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Keeping Airmen connected

  • Published
  • By Chris Willis
  • 341st Missile Wing Public Affairs
Keeping Airmen in contact between the base and missile field is crucial for mission success. This is where the members of the 341st Communications Squadron base radio maintenance shop take the lead. They are the front line for maintaining all base radios, making sure members of Malmstrom Air Force Base, Montana, have clear communication.

The shop maintains more than 1,100 portable radios, 600 mobile radios and 70 base stations located throughout the base and the missile complex.

One very important tool for the shop is the service monitor. It is a calibrated piece of test equipment that incorporates the functions of various separate pieces of test equipment.  It replaces a watt meter, dummy load, frequency counter, distortion analyzer and modulation scope. The monitor combines all the different service monitors functions into one single service monitor.

"I can hook up a radio to its input and test all these different parameters at the same time," said Bruce Clark, 341st CS base radio maintenance technician. "On the display screen of the service monitor I can see, all at the same time, the radio frequency output power of the radio, the frequency it is transmitting on, the stability and accuracy of the frequency, the frequency modulation deviation rate of the transmit frequency and the modulation index of the transmitted signal." 

The service monitor can also be configured to test the sensitivity of the radio, among other things. If the service monitor indicates a low output level, less than one-half watt, the shop knows the radio has an internal problem that requires further troubleshooting.

Base radio also maintains a very high frequency FM digital trunked radio system.

"We install and maintain mobile radios into all the vehicles that dispatch out to the missile field," said Clark. "Vehicle types range from the wing commander's staff car to dump trucks, road graders, front-end loaders, backhoes, Bearcat armored vehicles, transport erector tractors and tractor trailer trucks."

The shop also maintains a total of eight repeater sites that support the land mobile radio system, one is on base and the other seven are located throughout the missile complex.  The shop dispatches out to the missile fields and various repeater sites to perform preventative maintenance and repair inoperative base stations.

The highest repeater site is located on top of Highwood Baldy Mountain, which has an elevation of 7,670 feet, during the winter months the only way up to the site is by helicopter.

"After dropping us off the helicopter crew will keep the engines running using the down force from the blade to not get stuck in the snow," said Clark.  "That means we have to work as fast as possible to fix the problem and get back on the helicopter. You don't want to get left behind out there, it is a long way down from the top."