ANDERSEN AIR FORCE BASE, Guam -- The ability to communicate with others instantly, anywhere in the world, is increasingly a part of everyday life.
What is less visible to the casual observer are the ever-expanding networks of wired and wireless connections that lay the foundation for the near-instantaneous links we all enjoy today.
A cornerstone of these networks are fiber optic cables, which use light pulses to transmit information over long distances. The 36th Communication Squadron (CS) is responsible for maintaining the miles of cables linking every corner of Andersen Air Force Base.
“Fiber is what transmits our data,” said Tech. Sgt. Jose Parada, the NCO in charge of cable and antenna systems with the 36 CS. "It connects our facilities, our hubs, our people. It’s what carries our (secure) and (public) networks, even our (web-based) phone lines. It’s also what connects us to other bases, what allows us to stay in touch with our leaders, and major commands.”
However, the maintenance of fiber optics cables is not only important for the Air Force but links all global defense missions. Soldiers from the 94th Army Air and Missile Defense (AAMDC) Command, Task Force Talon, joined Airmen from the 36 CS, in training on fiber optics cable splicing, and high-power, line-of-sight antenna assembly.
The 36 CS Airmen provided the expertise on the fiber splicing, while the 94th AAMDC Soldiers instructed the Airmen on the operation and maintenance of the antenna system.
“Working with fiber optics presents a unique set of challenges,” said Airman 1st Class Michelle Dayanghirang, a cable and antenna systems Airman with the 36 CS. “When you’re splicing fiber optics cables you have to be very careful with your environment. Even a single speck of dust can make a splice fail, and with the dust and the rain and the wind, it can be tricky to ensure a clean connection.”
Because the process is so delicate, repairing a damaged cable or opening a new connection can take up to six hours to ensure that data transmission is not slowed.
But the benefits of fiber optics largely outweigh the costs. Fiber optic cables allow for faster data transmission, increased transmission distances, and more data security.
When service members need to stay in contact while on the move though, fiber optic cables are of little help, and radio antennas take over.
The 94th AAMDC Soldiers trained the 36 CS Airmen on how to assemble and erect a high-power, line-of-sight antenna that can be used as a central node to enable communications up to 32 miles away.
Together, wired and wireless communication techniques enable our service members to remain in contact wherever they may find themselves.