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Command Post an often unseen force behind mission success

Story and photo by Nick Stubbs
Thunderbolt staff writer

Staff Sgt. James Harris and Senior Airman Rodrick Taylor, 6th Air Mobility Wing Command Post, maintain a constant vigil while at the command console. If all goes well, no one even knows they are there.

There are four security doors between the outside world and the inner sanctum of the Command Post. When all is going smoothly at MacDill, chances are there is an invisible force working behind the scenes to make sure of it.

The achievement of going "unnoticed" is what the 6th Air Mobility Command Post strives for, said Maj. Ken Ernewein, chief of the Command Post. That's because the alternative is being noticed, he joked, and when that happens it usually is when the Command Post stumbles.

"When you are doing a good job, you are ignored," said Major Ernewein. "When there's a mess up, every one notices."

Major Ernewein isn't complaining and says the Command Post receives its due and often is recognized for the work it does but he also notes it's one of those types of jobs that is easy to overlook on a day-to-day basis. Like a traffic light, when it is working and the timing is set right, everything runs smoothly. Miss a beat and the backlash can reverberate around the entire base.

The primary jobs of the Command Post include command and control, mission monitoring, handling emergency messages and accommodating distinguished visitors. The job is unique in that it runs from the mundane task of answering questions about a routine meeting time to routing and facilitating communications between commanders in the event of nuclear war.

But the real pressure of the job for 30 military and civilian personnel is that the Command Post is expected to be able to answer any question at any time.

"And if we can't answer the question, we have to know where to get the answer - and fast," said Major Ernewein, who notes that question could come from anyone from a commander at MacDill to a four-star general or the secretary of state.

One critical task which falls to the Command Post is mission-monitoring. When the base commander calls or a general from another base or someone on a mission calls to get an update, he expects answers, said Major Ernewein, noting the Command Post staff is up to the task.

"This is a great group of folks to work with," he said. "Everyone is dedicated to getting the job done on time and right the first time."

Still, there is plenty of room for error when you are at the very hub of operations. Information comes in and goes out quickly, particularly at times of high operations tempo. The volume of information can be overwhelming at times but that is what Command Post personnel train to handle. It's that high level of performance during peak traffic periods that is the objective and if all goes well, the Command Post melts into the background. To some, going unnoticed might seem like a slight but in fact is the goal.

So the next time a mission comes off without a hitch, it might be wise to examine the role played by the command and control traffic cops behind the scenes at the Command Post, making sure everyone stays in their lanes and gets where they are going safely and on time.

 

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