Command Post: The brain of the base
MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan -- In a dimly lit room buried three stories underground, two Airmen sit poised, their faces illuminated by monitors as they survey and react to any incoming information and intelligence flashing across their screens.
These Airmen are controllers for the 35th Fighter Wing's Command Post, and act as sentinels for Misawa Air Base, Japan.
Manned by at least two controllers at all times, the Command Post console is connected to numerous networks, communication lines and alert systems that ensure every agency on base will be connected and assisted expeditiously.
"The Command and Control provided by the Command Post ranges from disseminating notifications of a pilot declaring an in-flight emergency upon landing, all the way to a higher headquarters alert message directing the 35th Fighter Wing to support contingency operations down range," said Master Sgt. Timothy McCray, Command Post superintendent. "Our mission and responsibility is very important to Misawa."
The Command Post acts as the brain for Misawa AB as the conduit for all incoming information, such as emergencies, tracking flights, and operations with the commander.
"We're essentially the eyes and ears for the commander," said Staff Sgt. Rebecca Bright-Zell, senior controller. "Pacific Air Forces tasks us with an objective and we coordinate with Colonel Williams, 35 Fighter Wing commander, on how to best execute it."
With a team of 15 Airmen, Misawa's Command Post team is well versed in making sure base agencies are properly notified at all times.
When emergency situations arise, the Command Post's job is to coordinate with agencies like the 35th Security Forces Squadron, Civil Engineering Squadron and Operations Support Squadron.
If an aircraft is in dire need of assistance, the Command Post will contact these agencies to dispatch maintenance teams or members from the 35th Medical Group to ensure operations are carried out smoothly and communication is maintained between all parties.
"Emergency coordination is extremely important," said Airman 1st Class Luz Sanchez, emergency actions controller. "If you can't notify these squadrons promptly, it can be very detrimental to the situation."
Once the dispatched teams have responded to the emergency presented, they contact the Command Post to report back important findings or information.
"After we receive confirmation from those agencies, we gather that information to be forwarded to Colonel Williams," said Bright-Zell. "From there, we'll relay the situation to him and ask for his opinions and thoughts on how to execute the next plan."
In addition to daily responsibilities and responding to emergency situations, the Command Post plays a big part in base-wide exercises. With their building acting as the home for the emergency operations center, the Command Post is able to carry out the needs of the various commanders expediently.
"I really enjoy when the EOC is being set up during exercises. It gives you a good look at how things work when carrying out the mission," Sanchez said. "You get to see everyone working together and coordinating with each other as if it were a real event."
Although the Command Post has a multitude of daily tasks, rotating teams of senior controllers and junior controllers make time for essential training.
"As a junior controller you are learning how the information you acquire and how fast you can get it out can be crucial to everyone," Sanchez said. "You learn, with time and the guidance of experienced senior controllers, how to differentiate between standard information and mission critical knowledge."
"The Command Post is not just the 'Giant Voice' for Misawa. We react to real-world emergencies and are behind every situation taking place at Misawa on or off base," said Command Post Chief Maj. Erick G. Fonseca. "Our team makes things happen. We reach out to anyone who needs assistance, and we do it promptly."