Comm expert brings IT to 'hot spots'

RAMSTEIN AIR FORCE BASE, Germany— As the deployment planner for the Air Force's 1st Combat Communications Squadron, Tech. Sgt. Sarah brings substantial personal experience to the job.

Finamore, whose own deployment schedule reads like a tour of the world's hot spots, said she loves to travel, and her work itinerary over the past few years appears to buttress that claim. For example, she spent Christmas 1995 with the 1st Combat Comm team that provided the first vital communications links to support the Operation Joint Endeavor multinational peacekeeping force.

Besides installing a local-area network for Air Force users in Tuzla, Bosnia, Finamore and her six-person team— among the first troops deployed for Operation Joint Endeavor— also set up and operated a tactical Automated Digital Network message center. And when an Army data processing van broke down, she stepped in to handle message processing for those users.

Finamore arrived in Tuzla as an old hand on the Balkans. She had done tours of duty in 1994 to provide communications support to the United Nations in Sarajevo and Camp Pleso, Croatia, situated next to the Zagreb airport. Camp Pleso especially sticks in her mind as a location that does not fit anyone's description of an idyllic tourist spot, surrounded as it is by mine fields.

She also has been deployed to Macedonia in support of peacekeeping operations there, and to Entebbe, Uganda, in support of a joint task force working on a multinational humanitarian relief effort. In Uganda, Fin-amore supervised installation and operation of the Global Command and Control System for the JTF and helped with the installation of computers for the JTF staff.

Lt. Col. Thomas Inskeep, commander of 1st Combat Comm, said Finamore "superbly led six [people] in extremely austere conditions, brilliantly used available manpower [and] developed revolutionary procedures to process special messages from the deployed Air Force staff.''

Finamore temporarily has stowed her sleeping bag, turning her attention to efforts to manage 1st Combat Comm's deployments— no small task because more than 30 percent of the unit's personnel were deployed for more than 120 days last year. The average deployment rate lasts up to 88 days for each of the unit's 268 members. This heavy schedule resulted in part from the pace of world events, but it also reflects 1st Combat Comm's unique capabilities and equipment and its mission to support the European Command (Eucom) and federal agencies.

Finamore, with the help of planning and personnel software, juggles missions ranging from support for President Clinton's recent trip to Africa to providing communications support at alternate landing sites in Europe and Africa for every launch of NASA's space shuttle.

Eucom routinely asks 1st Combat Comm to provide initial communications support for joint operations, tapping into the command's pool of gear, which ranges from giant satellite stations to trailer-mounted control towers for use at expeditionary airfields.

Her experience has given her an insight about deployments that could not be gained from a desk in the rear. Finamore said the primitive living conditions actually improve morale. "Living in tents works out better," she said. "It helps our people stay together as a team.''

Small things matter in the field, said Finamore, an avid reader who dubbed the Air Force's "care packages'' of books to deployed units another morale builder.

Despite her rigorous schedule, Finamore managed to earn a college degree in business administration through the University of Maryland's overseas branches. And not surprisingly for someone who thrives on life in the field, she spends her spare time in Germany "volksmarching"— taking part in organized hikes.

Finamore, who partly credits her "Air Force-brat childhood'' for the ease with which she adjusted to life at 1st Combat Comm, has one more personal deployment in mind. Next year, she and her husband— who also serves in 1st Combat Comm— would like to leave Europe for the Pacific, a part of the world she is eager to explore.

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