BALAD AIR BASE, Iraq -- There is an organization that many people think is the place to go for information. In part they are; however, the unit is a lot more than that.
Airmen in the command post (AFSC 13CX1) do much more than just pass along information, especially in a combat zone. The 332nd Air Expeditionary Wings command post here is one example.
We are the eyes and ears of the base, said Airman 1st Class Kevin Preston Jr., an emergency action controller from Cannon Air Force Base, N.M. Anything that happens on the base, we are the central focal point for -- attacks, (in-flight emergencies and) ground emergencies.
The command post has several functions including tracking and reporting on flights in and out of here.
We are basically the first ones who talk to inbound aircraft, said Capt. Dennis Higuera, chief of the command post. The aircraft will call in, and we find out what they are carrying, their fuel requirements, if they have changes to flight schedule or load.
The command post controllers then pass this information on to people at the air terminal operations center and the aircraft maintainers on the parking ramp. This helps everyone prepare for the aircraft, Captain Higuera said.
If the aircrews require flight changes, the controllers will coordinate with the Tanker Airlift Control Center at Scott AFB, Ill., or the air mobility division in the Combined Air Operations Center at a forward-deployed location in Southwest Asia.
Command post controllers are also responsible for compiling the daily situation report as well as operational reports if serious conditions arise, such as a death or aircraft accident. These reports keep senior leaders at all levels informed of events here, officials said.
In a deployed environment, the controllers roles take on a different meaning.
When an attack occurs, there is a myriad of things we are doing in the command post, said Chief Master Sgt. Anthony Finklea, superintendent of the command post. We are getting information from various sources and trying to give the wing commander and (other leaders) information to keep our people safe and protect our resources.
It is a lot more important over here, said Staff Sgt. Sarah Ellis, a controller from Mountain Home AFB, Idaho. People are a lot more dependent on us. Over here, we are always one of the first to be notified about information, and that makes our job a lot easier.
Many Airmen said operations in a combat zone have been an eye-opener and a great learning experience for them.
This is definitely not home station, Chief Finklea said. I knew this was serious business. When I got here, I found it was deadly serious business. You do things at home station that are scripted, and you have a set game plan. There is no set game plan in a combat zone. You react based on things happening.
For some Airmen, this deployment brings a new meaning to their job.
Honestly, I didnt really know the importance of my job until I got deployed, Airman Preston said. Back home, you take it for granted. When you get deployed and see how your job pertains as a whole in a (combat) zone, you start to see the value of it. The little things you do add up when something is really happening.
Airmen in the command post said they know they will take their experiences and put them to great use.