JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska – Two Air National Guard members, one from Michigan and Alaska, worked together to add additional capacity to a crucial rescue communications network that serves Alaska.
To an outsider, it may have looked as simple as positioning a new antenna on a communications building at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Anchorage. The antenna provides a key measure of redundancy to the radio communication used by the rescue squadrons assigned to the 176th Wing at the base.
Staff Sgt. Preston Fernandez of the 176th Communications Squadron, Alaska Air National Guard, and Master Sgt. Jamie Heinzelman of the 127th Communications Squadron, Michigan Air National Guard, worked together to adjust. Heinzelman is one of about three dozen Michigan Air National Guard personnel at JBER for two weeks, conducting individual training. The Michigan and Alaskan Guard personnel are working together, sharing skills and best practices.
“These radio antennas are heavy, so it is more than a one-person job,” Heinzelman said.
Heinzelman has been working on radio systems for Michigan’s 127th Wing for about 20 years. He’s served in the military about 24 years in total.
“I love working in the radio shop. It is where the white-collar meets the blue-collar in the Comms Squadron,” he said.
Fernandez has worked for the 176th for about a year and a half, transitioning after four years in the active-duty Air Force.
“There’s always work to be done, so we appreciate having Michigan alongside us for a couple of weeks,” Fernandez said.