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Combat Crew Communications: Gatekeepers of COMSEC

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Nick Wilson
  • 509th Bomb Wing Public Affairs
Whether an air traffic controller needs to speak to an incoming pilot or a team of pilots need to speak to one another in flight, Airmen working in the combat crew communications career field are prepared to ensure pilots can make any type of in-flight communication when the mission calls for it.

Airmen from the 509th Operations Support Squadron Combat Crew Communications shop directly support the B-2 Spirit mission by providing communications security training and communications documents and equipment to aircrews.

"We provide any special communications requests to aircrew and ensure all of their equipment is in working order before they fly sorties," said Airman 1st Class Kenneth Scott, 509th OSS combat crew communications technician. "Here at Whiteman we support the B-2, but our career field provides support to tankers, reconnaissance aircraft and cargo transport aircraft across the Air Force."

In addition to responding to requests that include encrypting and encoding secure lines of communications for pilots, Airmen like Scott are responsible for providing flight publications that aid pilots during flight.

"These flight publications guide pilots as they approach various runways," Scott said. "They are books that give pilots information on the airfield they are approaching and any buildings they would need to be aware of. We have a flight publication for every possible airfield the B-2 can land on."

Every 30 days the flight updates approximately 900 publications, or approximately 2,000 pounds of books every month, according to Scott.

"Our inventory is removed and replaced with the new shipment of books that arrives every month," Scott said. "It is a tedious process but it is rewarding and worthwhile every time we see our pilots return home safely."

Along with the flight publications, combat crew communications Airmen provide pilots with documents that are used for communications security.

"These documents help aircrew members ensure damaging information won't be leaked to any unauthorized source, thus ensuring communications are safe, secure and effective," Scott said.

Combat Crew Communications Airmen support daily operations by providing radios on the jet that allow pilots to communicate with whoever they need to in a moment's notice, according to Tech. Sgt. Keith Harvey, 509th OSS combat crew communications section chief.

"What we provide supports every B-2 sortie that takes off of Whiteman, whether it is training or real-world," Harvey said. "We train like we fight."

In conjunction with equipment and documents that are provided to aircrew personnel, combat crew communications Airmen also provide pilots on updates to documents and equipment used in flights. All B-2 pilots are required to be re-certified on their equipment biannually. The training ensures pilots are competent for the mission at hand and they understand how to use the equipment and material they receive.

"When I hand that equipment and flight publication to the aircrew member, he knows exactly what to do with it," Harvey said. "Without the items we give pilots, they have a chance of risking safety in the event of an in-flight emergency. We ensure aircrew members can arrive to their destination safely and fall back to their training and flight publications if there ever is an emergency."

Whether training aircrew members on COMSEC equipment or providing secure communications capabilities to pilots, the B-2 would not be as combat effective without Airmen from the Combat Crew Communications flight working behind the scenes to support the mission.