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Incirlik Behind the Scenes: 39th CS keeps Incirlik in-touch

U.S. Senior Airman Muhammad Jackson test phone lines for bad connections.

U.S. Senior Airman Muhammad Jackson, 39th Communications Squadron cable maintenance supervisor, checks for bad telephone lines at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey, Aug. 12, 2020. Miles of cable lines crisscross the installation, requiring CS Airmen to manage, install and repair intricate systems. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Ryan Lackey)

Senior Airman Muhammad Jackson uses a device to send a tone through phone lines to help find a bad connection.

U.S. Senior Airman Muhammad Jackson, 39th Communications Squadron cable maintenance supervisor, checks for bad telephone lines at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey, Aug. 12, 2020. Every building at Incirlik is connected by communication cables, which house up to hundreds of smaller wires that connect every part of a building to the rest of the base. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Ryan Lackey)

Senior Airman Noah Dray helps guide a bucket truck lift-arm back to its retracted position near a loud speaker tower at Incirlik Air Base, August 12, 2020.

U.S. Senior Airman Noah Dray, 39th Communications Squadron Surety Systems technician, helps direct the bucket-lift arm after performing a checkup on a ‘big voice’ speaker tower at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey, Aug. 12, 2020. These Airmen are charged with making sure that the electronic security and alerting measures for secure facilities and the base at large are maintained and functional 24 hours a day. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Ryan Lackey)

Senior Airman Noah Dray checks on a Big Voice loud speaker tower from a bucket lift as Incirlik Air Base, August 12, 2020.

U.S. Senior Airman Noah Dray, 39th Communications Squadron Surety Systems technician, inspects a part of the base’s ‘big voice’ speaker system from a bucket lift at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey, Aug. 12, 2020. CS Airmen often use tools and perform functions that are normally reserved for Civil Engineering Airmen, typically to lay cable and install or maintain equipment in hard to reach places. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Ryan Lackey)

U.S. Senior Airmen Noah Dray climbs into a bucket lift while Senior Airman Tyler McNaughton operates the controls at Incirlik Air Base, August 12, 2020.

U.S. Senior Airmen Noah Dray and Tyler McNaughton, 39th Communications Squadron Surety Systems technicians, operate a bucket lift vehicle to inspect a ‘big voice’ loudspeaker system at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey, Aug. 12, 2020. The base-wide speaker system serves as an emergency notification system, siren and in some locations plays official music to signify the start and end of the duty day. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Ryan Lackey)

U.S. Senior Airmen Noah Dray puts on a safety harness at Incirlik Air Base, August 12, 2020.

U.S. Senior Airman Noah Dray, 39th Communications Squadron Surety Systems technician, dons a safety harness before entering a bucket lift at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey, Aug. 12, 2020. These Airmen are charged with making sure that the electronic security and alerting measures for secure facilities and the base at large are maintained and functional 24 hours a day. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Ryan Lackey)

INCIRLIK AIR BASE, Turkey --

Incirlik Air Base functions purely on the efforts of its dedicated Airmen, working together to ensure the base’s continuing effort of supporting U.S. allies and coalition partners continues without fail. Each working area performs a vital support function and this ‘Behind the Scenes’ series will highlight what they do for the mission.

Every story has to start somewhere and the 39th Communications Squadron is a natural fit to help begin the tale of how the pieces of Incirlik fit together.

CS Airmen are commonly thought of when a computer breaks or a phone doesn’t work, but the benefits they provide to the wing reach much farther than computer maintenance. Their mission encompasses several specialized departments, such as Cable and Antenna Systems and Radio Frequency Transmission Systems areas, which work to establish or maintain communication throughout the base … often behind the scenes.

The Cable and Antenna Systems shop is the heart of all base communication methods and ensure that more than 2,000 miles of copper and fiber-optic cable laid between more than 500 facilities remain functional.

“Everything starts at our squadron building with the cable lines,” said Senior Airman Muhammud Jackson, 39th CS cable supervisor, “There’s miles of cable in the ground and junction boxes in every building across the installation. We install, troubleshoot and maintain all of that.”

Cable technicians are often mistaken for Civil Engineers, as they rarely work from a desk and are found in basements, down manholes and climbing up transmission towers to work on cables. It’s in these areas where cables can fail due to environmental conditions or power surges, but these failed wires can be a needle in a haystack to find.

“We had a building experiencing bad phone lines and it was affecting their operations,” Jackson said. “There can be over a hundred phone line connections in a single building, these buildings are connected too, so we have to spread out in teams to test the lines and locate the fault.”

Moving from closets to boiler room to junction box, the aptly nicknamed ‘cable dawgs’ used a tone generator that created a distinct sound when tested with a voltmeter, helping them hunt down the source of the bad connection.

“We quickly re-routed the lines and got the affected buildings up and running again,” said Jackson. “Now we have people in multiple locations to narrow-down the exact bad connection and make sure it’s not a symptom of a bigger problem, which takes teamwork and patience.”

While Jackson and his ‘cable dawgs’ worked to keep the base wired up, RF Transmission Airmen were also out in the field to ensure that connected mission essential systems keep functioning in case of an emergency.

“There are secure areas and facilities here that have detectors and alarms all throughout them to maintain security,” said Senior Airman Noah Dray, 39th CS RF Transmission Surety Systems technician. “These facilities may contain sensitive or mission essential assets, so it’s part of our job to ensure that line of defense remains functional at all times.”

These Airmen are found routinely working hand-in-hand with other units in a variety of secure areas to test or maintain detection, alarm and alert systems, but it’s all in a day’s work Dray says.

“Communications Squadron isn’t just about computers, we are often in the field,” Dray said. “ It’s a rewarding field of work, there’s always something to be done and its satisfying to see the direct impact you have on the Air Force mission.”

39th CS Airmen may work in the background, but each one of them contributes a positive effect to Incirlik Air Base, whether it’s laying cable, testing an alarm, or simply fixing a broken computer. These Airmen are part of the base’s successful teamwork that helps complete the mission of supporting our NATO allies’ southern flank and contributing to rapid global mobility.