Base Comms team provides support, ensures connectivity during pandemic posture

  • Published
  • By Bradley Hicks

The Operationally Urgent posture now in place at Arnold Air Force Base brought with it many changes, but one thing remains the same – the support of computer and network systems is as important as ever.

The Arnold Engineering Development Complex Base Communications and Information Technology Services team continues its work to ensure personnel both remaining on base and teleworking have the hardware, software, and network support needed to complete their jobs and that the workforce can remain connected during current conditions.

“Base Comms is critical to AEDC operations,” said Gilbert de la Cerda, BCITS Program Manager. “Ensuring the workforce has access to the systems they need to support the mission, which in turn supports the warfighter, is essential. Support of the network, servers and systems is an ongoing requirement and even more critical as the base population experiences challenges during the current posture.”

The Operationally Urgent posture took effect at Arnold AFB on April 6 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. During this time, some mission activities are curtailed and access to the base is limited to employees required to complete critical test missions and support functions.

Like other areas of the base, some members of the BCITS team are required to be on base while others are currently teleworking.

De la Cerda said that without the efforts of the BCITS team, teleworking across AEDC is not viable. He said the fact that systems remain operational and available for testing demonstrates how valuable BCITS is to mission support.

“The BCITS team has done a phenomenal job responding to all the demands created with the onset of the COVID pandemic,” de la Cerda said. “Our team has tackled the challenges of supporting a large telework force while maintaining services to support AEDC’s unique mission. I am proud to be a part of a group of professionals who are completely dedicated to our mission.”

More than 125 employees support the BCITS contract at Arnold, the National Full-Scale Aerodynamics Complex at Moffett Field in Mountain View, California and the AEDC Hypervelocity Wind Tunnel 9 in White Oak, Maryland. Approximately 40 percent of this team remains on base to support the AEDC mission and its customers. The remaining members of the team remain engaged in a telework environment.

De la Cerda described the BCITS team as a group of “persistent and dedicated professionals who are committed to supporting the AEDC mission and customers.”

“On any given day, approximately 40 percent of the team remains on Arnold AFB to ensure customers’ needs are met and the test mission continues,” he said. “All BCITS services continue to be supported in the current posture.”

The BCITS team is comprised of several groups that cover a variety of functional areas. These groups include AEDC Test Mission Support Systems, Asset Management, Client Support and Help Desk, Computer Network Technicians (CNTs), Information Assurance, Knowledge Management, Network Operations, Server and Systems Administration (SSA), and Telecommunications and Technical Support.

The Network Operations and Telecommunications teams remain onsite during the current posture to support mission-critical personnel and projects. An example of the latter is the renovation of the Arnold AFB Visitors Center, an undertaking that has also received significant contributions from the CNTs during the Operationally Urgent posture. The team brought the Visitor Center back online, set up personnel computer equipment and provided network connectivity to the entire building.

“We met the demand for reloading and preparing laptop computers in preparation for telework customers,” de la Cerda said. “We enabled cameras and microphones on several laptops to support the increase of video conferencing. We have been flexible to meet the customers’ needs by meeting them at Pass and ID or scheduling time with them to bring their laptops in for us to configure. We have provided priority response to the customers that are essential to the mission and working on base during the pandemic.”

The day-to-day support activities performed by the SSA group continues with personnel on base and those teleworking. Telework activities remain manageable due to a system administrator remaining on base for support.

“If there is a requirement for additional onsite support, our personnel currently teleworking will be deployed to address specific support issues, coordinating with other onsite personnel in advance to maximize social distancing,” de la Cerda said.

The Knowledge Management staff has teleworked for the past few weeks and, according to de la Cerda, has been able to provide “excellent customer service in each area.”

“Our publications and forms team continues to provide engineers support from the Technical Library staff,” de la Cerda said. “Being able to get to SharePoint sites while working at home or on base is extremely important, as well.”

The BCITS team is performing its work while taking the necessary precautions to limit potential COVID-19 exposure. Its members must maintain a minimum 6-foot social distance when possible and wear face coverings. Meetings continue to occur and are being conducted through various means such as conference calls and Skype.

“Touching everyone’s keyboard, mice and using phones is a major concern, so we try to disconnect the device and take it to a more sanitary environment,” de la Cerda said.

Warranty repairs have been impacted as off-base support has not been allowed. Customers understand we’re not operating in a normal environment and they have been patient as we face new challenges while supporting their requirements.

“In addition, BCITS has been able to continue project work, as well, by working on tasks that can be performed remotely or tasks that can be performed in isolation.”
De la Cerda said the efforts of the BCITS personnel during this time has been a source of pride for him.

“I am proud and honored to lead the BCITS team,” he said. “OBXtek Inc. and our subcontractors are committed to the AEDC mission. The selfless service and dedication observed during the onset of the pandemic is inspiring. At no time in the history of AEDC has it been more evident that information technology, personal computers and the support of them are vital to the mission. The BCITS team is mission-oriented, and I’m fortunate to be surrounded by committed and dedicated professionals.”

Nicole Tracey, Services Acquisition Program Manager for the BCITS contract, also lauded the efforts of the BCITS team in the current posture.

“The current operational posture under Tier 2 conditions has driven a significant shift in the way people across AEDC are performing their duties and responsibilities,” she said. “Whether someone is teleworking or onsite, maintaining connectivity to one another is vital to ensure AEDC continues to meet its mission. I commend the BCITS team for its dedication to keep base communications networks, servers and systems available to the AEDC workforce during this extended and unique operational posture.”