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Heard but never seen: 934th Airlift Wing command post keeps Airmen in-the-know

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Victoriya Tarakanova
  • 934th Airlift Wing

While over 1,600 reservists are busy working to support the 934th Airlift Wing's mission, a select group of Airmen watches over them from a windowless, secured room beside the flight line.

For the 22 Airmen assigned to the 934 AW command post, information is power, and must be passed accurately and quickly to the right individuals.

"We're the installation's eyes and ears," said Tech. Sgt. Steve Johnson, 934th AW command post controller. "If we don't look at our inbox, there will be communication gaps. When bad things happen in the community, seconds count."

The command post is responsible for all alerting, reporting, and working with base operations to manage aircraft and coordinate emergency responses. Everything from official deployment orders to incidents on base and threats in the surrounding area come through the command post first.

"We put it all together to understand the reality on the ground," said Johnson. "Our motto is 'alert, direct, report,' and in a nutshell that's what we're doing."

"I used to think we were just glorified dispatchers," said Senior Airman Jacob Sander, 934th AW command post controller. "If we don't do our job, when planes are coming back, they won't know where they're going. You don't realize how important you are until you start working here."

Some events the command post handles can be more sensitive than others, especially visits from the president of the United States.

"When Air Force One comes in, there are a lot of Secret Service personnel walking in and out," said Sander.

The command post is one of the only units on base staffed by reservists and air national guardsmen, which means the Airmen must work together closely to handle the additional responsibility.

"It's one big family in this room," Sander said. "Everyone needs to work together; we don't have a choice."

During the local unrest following the murder of George Floyd in 2020, the 934th AW command post was responsible for disseminating critical information and helping the Crisis Action Team manage the national guard and reserve response.

"We need to pass up activation rulings so everyone who needs to know, knows," said Johnson.

All Airmen working at the command post must complete about two-and-a-half months of technical training at Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi, Mississippi, leaving with a certification in emergency management.

"The first six weeks are a lot of book reading," said Sander. "The last two weeks though, they put you through the gauntlet."

Unlike some other career fields in the Air Force, the job training that all command post Airmen receive is highly applicable to emergency management careers in the civilian world.

"You learn how emergency management works on the outside, and you get a security clearance," said Sander.

Working at the command post also means frequent interaction with commanders across the base.

"I know all the group commanders. I talk to them every day," Sander said.

The command post has helped handle hit-and-runs, vehicles crashing into base gates and even routing bomb disposal personnel.

"I enjoy the aspect that there's no normal day," said Senior Airman Jack Motschenbacher, 934th AW command post controller. "I like that you never know what to expect."

For Sander, one of the most rewarding parts of working at the command post is being one of the last ones left in the parking lot at the end of the duty day.

"It means everyone was able to get their job done safely and get home," he said. "That means I did my job."