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Command, Control: Mildenhall Airmen train for the worst, expect the best

U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Elizabeth Lefaive, 100th Air Refueling Wing Command Post NCO-in-charge of command and control readiness, looks over emergency notification systems in the command post at RAF Mildenhall, England, Nov. 27, 2018. Lefavie, along with Airman 1st Class Kalie Lyons, 100th ARW Command Post emergency action controller, were tasked with keeping information flowing to the appropriate shops and leadership through the day if need arises. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Brandon Esau)

U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Elizabeth Lefaive, 100th Air Refueling Wing Command Post NCO-in-charge of command and control readiness, looks over emergency notification systems in the command post at RAF Mildenhall, England, Nov. 27, 2018. Lefavie, along with Airman 1st Class Kalie Lyons, 100th ARW Command Post emergency action controller, were tasked with keeping information flowing to the appropriate shops and leadership through the day if need arises. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Brandon Esau)

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Justin Pickens, 100th Air Refueling Wing Command Post NCO-in-charge of command and control training, discusses operational checklists with new Airmen in the command post at RAF Mildenhall, England, Nov. 27, 2018. The command post serves as the nerve center from which base leadership monitor and manage the readiness and response of various wings. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Brandon Esau)

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Justin Pickens, 100th Air Refueling Wing Command Post NCO-in-charge of command and control training, discusses operational checklists with new Airmen in the command post at RAF Mildenhall, England, Nov. 27, 2018. The command post serves as the nerve center from which base leadership monitor and manage the readiness and response of various wings. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Brandon Esau)

U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Kalie Lyons, 100th Air Refueling Wing Command Post emergency action controller, signs off on a controller checklist in the command post at RAF Mildenhall, England, Nov. 27, 2018.  Emergency action controllers are responsible for receiving and disseminating information during emergencies. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Brandon Esau)

U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Kalie Lyons, 100th Air Refueling Wing Command Post emergency action controller, signs off on a controller checklist in the command post at RAF Mildenhall, England, Nov. 27, 2018. Emergency action controllers are responsible for receiving and disseminating information during emergencies. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Brandon Esau)

A daily shift checklist is displayed in the command post at RAF Mildenhall, England, Nov. 27, 2018. Command post Airmen follow checklists throughout the day to ensure proper steps are being taken so the installation and its members are secure. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Brandon Esau)

A daily shift checklist is displayed in the command post at RAF Mildenhall, England, Nov. 27, 2018. Command post Airmen follow checklists throughout the day to ensure proper steps are being taken so the installation and its members are secure. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Brandon Esau)

U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Kalie Lyons, 100th Air Refueling Wing Command Post emergency action controller, discusses flight plans with a KC-135 flight crew in the command post at RAF Mildenhall, England, Nov. 27, 2018. The command post Airmen are responsible for relaying classified and unclassified messages to the 100th ARW, 501st Command Support Wing and 352nd Special Operations Wing commanders and other base leadership. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Brandon Esau)

U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Kalie Lyons, 100th Air Refueling Wing Command Post emergency action controller, discusses flight plans with a KC-135 flight crew in the command post at RAF Mildenhall, England, Nov. 27, 2018. The command post Airmen are responsible for relaying classified and unclassified messages to the 100th ARW, 501st Command Support Wing and 352nd Special Operations Wing commanders and other base leadership. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Brandon Esau)

RAF MILDENHALL, England -- The day was no different to any other, but by the end of it, the United States, and the way most Americans went about their lives, would never be the same. Innocent lives had been lost, a new enemy suddenly appeared and the way in which battles take place would change across the globe.

This tragic event reached every part of the world, but one current Team Mildenhall Airman who was stationed here on Sept. 11, 2001, spoke to how it changed RAF Mildenhall and what it means to be a command post controller.

“This day forever changed my thoughts on being in command post and pushed me from four-year enlistee to now a 22-year career Airman,” said Tech. Sgt. Jose Valdez, 100th Air Refueling Wing senior emergency actions controller. “It was the first time seeing full battle staff prepared, real -world force protections changing and truly allowed me to see what being a controller truly means.”

The mission of command post is to be the central focal point for all command and control, with an emphasis on being the lifeline between various wing leadership and boots on the ground.

“We are the glue that helps keep Team Mildenhall together,” said Maj. Jared Alden, 100th ARW Command Post chief of C2 operations. “The coordination never stops between ourselves and those who make the big decisions. The wing commander is always the first phone call to make. We are the eyes and the ears for leadership above all else.”

Command post works hand in hand with the 100th Air Refueling Wing, the 501st Combat Support Wing, and the 352nd Special Operations Wing. They also support U.S. Air Forces in Europe-United Kingdom with, operations stretching from Cyprus to Norway.

“There is not a typical day in the shop,” Valdez said. “We are very much a reactionary job; one day it could be completely quiet, flights run smoothly, or it could be one those days we constantly trained for, and prepared for at a moment’s notice.”

Master Sgt. Nicola Adams, 100th ARW Command Post NCO-in-charge of command and control operations and command post acting superintendent, agreed.

“A priority here at RAF Mildenhall is to get tankers off the ground safely and timely,” Adams said. “The exercises we conduct are vitally important to our success, which in turn makes the base successful. What we do, every single day, affects the lives of members and civilians who call this home.”

The command post operates on a 365/24/7 schedule, with Airmen working 12-hour shifts, many of those hours spent conducting both on-the-job training and day-to-day missions.

“We have core competencies as mission essential controllers,” Adams said. “Mission management, emergency actions, emergency management, operational reports; it’s a very checklist-oriented career, but it’s what allows for us to react quickly and deliberately with required actions.”

The ability to balance mission and personal priorities is a reason the Team Mildenhall command post was named the U.S. Air Force Command Post of the Year for 2017.

“Although we are constantly busy, we are still afforded the opportunity to have a balance between work, school and personal matters,” said Airman 1st Class Kalie Lyons, 100th ARW Command Post emergency action controller. “This is why I enjoy working alongside this leadership team.”

With the constant movement of tankers, support agencies and Airmen all across base, the command post is the central hub of information and dissemination to ensure mission success.

“We touch every part of the base’s mission,” Alden said. “The mission doesn’t run without us – we’re functioning at all times. I’m blessed to be a part of this team, and my time amongst some of the hardest working people in the Air Force has been nothing short of remarkable.”