing Command Post chief. "They're getting calls from the Tanker Airlift Control Center and folks at the Air Mobility Command command center. They're coordinating all of the information coming in and out of the base while also coordinating maintenance, transportation for all of the aircrews and responding to around 30 [U.S. Strategic Command] emergency action messages a day."

This mass of varying operations drives many people to refer to the command post as the nerve center of the base.

"Everyone down there is a certified command post controller, including myself, the deputy chief and the superintendent," said Waldo. "The command post is manned 24/7 and 365 days a year."

New Airmen in the command post career field are immediately tasked with an array of important duties.

"We have folks as young as 18 years old, and the amount of responsibility we place on their enlisted shoulders is absolutely stellar," said Senior Master Sgt. William Heck, 22nd ARW/CP superintendent. "I think one thing that helps the younger Airmen get through their duty is that management jumps in. We'll work those nights, weekends and holidays."

The responsibilities of being a command post controller are large and varied, especially for young Airmen.

"We're asking our guys to receive emergency action messages, and to relay that information to the base commander directly," said Heck. "They're essentially starting the fire to kick start the base for war-time efforts."

The role each controller plays in the wing mission is clearly understood by the Airmen who man the command post.

"We have a lot to do," said Airman 1st Class Wyatt Witt, 22nd ARW/CP emergency actions controller. "It's an important job. It can be stressful, but we make sure that everyone has whatever they need no matter what it takes."

When things get busy and the two Airmen on duty begin to feel overwhelmed, they get help from everyone in the office, from the NCOs to the civilians, he said.

After more than 20 years in the same career field, Heck can attest to the importance and variety of missions his job entails.

"Our mission here is way more diverse than I imagined it could be when I joined," said Heck. "It's been a unique and challenging mission, but it's a diverse career field. You do one job for three to four years, [get stationed] somewhere else and do almost a completely different job that's still in the command post career field. That's what keeps it exciting: the diversity."

Controllers have a lot to stay on top of when they're on duty, but that doesn't stop them from aiming for perfection.

The 22nd ARW recently went through a Nuclear Operational Readiness Inspection, and the command post team was guiding the process and ensuring the wing was capable of fulfilling its mission.

Controllers received the message to begin the inspection and initiated the wing-wide recall that marked the first of five days of around-the-clock work.

The CP team monitored the aircraft and aircrews and continued to relay any new information up to the wing commander.

The Airmen in command post felt that they did their part to help the wing prove its ability to complete the mission during the NORI.

"There's a good sense of pride in the command post right now with how they performed," said Waldo.

When asked what single thing he wanted people to know about the command post, he jokingly understated what they do.

"Command post is not the base operator."

To reach the command post or any other base agency please call (316) 759-6100.