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Need for reliable comms never goes away

David Slavens, senior duty officer at the 88th Communications Squadron’s Cyber Operations Center, leads a discussion with two NCOs on how to prepare remedy tickets for personnel at Wright-Patterson AFB. (Contributed photo)

David Slavens, senior duty officer at the 88th Communications Squadron’s Cyber Operations Center, leads a discussion with two NCOs on how to prepare remedy tickets for personnel at Wright-Patterson AFB. (Contributed photo)

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio — The 88th Communications Squadron services  one of the Air Force’s largest bases daily, ensuring the more than 30,000 military and civilian personnel have the needed software and hardware to perform their duties in support of the Air Force mission.

After the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, 88 CS worked quickly and seamlessly to provide support to about 29,000 newly teleworking personnel instead of the 1,000 on an average workday.

“It required an upgrade to some of the base’s outdated hardware,” said David Slavens, senior duty officer at the 88 CS Cyber Operations Center.

As Wright-Patterson AFB continues monitoring its operating environment, the squadron has kept personnel teleworking on a mass scale, which meets two critical lines of effort in the 88th Air Base Wing’s strategic plan, leaders say: “Strengthen and care for our team” and “Maximize mission effectiveness.” 

There were times when outages and connectivity were Air Force-wide and not within the unit’s control, but Slavens asserts that operations controllers do not telework and were available to assist base personnel.

“We had to set up the WPAFB user base with the use of the Avaya voice over IP software, so personnel wouldn’t lose their ability to use the government phones from their homes while teleworking,” Slavens said. “It also required a new approach to how we have handled customers and their computers by setting up an off-base location for users to drop off their computer for maintenance should problems arise.”

The Air Force implemented Microsoft Teams with the Commercial Virtual Remote environment, which was used throughout the Department of Defense. Slavens said this allowed for virtual meetings and communications to be held on personal and government-furnished equipment in a seamless environment.

“We had to figure out how to go from supporting 1,000 regular teleworkers to 29,000 teleworkers overnight, while minimizing our own squadron footprint on base at the same time,” said Lt. Col. Jeffery Crepeau, 88 CS commander. “We got innovative by standing up an off-base help desk, figuring out how to remotely support customers through VPNs, increasing conference lines and increasing phone lines for the base as a whole.”

Crepeau praised the key personnel within 88 CS for maintaining operations under challenging circumstances as the worldwide pandemic unfolded. They allowed base personnel the much-needed ability to telework with minimal service interruptions, he added.

“We were still holding down the Cyber Operations Center here on the installation as part of our squadron mission-essential personnel, and base personnel needed our support more than ever, and we needed to deliver as quickly as possible,” he said. “We were able to answer that call thanks to our Cyber Operations Center senior duty officers and operators."