By Senior Airman Jacob Morgan
380th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
SOUTHWEST ASIA — The radio frequency transmissions shop maintains a range of radio equipment from high frequency weather update systems to ultra-high frequency satellite communications. The technicians find, maintain, fix or replace broken communications equipment in underground bunkers or on towers.
The transmissions technicians mainly work with equipment emitting radio waves. These waves carry messages intended for a receiver on the other side. Each piece of equipment along the way: radio transmitter, trunk system, antennas, receiver, microphone and others are inspected on a rotation to keep the 380th Air Expeditionary Wing communicating on the ground and in the air.
“A lot of us come from a tactical background where we have less capability and equipment,” said U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Tavaron Marshall, 380th Expeditionary Communications Squadron NCO in charge of radio frequency transmissions, deployed from Holloman, N.M. “So, the day-to-day is not that difficult. We have a lot more equipment to work with and the motivation of my team helps us accomplish the mission.”
The shop is broken down into two major components, satellite communications and everything else on base using radio frequency to communicate.
A large portion of the workload is keeping up with all LMRs on the installation and making sure the networking system is up and running.
“We replace parts and fix radios or send them off to be fixed,” said Staff Sgt. Brandon Smith, 380th ECS radio frequency transmissions supervisor, deployed from RAF Croughton, England. “Most of the user error is easily fixed. The two most important fixes are screwing in the antennae to make sure it is all the way in and re-keying the radio from time-to-time.”
Fixing the hand-held radios is just a portion of the LMR mission. To communicate between the hand-held radios, a networking system, or trunk system, has to be maintained. This sometimes requires climbing a tower to do an inspection.
“Imagine having one frequency, where only one person could speak and hundreds could listen” said Smith. “The trunk system allows multiple frequencies at once and also scrambles them. You push the button on your radio which goes to a repeater and relays the signal to the trunk system. The trunk amplifies the signal and sends it to the channel you’re trying to communicate with connecting you to the other side.”
To keep up with the other numerous pieces of equipment, the radio frequency shop set up a preventative maintenance inspections schedule. To work on the antenna equipment, it often requires the members of the radio frequency shop to climb hot metal towers.
The other missions of 380th ECS radio frequency shop require a significant amount of knowledge on the difference between high frequency, very high frequency and ultra-high frequency equipment.
The main difference between high frequency and very high frequency or ultra-high frequency is the frequency range.
The radio frequency team will get the opportunity to install new radio telephone systems here, a project the team is looking forward to, said Smith.
“Most of the stuff we get to do here, we don’t get to do back at home station, so it makes this deployment very rewarding,” said Smith. “It helps that we have a great team and all of our guys are really knowledgeable. In terms of experience and motivation, our squadron is one of the best I have been a part of in 12 years. People want to get stuff done here.”