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A little help please?
6th Communications Squadron Help Desk comes to the rescue

by 2nd Lt. Omar Villarreal
Area Defense Counsel

photo by 2nd Lt. Omar Villarreal

Airman 1st Class Brian Smith and Senior Airmen Marilyn Morgan, Joshua Sandefur and Raymond Castillo field calls from those in need around the base Tuesday. Those who work the Help Desk ensure someone is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

If there's something strange and it doesn't look good, who you gonna call? Ghost... No, no... not the Ghostbusters.

Servicemembers here know the 6th Communication Squadron's Help Desk is the place to go for assistance with all their computer network problems. Help Desk technicians work hand in hand with their first line of defense, unit Client Support Administrators, to ensure all computer issues are solved.

Help Desk technicians work 12-hour days and are flooded with phone calls from anguished, seemingly helpless souls throughout most of it. Where a normal person might go crazy, Help Desk technicians, handle each phone call with the calmness and professionalism of medical surgeons.

Those who work the Help Desk rotate shifts every four months to ensure someone is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. They are responsible for the smooth operation of nearly 3,000 computers. That's a scary thought considering computers sometimes seem to have minds of their own.

"Listening, understanding, knowing how to problem solve and being patient are the keys of ensuring the Help Desk remains successful," said Tech. Sgt. Derek Greene, noncommissioned officer in charge of network operations.

As a Help Desk technician, Airman 1st Class Christina Alfaro, deals with a heavy volume of customers by phone, e-mail and in person on a daily basis.

"With all the incoming phone calls, all the technicians here stay really busy," she said.

Most of her calls are simple ones, with one of the most common being from forgetful types who need their security password reset, she said. "Mondays seem to be one of our busiest days, and that's more than likely because people forget their passwords over the weekend."

Senior Airman Adam Jacobson, also a Help Desk technician, added that everyday is different, but about 90 percent of the major problems the technicians deal with are e-mail outages.

"What's your name, are you a Client Support Administrator and where are you located," he asked a caller during a recent cry for help. All customers should contact their CSA before calling the Help Desk to figure out just what needs to be fixed, he said.

Once the Help Desk gets the basic information from a caller, they attempt to diagnose the problem through a process of elimination. "Most of the time I can help them over the phone, but it all depends on what the problem is," said Airman Jacobson.

If the Help Desk can't talk a customer back to normalcy over the phone, technicians sometimes take control of the sick computer by remote access, which allows them to control the machine over a network connection, Airman Alfaro said. That's when some computer users get freaked out.

"Some people think it's a ghost when I take control of their machine," she said.

When all else fails, Airman Alfaro or a fellow technician fills out a work order so someone is able to make a house call to fix the problem. It's important for technicians to be patient with the customers and it's equally important for the caller to be patient with the technicians, said Airman Jacobson. "Customers should understand that we will fix their problem, but it may take time," he said.

The Help Desk is swamped with calls all day long, but for computer users at MacDill, Airman Alfaro, Airman Jacobson and their co-workers really are a lot like Ghostbusters.

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