The Big Switch: Communications Airmen work base-wide telephone upgrades

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Gregory Solman
  • 163rd Attack Wing Public Affairs

Bad news: Personnel at March Air Reserve Base noticing upgraded telephones at their desks are not special.


Good news: The new phones are.


About 400 new telephones should be installed throughout the base by the end of May, completing an ambitious switch from conventional telephony to modern units working on the Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), according to Airman 1st Class Bryan Macias and Airman 1st Class Sebastian Muse, both of the 163d Attack Wing’s Communications Flight, who together are completing the painstaking transition from office to office, desk to desk.


The completion of the task integrates the 163d facilities with the base’s host unit, the 452d Air Mobility Wing of the U.S. Air Force Reserve, taking another step in the “one base, one network concept,” says Macias. “We have done the physical installations, but the phones also have a logical component.” That logical component, including the Media Access Control and IP addresses and extension information, resides within the 452d network, Macias explains, streamlining it.


“Our base switch is minimizing from a bunch of different equipment to one terminal,” adds Muse. “And to utilize that as well as possible, all the analog lines are being converted, with the exception of fax machines (which have always been analog and un-networked). We share a lot of buildings with [the 452d]. Now we can control our side and their side, and that will help us be more cohesive. In the case of moving to a new building, or even desk-to-desk, it becomes plug-and-play. That makes it more convenient than waiting for Comm.”


The project should cut costs and, contrary to what one might think of VoIP, increase the security and reliability of lines. “Instead of tapping a phone through the switch, the switch itself is protected by its own Security Technical Implementation Guide,” Muse explains. “So, security is both logically programmed (port security) and physical (the locked comm closet).”


The path to modernizing communications at the base started with upgrading the infrastructure and will eventually include new servers and, finally, widening the Internet backbone to increase its speed from 1 Gigabit per second to 10G, says Macias.


Both Airmen’s work falls under their 3D1X2 AFSC, Cyber Transport Systems, which each chose for different reasons. “When I was recruited at the University of California, Riverside, recruiting office, computers and technology caught my interest,” recalls Macias. “I figured that AFSC would expose me to a wide variety of computer systems and networks.”


For his part, Muse had “always been the go-to trouble shooter at home, from connecting the DIRECTV box, to fixing down computers, or figuring why they can’t access the Internet. I always pictured myself working with my hands and fixing people’s problems. I wanted a career that would allow me to help people.”