Sharpening the Forward Edge

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Dillon Ballowe
  • 183d WIng

Fourteen members of the 217th Engineering Installation Squadron (217 EIS) here worked alongside members of other EI squadrons from across the country to map the communications infrastructure of Andersen Air Force Base.

The 217 EIS and eight other guard units were tasked with surveying the communications infrastructure on the base, from entry point to exit point, and identifying the current capabilities and risks present.

On top of this task, EI conducted a geobasing survey, which is the process of documenting what exactly is inside every manhole on base, such as the number of cables, what they do and where they lead.

The EI community was given this task as an initial step in a large-scale effort to begin improving the communication infrastructure on the installation.

Throughout the process of mapping the communications infrastructure, the EI members faced obstacles stemming from foliage, weather and more, said 1st Lt. Chris Freimann, Officer in Charge of Engineering

“We were literally going out into the jungle with machetes and chopping stuff down to try and find these things,” said Freimann.

Some of the manholes that EI had to access had been covered by vegetation, meaning they had to first clear the area before they could open the manhole and begin the tasks they were assigned.

On top of having to clear the sites, the EI community also ran into a completely unforeseen challenge, in the form of a 5.9 magnitude earthquake.

“In my room, the wall cracked in half and all the tiles on the floor were broken,” said Freimann. “So now we’re having to adjust to this and figure out, ‘Are we going into CIDARA?’”

Critical Infrastructure/Activities Damage Assessment and Repair is the process of assessing the damage done to military infrastructure after a disaster.

Although EI’s main task was to map the base, they did have to switch gears and assess the damage done by the earthquake.

However, it was almost ironic that such a large number of the EI community was on the island during this event, said Freimann.

“The uniqueness about CIDARA is we deploy with the capability and tools to immediately repair,” said Freimann.

In this instance, EI didn’t need to move into the repair phase of CIDARA, but if emergency repairs were needed, the members on location would have been able to complete those repairs, said Freimann.

If vegetation and earthquakes weren’t enough, the unpredictable weather of the island proved to be a challenge as well.

Freimann said that the small scale and weather alert capabilities of Guam often meant that workers were learning about large storms just before or as they hit, which led to being shut down for a number of days.

“Even with the exercises, the earthquakes, the typhoons, the rain, the snakes, the…everything, the team just continued to bang it out,” said Freimann.

When the EI community was tasked with this mission, they were given the understanding that it was a large task, and it wasn’t expected to be completed in one go.

“When we first signed on, we were told, ‘Hey we don’t expect you to get everything done, if you can get to like 30%, we’re good,’” said Freimann.

However, the 217th and their partner EI units far exceeded this expectation, and ended up mapping roughly 96% of the base’s infrastructure.

On top of this, Freimann said EI stepped outside their original task to survey roughly 75% of the flightline as well, including portions owned by other branches and the Federal Aviation Administration.

“I can’t even talk about how awesome an opportunity and how great the team was, because it was just nonstop,” said Freimann. “When we get down to like 96% and they’re just like, ‘Woah,’ total success story right there,”

While this mission was a success, the work on the base’s infrastructure isn’t over yet. The next step for the EI community is to comb over what they found and begin creating project packages to improve and bolster the base communication infrastructure for the future.

Freimann closed by commenting on how this task was a good representation of how military operations can look going forward.

“I think this is a perfect transition and perfect opportunity for our troops who have been so focused on the global war on terrorism,” said Freimann. “This is a good pivot to a new normal operation.”

Lt. Col. Kevin O’Grady, Commander, 217th Engineering Installation Squadron, is proud of his teams’ accomplishments. “Among the many items accomplished by our 217th team members, they were able to provide communication infrastructure risk assessments, CIPS Visualization Component updates, as well as discuss future engineering solutions with the officials at Andersen AFB” he said. “The 217th team members really displayed their skill in a challenging environment supporting the INDO-PACAF Forward Edge.”