Monday, September 22, 2014

TOP STORY >> The Eyes and Ears of Little Rock AFB

By Airman 1st Class Scott Poe
19th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

Inside a secure building, surrounded by locked doors and blank walls with no windows, is where the 19th Airlift Wing command post emergency action controllers find themselves. Computer monitors at every desk, a constant ringing of phones, and voices from communication radios are some of the things one can expect to experience while inside the command post.

The mission of the 19th AW command post is to relay information from the wing commander to different agencies as well as gather information from other sources and disperse it through the proper channels.   

The command post manages all flights and keeps track of every detail from start to finish. They keep the aircraft and aircrew in constant contact with the base. If there are any in-flight emergencies, Airmen working in the command post relay the information to leadership and contact all necessary personnel.

 “We are the eyes and ears of Little Rock Air Force Base,” said Senior Airman Kayla Lanier, a 19th AW command post emergency action controller. “Our main mission is to gather important information and pass it on to base leadership and different agencies.”

The command post unit falls directly under the base commander.

All command post emergency action controllers must be certified by Col. Patrick Rhatigan, 19th Airlift Wing commander or Col. William Otter, 19th AW vice commander. Once an emergency action controller has completed his or her initial training and is briefed by the commander, the Airman is entrusted to speak on behalf of the 19th AW leadership. 

“The work hours are long,” said Lanier. “We don’t get family days. Rain, snow, sleet not even a “sharknado” will stop us from coming to work.”

The command post works 24-hours a day, 365 days each year, with a limited number of personnel. Due to their very tight schedules, all the controllers have to precisely manage their time. 

Staff Sgt. Angela Holley, a 19th AW command post emergency action controller and single parent, manages to work long hours while also balancing her personal life, which includes raising and spending time with her son.

 Even though the job is tough, the Airmen at the command post contribute to the mission with smiles and positive attitudes. 

“I love being in the military,” said Holley. “It’s definitely a sacrifice. I sacrifice time with my son in order to accomplish the mission, but I know that the mission here is very important. I enjoy the feeling I get knowing I am a very important asset to the base.”

While working at the command post can take its mental toll on an Airman, physical readiness is also a challenge that command post personnel must face. 

In order to remain mission-ready, the controllers have 24/7 access to a personal gym inside the command post building. Although 12-hour shifts create a challenge, CP Airmen can stay in close proximity to their mission as well as staying fit-to-fight. 

Along with mental and physical readiness, emergency action controllers must maintain proficiency within their expertise.

The controllers train monthly on different scenarios such as hazardous threats or gate closures. The scenarios better prepare the Airmen for real life situations and help them become familiarized with the protocols and checklists that need to be completed in a particular situation. They must also take two monthly tests, a general knowledge test and an emergency action test to ensure they are performing at their best.

The command post is vital to communication between the commanders and their Airmen. Without the CP, the base, during an emergency could become chaotic. The proper information would not find its way to the agencies that need it or the information could be inaccurate causing more confusion.  

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