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Faces behind giant voice system send clear message
Airman 1st Class Aaron Archer, Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst Command Post controller, provides leadership with situational support on a daily basis. The CP also monitors airfield status and ensures mission-impacting changes are forwarded to commanders for effective command and control of airfield operations. (U.S. Air Force photo by Carlos Cintron/Released)
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Faces behind giant voice system send clear message

Posted 11/19/2011   Updated 11/18/2011 Email story   Print story


by Staff Sgt. Marie Lewis
Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst Command Post

11/19/2011 - JOINT BASE MCGUIRE-DIX-LAKEHURST, N.Y. -- "Exercise, exercise, exercise - this is the Joint Base Command Post with an important message. There is an active shooter on Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst. Exercise, exercise, exercise."

This announcement has been broadcast numerous times across the joint base. Many people snap into response mode when hearing the word 'exercise,' but not many think about where the message came from.

Who are the faces behind the giant voice and what do they do? Airmen assigned to the JB MDL CP broadcast installation-wide messages across the giant voice system. The JB MDL CP is located with the Maintenance Operations Center and the Aerial Terminal Operations Center, all of which operate 24/7.

The JB MDL CP comprises active-duty and Reserve controllers, with typically two to three controllers on shift at a time. The controllers act as the "eyes and ears of the joint base."

All joint base incidents, are reported through the JB MDL CP to joint base leadership or other agencies who may require the information.

The CP also serves as a focal point for all of the base's airlift and air-refueling mission monitoring, weather dissemination and higher-headquarters reporting, including the base status of resources and training systems reporting. Command post personnel spend the majority of their day-to-day operations conducting mission monitoring.

Mission monitoring, more commonly known as "flight following", encompasses approximately 90 percent of the daily operations. Controllers are required to monitor or track both local flights and those transitioning through the McGuire field.

Controllers are responsible for alerting aircrew for mission launches and issuing necessary mission products and equipment. They maintain situational awareness of all flights, from the preflight phase through the execution.

"Constant contact with the headquarters airlift agency and the Tanker Airlift Control Center is crucial for efficient downrange operations. This, in turn, impacts decisions and actions which can be felt across many areas of responsibility," said Staff Sgt. Marie Lewis, JB MDL CP controller.

The CP also monitors airfield status and ensures mission-impacting changes are forwarded to commanders for effective command and control of airfield operations. As critical as flight following is, there are other aspects of command and control which are equally as important, such as joint base-incident notification.

The CP is among the first to receive the word anytime significant events occur on the joint base, be it a weather warning or a fuel spill. Once emergency responders notify the on-duty controllers, they must immediately notify other emergency response agencies and also ensure the base commanders are aware and able to maintain command and control over the event.

Controllers rely heavily on quick-reaction checklists. QRCs guide controllers through a step-by-step notification process and direct them to determine whether a particular incident requires higher headquarters reporting. Controllers are also the installation commander's focal point for activating the crisis action team, the emergency operations center, group and unit control centers, joint base control center and initiating base notifications.

Controllers use several systems to reach out to the entire joint base population, in addition to the "voice" on the installation giant voice system. Emergency management and mass notification to joint base personnel is important to keeping everyone informed of ongoing events. This is accomplished through the distribution of mass emails, desktop pop-up alerts, phone broadcasts and telephone conferencing for base leadership.

"Every day is something different," said Airman 1st Class Aaron Archer, JB MDL CP junior controller. "I love going to work not knowing what to expect. This environment makes for a constant challenge as well as a great opportunity to learn and to grow."
All controllers undergo an intensive training program. Three wing commanders must approve the controller fit to perform console duties. Staff Sgt. Cari Schoemann, JB MDL CP training manager, sees this certification process as an eye-opener, especially for the young Airmen straight out of technical training school.

"As new controllers are certified, they become increasingly aware of how important their role in the mission is," said Schoemann. "This process not only ensures they strive for excellence here at JB MDL, but prepares them for the serious - many times hostile - emergencies they may face downrange."

This training is vital because it ensures effective open lines of communication among CP and leadership.

Master Sgt. Linda Poe, JB MDL CP superintendent, encourages all installation leaders to communicate their expectations of incident notifications to the controllers.

"If there's a particular situation, such as severe weather occurring on the joint base, and your agency is not currently included in our notification procedures, please let us know," said Poe. "Providing superior command and control is what our controllers are ready and able to do. With the joint base growing every day, we need all of our mission partners to communicate their needs to us, so we can ensure everyone is getting the information they need to conduct their missions."

Many work centers on the base close at 4:30 p.m. The command post controllers remain on duty monitoring flight activities, notifying crucial response agencies and commanders, up channeling reports and disseminating weather information to the installation populace.

"Through night shifts, weekends, family days and holidays, the CP controllers are steadfast and ready to tackle any incident head-on in support of an installation whose mission never stops," said Lewis.

Call Master Sgt. Robert McNair, JB MDL CP operations superintendent, at 754-1161 or email to add a unit to the list of notifications or have any other questions concerning the CP and its actions.

11/19/2011 1:17:41 PM ET
Desktop Alert Inc. is proud to be serving McGuire AFB with Mass Notification Solutions since 2006
Howard Ryan, United States
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