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Not all heroes wear capes

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. – Brian Tillman, 21st Communications Squadron trunked land mobile radio technician, and Clint Wilson, 21st CS trunked land mobile radio administrator, upgraded the TLMR at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., to better serve the entire base and the surrounding community when disasters strike. The TLMR is interlinked into Peterson AFB, Schriever AFB, the U.S. Air Force Academy and Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Dennis Hoffman)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. – Brian Tillman, 21st Communications Squadron trunked land mobile radio technician, and Clint Wilson, 21st CS trunked land mobile radio administrator, upgraded the TLMR at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., to better serve the entire base and the surrounding community when disasters strike. The TLMR is interlinked into Peterson AFB, Schriever AFB, the U.S. Air Force Academy and Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Dennis Hoffman)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. – Brian Tillman, 21st Communications Squadron trunked land mobile radio technician, holds one of the new multi-band radios acquired during the second upgrade to the Trunked Land Mobile Radio at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., Dec. 2, 2016. Falling in line with the Commander’s intent, the TLMR allows the 21st Space Wing to edge closer to its goal of saving lives and being good stewards to Airmen and the Colorado Springs community. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Dennis Hoffman)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. – Brian Tillman, 21st Communications Squadron trunked land mobile radio technician, holds one of the new multi-band radios acquired during the second upgrade to the Trunked Land Mobile Radio at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., Dec. 2, 2016. Falling in line with the Commander’s intent, the TLMR allows the 21st Space Wing to edge closer to its goal of saving lives and being good stewards to Airmen and the Colorado Springs community. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Dennis Hoffman)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- Not all heroes wear capes.

Not all heroes wear stethoscopes around their necks, ride in loud fire engines nor stand on the front lines of a battle. Some heroes work humbly behind the scenes manning and servicing the less glamorous, yet crucially important resources heroes need to be heroes.

Communications squadrons have a reputation for fixing only computer issues and retrieving lost emails, but 21st Communications Squadron impacts more than just typical tech problems. The lives of civilian and military residents in Colorado Springs are directly impacted by their effectiveness to provide seamless communication between base personnel and all mutual aid partners in the area.

Brian Tillman, 21st CS trunked land mobile radio technician, and Clint Wilson, 21st CS trunked land mobile radio administrator, upgraded the TLMR at Peterson Air Force Base to better serve the entire base and the surrounding community especially when disasters strike.

The TLMR is interlinked into Peterson AFB, Schriever AFB, the U.S. Air Force Academy and Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station, said Tillman.

The first upgrade came during June 2016 with Wilson upgrading the infrastructure and software end of the TLMR, which hadn’t been upgraded since it was installed in 2004.

“Before we had an analog system with category 5 cable, which could fail and did fail,” said Wilson. “We installed 12 new dispatch consoles and replaced the central electronics bank from a three-rack configuration into a switch and a server that fires out the signal to each building’s new consoles through fiber optical cables.”

Because of the new fiber optical cables, the clarity of the message sent over the radio is far better than what was originally experienced, cutting down on any miscommunication and confusion that could come from the stress of an emergency situation, said Wilson.

Now, with a revitalized infrastructure and solid backbone, Wilson said his next upgrade dealt with providing all emergency response units, base-wide and local area, a brand new platform to communicate through.

Among the many minor upgrades to the software, there are two features that will stand out as crucial components in emergency response, said Wilson.

The first being the ability to patch mutual aid resources into the 21st Space Wing’s communication network through the TLMR system and network all appropriate radio traffic into one communication group.

The second feature allows users to instantly replay a message sent out over the radio. Wilson said not only can this be helpful to users if not all the information is initially received or acknowledged, but the instant replay also adds accountability to all users on the TLMR system.

“This is the main feature that I like and the users like,” said Wilson.

Moving beyond the new state-of-the-art TLMR infrastructure, Tillman then complimented the new software with allocating end-user equipment to actually communicate over the TLMR.

“My upgrade essentially replaced all the handheld radios, the vehicle radios and the fixed base stations,” said Tillman.

Requests were sent to all the unit TLMR custodians asking for their wish list of what their preferences were if newer TLMRs were available, Tillman said. An overwhelming majority replied back pleading for multi-frequency capable radios.

Tillman reached out to the Pikes Peak Regional Communications Network system manager requesting mutual aid access authorization to their TLMR. The PPRCN is the local TLMR for the City of Colorado Springs, El Paso County and State of Colorado. The PPRCN authorized the usage of 270 Peterson AFB first responder TLMRs be used on the PPRCN system. This access has allowed Peterson AFB other avenues of communications with the local entities.

“If there was a scenario like the Waldo Canyon fire or the Black Forest fire, the Peterson AFB emergency responders could deploy the Mobile Emergency Operations Center. The MEOC has the capability to communicate within the State of Colorado, Colorado Springs, El Paso County and federal and military aircraft,” said Tillman. “The responders would have the resources they need to communicate if there was an event warranting a mutual aid response.”

At a total cost of $5 million for all upgrades to be implemented, the price fails to compare to the cost of potential devastation and loss of life the new TLMR can prevent by shaving seconds, if not minutes, on emergency response times, said Tillman and Wilson.

According to the 21st Space Wing 2015-2017 Strategic Plan written by Col. Doug Schiess, 21st SW commander, and base leadership states in objective seven that the 21st SW aims to strengthen processes and partnerships to support the local community in emergency and crisis response. The 21st SW aims to build upon strong partnerships with Colorado Springs, El Paso County, and Cheyenne Mountain State Park.

After two major fires in west and north Colorado Springs, southwest Colorado Springs (the area surrounding Cheyenne Mountain AFS) remains thick with potential fuel for wildfires. Additionally, Cheyenne Mountain AFS is closer to and can respond faster to parts of the Broadmoor Area than Colorado Springs Fire Department. A coordinated response, in accordance with previously signed mutual aid agreements, is key to saving lives.

Falling in line with the Commander’s intent, the TLMR allows the 21st SW to edge closer to its goal of saving lives and being good stewards to Airmen and the Colorado Springs community.

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