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Comm moves quickly to replace towers

  • Published
  • By 2nd Lt. Chris Hoyler
  • 43rd Airlift Wing Public Affairs
Take a look out on Pope's flightline on any given day, and you'll see a wide range of aircraft parked on every ramp. 

One day, there may be five or six C-17s and a few more C-5s waiting to kick off night operations as part of a Joint Forcible Entry Exercise. 

The next day, there may be two or three civilian 747s waiting on Green Ramp to take an Army unit off for a deployment. 

In the background, there might even be a Golden Knights aircraft getting ready to take off in preparation for a training jump. 

There's a lot that goes in to the 20,000 or so missions that approach, land and ultimately leave from Pope each year, and on April 24 the 43rd Communications Squadron completed a project that will ensure communication processes will continue smoothly for decades to come. 

The christening of two new, 87 ft. ground-to-air transmit and receive (GATR) towers will support the capabilities for Pope's air traffic controllers, command post, base operations and base weather personnel to have flawless communication with all inbound and outbound aircraft. 

These towers utilize eight new antennas that support five UHF and five VHF frequencies, which helps manage a myriad of information for the different personnel utilizing them, ranging from air and ground traffic to the continuous broadcast of weather conditions and radio bands reserved strictly for emergency communication for distressed aircraft. 

"These new antennas essentially double the number of frequencies we can support," said Master Sgt. Jason Kalkhof, the 43rd CS Airfield Communications System section chief. "Our airfield maintenance experts will now have the capability to climb and perform preventative and routine maintenance as well as the ability to conduct emergency replacement in the event of operation failure of any of the antennas." 

Capabilities like that were long overdue, as the previous apparatus that housed the antennas consisted of three wooden poles that ranged in height from 40 to 50 feet. They had been in service for approximately 30 years, and local woodpeckers did enough damage to make the poles unsafe to climb. 

In addition, increased growth of Fort Bragg's infrastructure and continued expansion of trees and vegetation in the area made the tower replacement essential. 

"To be honest, the poles that were replaced weren't supposed to last this long," Sergeant Kalkhof said. "The new towers will last even longer with no issues because they were built with galvanized metal." 

The project itself cost close to $400,000, and the radios and associated equipment now connected to the towers are valued at more than $500,000. But the biggest savings are yet to come, according to Sergeant Kalkhof, who said that it is currently difficult to quantify the savings that will come with the 43rd CS doing maintenance rather than bringing in special teams TDY as well as the fact that associated electronic equipment will no longer need to be maintained in the airfield systems work center due to the ability of the new towers. 

The airfield communication mission the towers support will remain with Air Mobility Command after Base Realignment and Closure actions are completed, so as Senior Airman Jason Hall repelled from the tower after completing the final wiring connection, the fully operable towers stood as a sign of the Air Force's continued strong presence at Pope and Fort Bragg. 

"This is a huge success story," said Lt. Col. Bradley Barnhart, 43rd CS Commander. "Our airfield systems shop worked with experts at headquarters AMC, engineers at Tinker AFB, the customers in the 43rd Airlift Wing Operations Group, and our partners in the Civil Engineering Squadron to take a concept and turn it into reality in only 12 months -- record time for a project of this magnitude. Everyone's efforts significantly improved flight safety for the airfield and exemplified the teamwork I see at Pope every day."