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Pope Command Post at center of everything

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Mindy Bloem
  • 43rd Airlift Wing Public Affairs
The Command Post is not just that giant voice you hear during a base exercise or a coordination agency for various weather advisories or even an information hub for base operations. Sure, at some point during their operations they serve in any of those capacities, but there is so much more to Pope's behind-the-scenes combined Active Duty and Reserve Command Post "controllers." 

At their core, the controllers working the Pope Command Post are frontline ambassadors in charge of disseminating focused, accurate and often time-critical information throughout the 43rd Airlift Wing's and the 440th AW's chains of command. However, their duties extend well beyond being the first responders to airborne and ground emergencies impacting our Active Duty and Reserve Airmen. 

Some of their other everyday tasks include orchestrating maintenance, passenger, cargo and logistics requirements of the 440th Airlift Wing's C-130 H2s as well as Pope's Tanker Airlift Control Center tasked inbound and outbound aircraft missions. Additionally, the Command Post's controllers are responsible for producing time-sensitive Operational Reports to Headquarters Air Mobility Command, Air Force Reserve Command, Air Combat Command and the Air Staff keeping the entire chain of command abreast of significant base incidents, emergencies and capabilities. 

Whenever Pope receives specific taskings from the Air Staff or from the Chairmen of Joint Chief of Staff, these taskings are received in the form of classified Emergency Action messages, which Command Post controllers are responsible for responding to and disseminating quickly. Lastly, Command Post personnel are responsible for the Status of Resources and Training System and AEF Reporting Tool programs, which provides the CJCS visibility of Pope's wartime capabilities. 

Tech. Sgt. Angela Harris, 440th AW Senior Command Post Controller, knows what it feels like to juggle various responsibilities; she pulls double duty as a both a civilian and a Reservist. In addition to drill weekends as a uniformed Reservist, she works Monday through Friday as a civilian, which means that on monthly drill weekends her schedule equates to 12 consecutive working days. 

"We disseminate weather warnings over the Giant Voice, alert aircrews for missions, send OPREPs to higher headquarters, receive emergency actions messages from headquarters and run anywhere from 5 to 20 checklists a shift, depending on the day," she said. 

Senior Airman Keith VanLeuven, 43rd AW CP controller, works on the console, performing flight following duties and responding to every type of incident using quick reaction checklists. He enjoys the responsibility that is inherent with having to solve operational problems quickly. 

"We work directly with MAJCOM Command Centers all the way up to the Pentagon and National Military Command Center to report incidents involving Pope or its people," he said. "We also work very deeply in Air Force Emergency Actions. I like being put on the spot when it really counts. I enjoy the stress that comes with each situation. One phone call or aircraft radio call can change the whole tone of the day. You never know what you are going to walk into when you walk in for work." 

Airman VanLeuven also appreciates the fact that he is taught to think outside the box and to plan for the "what if" scenarios. 

"Our back office personnel, including our NCOIC of console operations and our training manager, play an integral part in making sure we do things properly," he said. "We are tested on both general knowledge, unclassified material and on classified material monthly. Passing with a 90 percent is mandatory to stay certified. 

"Our job is unique because we have our hand in several operations and programs, so we are required to know a little about a lot. It is easy to forget some of the information if you hasn't come up in your duties recently, but our training manager keeps us on our toes with in-house scenarios to keep all our skills current."

Like few other base agencies, the CP operates 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. This operations tempo often means working holidays and down days as well as other various shifts. 

"You quickly get used to celebrating holidays around your schedule or working it out with co-workers to get the ones you want," said Airman VanLeuven who worked this past Christmas. "Our office is extremely fair when it comes to Christmas and New Years, and most of the controllers don't mind switching around if something comes up." 

In addition to training for potential problems, Pope's CP has the added responsibility of being a trailblazer for how to successfully integrate its combined Active Duty and Reserve missions due to BRAC. 

"The Pope CP is the Air Force benchmark for how a joint Active Duty/Reserve Command Post operates," Master Sgt. Paul Olson, CP senior controller, said. "The "One" CP was a concept dictated by the Air Force, but there was very little previous experience to help us forge a plan. The Combined Command Post came to fruition at Pope through hard work and the willingness of Active Duty and Reserve controllers to put their biases aside and work together for the betterment of the mission." 

"It's to the point now where we are actually 'one' Command Post with seamless interaction with both wings on base. In fact, other bases tasked to combine their collocated command posts, such as Little Rock AFB, have visited our Command Post to see how they may achieve their own success." 

Airman VanLeuven said he thinks people often have a false perception about what goes in what he terms "the batcave." And like all good superheroes, they are content to remain under the radar. 

"People just don't realize the extent to which we are involved in the flight and ground operations that happen here at Pope," he said. "If you are looking for the glory, the CP isn't for you. Our controllers are quite content being behind the scenes, making sure everything gets done in order to accomplish the mission." 

Maj. Glenn Rineheart, Chief of the Pope Command Post, added, "Being amongst the first Command Posts in AMC and AFRC, if not the first, to establish effective and efficient combined command and control operations has been challenging, but we have succeeded through putting the mission first, maintaining mutual respect between MAJCOM personnel and most importantly... preserving a 'can do' attitude." 

"As Pope's central hub for operational support and emergency response efforts, being responsible for "bringing the plan together" is very gratifying. However, developing a cohesive dual-MAJCOM unit and watching our AD, DoD Civilian and Reserve controllers work hand-in-hand in orchestrating these efforts is nothing short of enormously rewarding."