ANDERSEN AIR FORCE BASE, GUAM -- It’s been a long time coming. The 205th Engineering and Installation Squadron (205th EIS) from Will Rogers Air National Guard Base (WRANGB), Oklahoma City, was tasked in 2016 with installing radio systems for the Air Force Flight Standards Agency (AFFSA), an agency whose mission encompasses the design and writing of basic flight regulations and flight rules, air traffic control and landing systems, and airfield management for the entire U.S. Air Force.
Three years later, from Sept. 16 to Sept. 23, 2019, the 205th EIS worked to complete the final installation at the final overseas base, which was for the 36th Operations Support Squadron (36th OSS) at Andersen Air Force Base (AFB), Guam, as part of that tasking. It was the last of four total installations for the 205th EIS, including two in Germany at Ramstein Air Base and Spangdahlem Air Base, as well as an installation at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam in Hawaii.
At each location, the 205th EIS installed CM-300/350 radios for the air traffic control centers that are part of the U.S. Air Force Air Traffic Control and Landing Systems Radio Replacement Program. The radios, which are rack-mounted transmitter and receiver systems that allow communications between personnel on the ground and aircrews in aircraft, required more than just setting them on a shelf and plugging them into power.
At Andersen AFB, seven 205th Airmen first installed the two racks needed, then mounted 10 radios to those racks, ran cable and wiring for the radios, grounded the wiring, helped program the final product, and removed all the old radio systems – some of which had been doing the job for over 50 years.
Though the installation at Andersen is the last of the three-year tasking, this one had a lot riding on it for one particular member.
“It’s an evaluation – I’m technically the team chief nominee for this installation,” said Tech. Sgt. Allison Dzon, cable antenna systems Airman for the 205th EIS. “I’m evaluated on my team management, my relationship with the customer, my team chief log and going through our inventory.”
As the acting team chief, Dzon worked directly from the project agreement made with the 36th OSS, conducted an inventory of the supplies that was brought in as recommended by the site survey team and kept a daily log of the work and tasks accomplished during the job.
“It definitely wasn’t an easy process, getting all of this going,” said Dzon.
From working in different time zones to material delays and asbestos abatement, Dzon dealt with more than just the pressures of her certification as the team also neared their completion deadline, which was the end of the fiscal year on the last day of September.
An evaluator monitored Dzon’s efforts throughout the installation process and determined whether she had successfully shown her ability to handle her role as a team chief. Upon project completion, the evaluator then assessed that work and any related paperwork to make a recommendation to the squadron commander for team chief certification.
“The main thing is getting the prep work done prior to the team’s arrival,” said Senior Master Sgt. Charles Barkheimer, quality assurance (QA) superintendent. “A big part of our evaluation is: Can you get the tools, the equipment, the team, and all things necessary to accomplish your job here? Can you get that here?”
Dzon said one of the biggest challenges for her was coordinating beforehand with the 36th OSS in Guam from more than 7,000 miles and 15 time zones away in Oklahoma. The time difference meant she usually had to stay late to communicate with the base.
In addition to preparation, Dzon was evaluated on six points for her recommendation for certification: leadership, management, paperwork, customer service, morale and welfare, and safety. Working through the evaluation process is time-intensive, requiring months of planning and coordination before leaving to start the work and a lot of paperwork to complete once the work is done. But in their career field, EIS Airmen must have the team chief certification to reach master sergeant.
With a real-world project also depending on her performance, there were members of her team who were there to help ensure the end result would be exactly what the customer ordered.
“The 205th is trying to have whoever goes on a site survey go on the job as well so [the team] can get that insight,” said Tech. Sgt. Austin Juergens, 205th EIS radar, airfield and weather systems work center supervisor.
Having someone there who knows the intent of the site survey plan – which occurred more than six months prior in January – allows the team chief to make more informed decisions if the installers encounter problems. The team was also set up to ensure Dzon had all of the resources and knowledge for a successful project. In addition to an already-certified team chief, Juergans was present as a subject matter expert for the radios and Barkheimer acted as an evaluator and quality assurance to check for safety issues or violations.
“From a QA standpoint that’s a very important part of what I do for the commander, in addition to making sure the customer is satisfied as well as recommending the team chief for certification,” Barkheimer said.
Aside from certifying new positions and ensuring successful project completion, customer satisfaction is paramount for the 205th EIS, who can oftentimes finish projects at a much more competitive monetary rate than a contracted agency would be able to do.
“We may take longer because we have more processes to go through than the contractors,” said Juergens “It’s still the same quality of work. It’s also cheaper for us, but it just takes longer to do it.”
As a line of communication between ground personnel and aircrews, the radios installed at Andersen AFB and the other bases are an integral part of day-to-day air traffic control operations. Customer satisfaction with something so vital is going to be both important for the 205th EIS as they come out of this nearly year-long process for the installation, as well as for the squadron’s future working relationship with the 36th OSS. But for both the overseas radio installations and for Dzon as team chief, those three years have finally come to a close.