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28th Communications Squadron keeps Ellsworth connected

ELLSWORTH AIR FORCE BASE, S.D. -- In modern warfare, battles are not only fought in the land, air and sea, but often are decided long before anyone ever sets foot in the combat zone.

In fact, cyberspace communications has become one of the most powerful weapons in today's Air Force. The men and women of the 28th Communications Squadron aim to ensure Ellsworth stays on the cutting edge of cyber security and communication superiority.

If computers servers ever go down, it could cripple the ability of the Air Force to carry out its mission, said Staff Sgt. Austin Meeks, 28th CS network administrator.

The 28th CS develops and maintains foundational communication capabilities by providing network services including messaging, share drives, network access and storage to the base, said Meeks.

"We are ... responsible for ensuring that all network and server systems are running to provide a perfect environment for the base," Meeks said. "We maintain more than 50 servers for the base with updates, patches, security programs and physical onsite checks."

Airman 1st Class Brandon Koch, 28th CS cyber system operator, said he spends a lot of his time helping customers streamline data processes. Data stored on the network eliminates the use of paper allowing users instant access to information.

"Without the use of base servers, the only way the base could operate or document files would be to use paper," Koch said. "[And] without us, generally everything would be a lot slower. That's why we have these servers, so Airmen can work quicker. The more time you save, the more work you can get done."

Koch and others in his career field design, install and support the base server and network systems to ensure proper functionality and security.

"The Air Force relies heavily on advanced computer and software systems, and thus it is paramount to keep these systems safe," Koch said. "The future of warfare [depends] on having the most secure systems. We are here to ensure that our systems are operating at 100 percent at all times."

Cyber system operators minimize vulnerabilities within the base network. These specialists have to remain vigilant to ensure no outside threats penetrate the base network.

"Cyberspace is becoming a new warfront, and we are here to protect our servers and information," Koch said. "I love knowing that I'm responsible for keeping people out of our systems and safeguarding our information to keep our country safe. With information being key to any mission ... if there is no communication, there is no mission."