KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. --
From text alerts about inclement weather to desktop pop-ups updating health protection condition levels to a voice in the sky warning those outdoors of extreme temperatures, Command Post Airmen, though often unseen, are prevalent in the lives of their fellow Keesler personnel.
The most widely known action by the Keesler Command Post may be the texts and “Giant Voice” announcements Airmen and base personnel receive about serious safety issues including tornados, hurricanes, shelter in place, lockdowns, and special commander alerts, but those notifications are a fraction of the command and control actions taken within the post.
“The base command post is the central control point for base mission operations and often is in direct communication with the Wing commanders,” said Senior Master Sgt. Brian Harms, 403rd Wing Command Post superintendent. “And yes, we manage the AtHoc system that ‘bugs’ everybody with texts.”
Harms explained that command and control, aka C2, operations personnel are key to not only managing emergency mass notification systems, but they also provide C2 support for all aircraft movement on the installation.
The controllers manage Keesler’s operational reporting and emergency actions reporting programs for reports sent to and received from higher headquarters. They coordinate with key leaders and first responders on all emergency situations within their responsibilities.
“You’ve got to be able to act immediately on emergency situations and convey that to wing leadership,” said Harms “Some people get nervous talking directly to high ranking officials, but that is a critical part of the job.”
Master Sgt. Shawna Smith, 403rd Wing CP command and control operations training non-commissioned officer in charge, emphasizes the timeliness in the execution of their duties.
“You must recognize the significance of relaying information, which may assist leadership to make crucial decisions that can affect the safety of personnel and resources,” she said. “Command Post duties require efficient and effective communication.”
Harms said, that due to security requirements, sometimes there are no opportunities to leave for a meal break, and the facility has no windows, making the post feel like being “locked in a dungeon,” for at least an eight hour shift.
“When something bad happens, you’ve got six phones ringing and radio calls coming in. You also have higher headquarters reports you must submit within 15 minutes,” said Harms. “So much of what we do is phone and radio communications while also being able to run through checklists at the same time.”
Harms describes the checklists as “living documents” that “evolve” over time that must be updated and revised in order to better prepare for future situations involving command post capabilities.
Preparation is essential to serving in the command post, said Smith.
“As a controller, it’s your responsibility to disseminate time sensitive information to save lives and protect resources,” she said. “You must always be prepared to perform C2 operations for any situation, at any time.”
Yet all that pressure to perform can make a diamond in the rough that is refined over time with experience according to Harms.
“At this point in my career, one of the biggest rewards for me is seeing one of my new Airmen who is initially shocked by what is expected of them, and to watch them grow and be certified to do the job by themselves,” Harms said.
So, the next time you receive an AtHoc text message about a weather event or hear a Giant Voice announcement on the base, you will know that a Command Post specialist is responsible for keeping you and Wing leaders informed.