Intercepts

RAMSTEIN AIR FORCE BASE, Germany— Bosnia-bound again. The Interceptor has staged his fly-away dish here and manifested it through the Air Force Integrated Deployment System— developed by the Standard Systems Group in Montgomery, Ala.— for a return trip to beautiful downtown Tuzla and environs. The good news, I'm told, is that it's cold enough in Tuzla to solidify the famed mud, meaning I will celebrate my 54th birthday freezing but clean. The timing of this adventure should silence Interceptor-bashers who say I only travel to tropical climes.

- Y2K bankruptcy. That's how Col. Mike Peterson, director of information and communications at U.S. Air Forces Europe headquarters, describes the Year 2000 problems with the Air Force-owned Nortel switches in Europe. Peterson said if he does not receive some financial support from the Pentagon, it will bankrupt his funding line for a European base communications infrastructure under the Air Forcewide Combat Information Transfer System project. He said the switch problem is a result of a decision not to buy software upgrades for several years. As a result, Peterson said he anticipates a shortfall of millions of dollars in his CITS accounts to fund the switch fixes.

- VTC on the cheap. I know it's cold in Tuzla because I just did a video teleconference with the Air Force folks out there using a $450 system developed by an outfit called 8X8. Tech. Sgt. Jim Thomas of the 86th Air Wing Mission Support Squadron's family support center said the system was installed at forward-deployed locations, such as Tuzla; Tazar, Hungary; and Zagreb, Croatia. The system allows deployed personnel to talk with and see their families— a big boost to morale, Thomas said.

- Lessons learned. Commercializing communications is the only way to support such a long-running (and now open-ended) operation such as the Bosnia deployment, said Brig. Gen. Robert Nabors, interviewed at his headquarters in Mannheim, Germany. Without commercialization, Nabors said, personnel tempo would be so high that the 5th Signal would have to tap into a stateside troop pool. The Sprint networks in Bosnia and Hungary had a slow start but now carry all the traffic out of Hungary — the location of the U.S. Bosnia support base— and 70 percent of the traffic out of Tuzla, Nabors said. Sprint uses satellite communication to carry the majority of this traffic.

- The thaumaturge team. That's the informal designation that Staff Sgts. Rex Boksai and Thomas Dwyer have adopted for their logistics section, which operates the 86th Air Wing's Integrated Deployment System here. And if you do not have an inkling of what a "thaumaturge" is, they are happy to provide a definition. The dictionary defines it as a "worker of wonders and miracles,'' which Boksai and Dwyer said (in a handout) means they can— if needed— "extract milk from milkweeds and butter from buttercups." Sounds like they are qualified to write this column.

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