434th CS Airmen ensure mission success through pandemic and beyond

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Jonathan Stefanko
  • 434th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs

The COVID-19 pandemic changed us. It changed the way we work, the way we travel, and the way we interact with one another.

While change is often met with resistance, the 434th Communications Squadron embraced the challenge in front of them and stepped up to ensure the information systems used by Grissom Airmen, whether remote or in garrison, stayed connected and protected.

As the need for remote work grew, so too did the tools available to aid with collaboration. However, many of the programs made available also came with their challenges.

"We received an influx of requests for help within the first few weeks of COVID," said Master Sgt. Joshua Sandefur, 434th CS client systems technician. "Working remote was a learning experience for both the technicians and the customers, but I think we did a great job communicating and assisting the Grissom team through the challenges."

A new tool that was invaluable in making remote work possible, Sandefur noted, was the Desktop Anywhere software. The tool allowed users access to all .mil websites, SharePoint sites, shared drives, and their office's desktop from home.  

The communicators also modified their inventory of Chromebooks, Google's brand of laptops, and made them available for users to access the Air Force network safely and securely from home.

"The Chromebooks initially did not allow users to access the networks due to a compatibility issue," said Staff Sgt. Justin Sullivan, 434th CS client systems technician. "However, we figured out that we could install Linux OS on the Chromebooks, which made access to the NIPRNet possible for anyone who needs to use the devices."

The laptops are intended for those who need to borrow a computer to do remote work. They are available through kiosks around the base and can be checked out with a common access card.

"Getting the Chromebooks to work for the customer was a huge accomplishment for us, and it wouldn't have been possible without Sullivan's ingenuity," Sandefur said. "He saw a problem, worked a solution, and released a useable product--all within a few months."

Top Air Force leaders also expressed the importance of adopting telework during the Air Force Association 2020 Virtual Air, Space and Cyber Conference, held Sept. 14.

"We fully embrace this culture of teleworking," said Air Force Reserve Chief Lt. Gen. Richard Scobee. "Even in the post-pandemic environment that we will find ourselves in eventually, a teleworking culture can remove barriers for us and the reserve component. It's really about making it easier for Airmen to serve. I want all our Airmen to find it easy to continue to serve, whether it's in a part-time or full-time capacity."

Whether it's a problem today or new challenges in the future, the 434th CS team is ready to help Grissom continue its mission. For communication support, call the Communication Focal Point at 688 2525.

The 434th ARW is the largest KC-135R Stratotanker unit in the Air Force Reserve Command. The Citizen Airmen from the Hoosier Wing routinely deploy around the world in support of the Air Force mission.

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