Intercepts

KUWAIT - VIDEO VALENTINES AND BDA. The "Third Herd," home-based at Tinker AFB, Okla., has perfected the MPEG video e-mail greeting card, enabling its personnel to send home to friends and family 20- to 30-second video clips of themselves, according to Maj. Amando Gavino, the unit's commander. Staff Sgt. Cedric Lopez, a postal clerk with the 3rd Combat Communications Squadron (which handles all communications here at Al Jaber Air Base, including snail mail), said the video Valentine project allowed him to surprise his wife, Bronwen, with the next best thing to being there: a video clip that allowed him to convey far more emotion than an ordinary e-mail.

But, Gavino said, after using MPEG compression to send 300 video Christmas cards, the unit determined that it could use MPEG to transmit bomb damage assessment (BDA) video from strike aircraft from here to Air Force Persian Gulf headquarters in Saudi Arabia and from there to the Pentagon, cutting days out of the former process of flying the video tapes from here to Washington, D.C. Gavino said the system works so quickly and delivers video of such good quality that it could go from aircraft to CNN in a matter of hours.

***

SUPPORTING THE WARFIGHTER? Go to any inside-the-Beltway C4I briefing and you will always see a "Support the Warfighter" slide early on in the presentation. The men and women of the Air Force 9th Expeditionary Air Control Squadron - which operates closer to the Iraqi border than any AF unit here, according to Maj. Eric Firkin, the 9th's operations director - would like to see that slogan get translated into reality on their barren hilltop outpost far outside the Beltway.

The 9th coordinates flight operations over Kuwait and the southern no-fly zone in Iraq, and it also has responsibility for providing early warning of any Iraqi Scud missile launches. The last mission has resulted in "everyone and his mother" delivering exotic systems to the 9th, according to Tech Sgt. Fred McDonald, who works in the unit's command post. But, Firkin said, the folks who provide the 9th with systems, such as the Global Command and Control System and an exotic missile-tracking system recently delivered by the U.S. Space Command, could do a better job in training and support.

The 9th, Firkin said, has no one specifically trained on GCCS, but the unit lucked out when it received some replacements who had received GCCS training at their previous duty stations. "We would also like to see" some direct, on-the-ground support from major systems developers such as the Air Force Electronic Systems Command, the Standard Systems Group and Spacecom, Firkin said.

***

HOOP DREAMS. As a high school student in Caribou, Maine, in the 1970s, Lt. Col. Jim Duffy, commander of the Army 54th Signal Battalion, headquartered at Camp Doha here, had a chance to play one-on-one with then-Rep. William Cohen, a Maine basketball hall-of-famer. In that shootout, Duffy won.

Duffy had not seen Cohen again until Cohen showed up here last year on a Christmas visit as secretary of Defense. Duffy reminded him of that 1970s match - which Cohen remembered - and offered the secretary a chance for a rematch.

Although the secretary had what Duffy described as "good form," Cohen "just could not find the basket." Duffy said Cohen declined another rematch and presented Duffy with an autographed basketball as a memento of his visit - or as a prize for Duffy's winning streak on the court.

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