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Cable and antenna maintenance: connecting your world

CHEYENNE MOUNTAIN AIR FORCE STATION, Colo. – Senior Airman Dakota Blankenship, 21st Communications Squadron cable and antenna maintenance technician, checks a cable to see if there is power where it should be 100 feet up a tower in July 2014. Those in the cable and antenna maintenance career field often climb towers or work in manholes to make sure connections aren’t causing interference and are working properly. (Courtesy photo)

CHEYENNE MOUNTAIN AIR FORCE STATION, Colo. – Senior Airman Dakota Blankenship, 21st Communications Squadron cable and antenna maintenance technician, checks a cable to see if there is power where it should be 100 feet up a tower in July 2014. Those in the cable and antenna maintenance career field often climb towers or work in manholes to make sure connections aren’t causing interference and are working properly. (Courtesy photo)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. – Airman 1st Class Nicholas Ray, 21st Communications Squadron cable and antenna maintenance technician, stands in front of several rolls of fiber optic cable in the cable yard Dec. 8, 2014. Ray and his team climb towers to install antennas and work in manholes to make sure connections aren’t causing interference in communication and are safe. They make sure everyone on base is online and connected to accomplish the mission. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Rose Gudex)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. – Airman 1st Class Nicholas Ray, 21st Communications Squadron cable and antenna maintenance technician, stands in front of several rolls of fiber optic cable in the cable yard Dec. 8, 2014. Ray and his team climb towers to install antennas and work in manholes to make sure connections aren’t causing interference in communication and are safe. They make sure everyone on base is online and connected to accomplish the mission. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Rose Gudex)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. – Airman 1st Class Nicholas Ray, 21st Communications Squadron cable and antenna maintenance technician, uses a VS-3 hand tool to splice together wires for training in the cable yard Dec. 8, 2014. The cable and antenna personnel have a training area dedicated to polishing the skills used to keep communications flowing smoothly around base. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Rose Gudex)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. – Airman 1st Class Nicholas Ray, 21st Communications Squadron cable and antenna maintenance technician, uses a VS-3 hand tool to splice together wires for training in the cable yard Dec. 8, 2014. The cable and antenna personnel have a training area dedicated to polishing the skills used to keep communications flowing smoothly around base. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Rose Gudex)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. – A container of picabonds waits to be used to connect communication lines at the cable yard training area. The cable and antenna personnel have a training area dedicated to polishing the skills used to keep communications flowing smoothly around base. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Rose Gudex)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. – A container of picabonds waits to be used to connect communication lines at the cable yard training area. The cable and antenna personnel have a training area dedicated to polishing the skills used to keep communications flowing smoothly around base. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Rose Gudex)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. – Wires are separated so each individual wire can be used for its intended purpose at the training area of the cable yard Dec. 8, 2014. The cable and antenna office have a training area dedicated to polishing the skills used to keep communications flowing smoothly around base. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Rose Gudex)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. – Wires are separated so each individual wire can be used for its intended purpose at the training area of the cable yard Dec. 8, 2014. The cable and antenna office have a training area dedicated to polishing the skills used to keep communications flowing smoothly around base. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Rose Gudex)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- He begins to climb, hand over hand, rung by rung. The adrenaline builds the higher he gets. When he reaches the top, he hooks himself in, gazes out over the nearby scenery and waits for everyone else to catch up.

Climbing towers is not the only part of his job. Airman 1st Class Nicholas Ray is a 21st Communications Squadron cable and antenna maintenance technician, a job he says he enjoys because of the hands-on experience he gets.

"I joined the Air Force because it's a family tradition," Ray said. "I also joined for the experience and hands on experience I would get in the cable and maintenance career field."

His career field is absolutely vital to the mission. Everything in today's age is high-tech and online. If anything were to go wrong with the ability to communicate with others, Ray would be one of the Airmen to respond.

"Simply put, anything that links people together to help them communicate, that's what we do," he explained.

When there are new offices being built, Ray and his crew install the new lines to get each workstation up and running. This includes running distribution cables into the communication room of the building and then running lines to each desk. He said before they are done, they "tone back" to verify the line is working.

"Here at Peterson, a lot of our work is putting new lines in offices and that sort of thing, but that's not all we do," Ray said.

The basic upkeep of base infrastructure is their duty, including climbing towers to install antennas or working in manholes to make sure connections aren't causing interference in communication and are safe.

"Tower climbing is my favorite part of this job," Ray said. "There's such an adrenaline rush with being 100 feet in the air attached to a metal frame," he said, adding that the climbing jobs are highly coveted.

No matter the excitement that comes with climbing towers and the view they get, safety is a large part of what they do.

"Safety is probably the most important part of our job," Ray said. "It's our job to keep you connected, but we have to do it safely. We follow (Air Force Instruction) 91-203 closely so we're safe while climbing or doing other parts of our job."

Besides the view he gets when at the top of the antenna towers, Ray said the reason he enjoys his career field is because he isn't always sitting at a desk. Technically they are reactive and respond to connectivity issues, but maintaining base infrastructure is a busy job every day.

"When we're out working on a job, the day goes by so fast because we're always doing something," he said.

Ultimately, Ray and his crew are the experts. They know the ins and outs of everything dealing with connectivity and communication.

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