228th likes life in remodeled facility

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By Lance Coleman
Senior reporter
Blount Today

One look at the temporary digs the 228th Combat Communications Squadron used for 18 months and it is easy to see why the personnel like their newly-renovated facility.

For 18 months, they were housed in tents.

Dignitaries cut the ribbon on the 20,000 square foot structure at McGhee Tyson Air National Guard base in December.

Driving through the airbase property to the new 228th facility, visitors can see a row of tents set up across the street from the newly renovated and expanded building. The Combat Communications Squadron moved into those tents while their current facility was being remodeled.

Chief Master Sgt. Terry Arnold and Master Sgt. Terry Walker said the renovations are helping the personnel of the 228th have training that is more relevant to today’s work place while at the same time helping them be better trained for the challenges of tomorrow.

The facility was originally about 12,000 square feet. With the renovation and expansion it takes up about 20,000 square feet.

"We gutted everything except for the vault and the block wall. Everything else came out," said Fru-Con project manager Richard Donlin. Fru-Con is a St. Louis contracting company.

Walker said there are 107 personnel using the facility, which has a capacity of 130. Walker said that even though the squadron’s facility has grown, the technology they’re using has only grown smaller. "What we did with trucks and van, we do in boxes," he said. "We’re more up-to-date with 21st century technology."

"We’ve got a lot more capability with a lot less equipment," Walker said.

According to Walker, the equipment the squadron uses is on the same level as the equipment used commercially. Often part-time squadron members can use what they learn there in the jobs they do in the working world, Arnold said.

Walker said the squadron’s mission involves going into a bare base and getting communications functioning and then maintaining it until the operations become fixed or permanent. "With Katrina, we went to a field. There was nothing. Within 24 hours we started transmitting data and voice," he said of the squadron’s response to Louisiana following Hurricane Katrina.

They operated outside of Lake Charles and transmitted the voice and data information for those in Lake Charles using their satellite trucks. There were 35 personnel from the squadron that served in Louisiana, Arnold said.

"Lake Charles didn’t have communications," Walker said. "We were able to push the calls (to satellite dishes in space)."

Arnold said the expanded building’s training capabilities of simply having personnel from different communications disciplines working in the same room has made a difference. Previously, the voice personnel were working in a different room than the data personnel. "Now we sit in the same room and cross-train," he said. "It makes each individual stronger, which makes the unit stronger."

Arnold said another positive attribute about the renovated facility is the additional capability during drill weekends. Often before the remodeling, personnel would have to run cables and cords on the floors throughout several offices to create connections and have power. Now those cables and cords are hanging from the exposed ceilings. Arnold credited Walker for adding this amenity.

"(The renovated facility) provides a better working environment and protects the equipment from the environment," Arnold said. "There’s a lot of money spent on upkeep."

Walker said because the personnel are in a better facility with better equipment, they’re better prepared. "It helps training tremendously," he said.

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