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Eielson Command Post: controllers operate as communicators and liaisons

EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska -- In Amber Hall's deep recesses, a small group keeps a watchful eye over the installation. Tucked out of sight, they work 'round-the-clock amidst flickering monitors, the chatter of radios and the faint sounds emitted from televisions with late-breaking news, prepared to disseminate any information critical to sustaining the mission at Eielson Air Force Base.

Command post controllers carry out numerous responsibilities, interacting with potentially every agency on base to facilitate mission operations. From taking noise complaints to emergency situations, the Airmen who fulfill this fundamental role take it upon themselves to make sure Eielson's mission does not a skip a beat.

"When you understand the importance of the shared mission at Eielson between the 354th Fighter Wing command post and the 168th Air Refueling Wing command post, you realize the breadth of experience it brings," said Master Sgt. Shawn Morrissey, 168th ARW command post superintendent. "The resulting product is known as an 'Associated Command Post,' run by a competent and cohesive team made up of active duty and guard personnel with the capability to enhance the mission."

"We are kind of like a melting pot," added Master Sgt. Caleb Gibson, 354th FW command post superintendent.

Gibson shares some of the same responsibilities as Morrissey, who works alongside him. The two recognize the significance of having diverse skill sets as a result of "Total Force" initiatives and how they help create a firm foundation and working knowledge of the different agencies and their functions.

Together they observe the installation's daily activities and communicate leadership's key messages, enabling quick response capabilities. Various communication systems such as Giant Voice, which can be heard as a public announcement throughout the base, e-mail, telephone, radio, and desktop alerts, allow controllers to maintain constant contact with on-base agencies to collect accurate information.

In turn, the same agencies rely on the Airmen in the command post to distribute accurate facts and figures to enhance mission capabilities.
Professionalism reverberates through the command post, from the youngest ranking Airman and up, to ensure that information flows accordingly. This particular career field demands Airmen keep a level head regardless of their audience.

Gibson said Airmen often interact with Wing leadership, relaying pertinent information on current base activities in both a timely and professional manner. Learning to perform tasks, such as relaying information to the wing commander, builds skills necessary to execute appropriate actions without hesitation in any situation.

"We are one of the only career fields where most junior Airmen have day-to-day contact with the wing commander," said Gibson. "Our Airmen have to think on their feet, articulate and think in advance of questions General Post might be asking. That way they already have the information by the time they are calling him."

But before command post controllers become skilled professionals, Gibson and Morrissey said each controller undergoes a rigorous training certification. Training develops controllers into confident communicators who can react under a given situation and provide decisive information.

"The most critical thing is information dissemination," Morrissey said. "We've got to be able to ask the right questions, take the information and get it to the applicable agencies and leadership in a timely manner. It's as close to real-time as we can get. It's our goal to get that information out as quick as possible."

And while quick distribution of information is one of their core competencies, controllers' extensive training in emergency management is critical, said Morrissey and Gibson. A certain level of intuition helps Airmen act proactively and approach each situation calmly and decisively.

Gibson said there is nothing worse than facing a challenging scenario where you have to stop to think about your next move, when what you really need is an immediate response.

"Muscle memory is being able to react," said Gibson. "Your checklists are there to guide you, but really it's more about muscle memory -- being familiar with all the agencies, procedures, and everything the command post controller has to do in any given scenario."

Command post controllers are entrusted with information -- an invaluable resource necessary to preserve the mission at Eielson. While they carry out responsibilities 24/7, their communication capabilities and vigilant management of Eielson ensure constant surveillance and up-to-date dissemination of information.