Comms Team Works to Get Wing Network Secure

  • Published
  • By TSgt. Dan Heaton
  • 127th Public Affairs
In the darkened offices of the 127th Communications Squadron, officers, enlisted specialists and civilian technicians work as multi-faceted team to keep computer operations running smooth at Selfridge Air National Guard Base.

The computer Help Desk, Network Control Center (NCC) and the 127th Wing's Information Assurance (IA) manager all work together in the Comms Squadron to ensure the connectivity of every Airman at Selfridge and to ensure that sensitive information is protected. While the Help Desk, NCC and IA manager all work together as part of a team, each has a specific task within that team, said Staff Sgt. Leonard Crull, wing IA manager.

"The more dependent we become as an Air Force on our computer systems, the more important becomes the job of making sure the system is functioning and secure," Crull said.

Each of the three components of the team touches the wing in a different way.

Help Desk
The Help Desk is essentially the triage center for all computer issues. Every unit in the wing has an assigned CSA (Client Support Administrator) who can often provide answers and assistance with most computer related issues. The Help Desk is the next step in the process, said Mr. Tim Welch, a civilian computer technician who works at the wing Help Desk. Welch spent 20 years on active duty with the Air Force before retiring, the last 17 of which were spent as a computer technician. He joined the wing as a civilian employee in 2005.

"I've worked on Air Force computer systems as we have evolved from mainframe computers and floppy disks to the high-power networks that we use today," Welch said. "Computer connection is now extremely important to the Air Force."

Welch said that most calls to the Help Desk are able to be resolved in 10-15 minutes. Hardware issues can take a day or so.

"The biggest problem we deal with is accounts that have expired because the user has not done his or her required computer-based trainings," Welch said.

Network Control Center
The NCC operates and maintains the computer network system that all Airmen must access at various points to perform their duties. These specialists are generally not contacted by the average computer user, but may respond to issues that are filtered through the Help Desk or to directives from the Air Force or Air National Guard.

The specialists who work in the NCC are generally working in the enlisted Air Force Specialty Code (AFSC) 3D0X2, Cyber Systems Operations, a relatively new AFSC that was created in late 2009. The Air Force created new AFSCs in the computer technician field, to represent the growing level of specializations that exist within the field, Crull said.
At the NCC, specialists like Staff Sgt. JaVonn Stone and Tech. Sgt. LaWanda Young monitor daily activities and perform a variety of preventative maintenance steps to ensure the network is functioning properly - and is available and secure whenever needed, which, in today's environment, is essentially always.

All enlisted personnel in the 3D0XX career fields attend their initial technical schools at Keesler Air Force Base in Mississippi, where the various school courses generally last about three months for new Airmen to earn their 3-level, Apprentice, certification in their particular field.

Information Assurance
Monitoring all of the Wing's computer systems to ensure that security is maintained is Crull and his fellow specialists in the Information Assurance section.

"We enforce policy, ensure that our cyber boundaries are protected and monitor for vulnerability," he said.

Crull works in the 3D0X3 AFSC, Cyber Surety, which was also created in late 2009. He worked in computer operations on active duty with the Air Force for four years and then worked with the Michigan Air National Guard's 110th Fighter Wing in Battle Creek for about three years, before joining the 127th Wing about six months ago.

Crull said new computer security policy updates cross his desk on an almost weekly basis, as the Air Force works to ensure that its networks are reliable and secure.
There are several simple steps that most Airman can take to help keep information security at a high level.

"Never let someone else log in with your CAC card. Never give someone your PIN number or log in for someone else on your card and then walk away," Crull said. "Those are the single most important steps to keeping our network secure."

Crull said Airman should know who their unit IA manager is and use that person as a resource.

"Information security is something we all need to be responsible for," he said.