CAMP BONDSTEEL, Kosovo – U.S. Soldiers assigned to Regional Command-East, Kosovo Force 28, and radio systems contractors conducted radio tower maintenance visits in Kosovo Jan. 28.
Sgt. 1st Class Rod Widows, a signal support systems specialist with the 41st Infantry Brigade Combat Team, Oregon Army National Guard, said there are eight to 10 towers they have to maintain once a month throughout each KFOR rotation. The inspection routes are altered during winter months because certain towers can be more difficult to access, but all the towers are still maintained all year.
Widows acted as a contractor observer to ensure the checks went smoothly.
“We check the (uninterrupted power supply), how many times the system has been up or down, and then the radio functionality at each location,” said Widows. “Each location is a relay tower site so that we can talk on mobile radios throughout the country.”
Land mobile radios are more reliable than cellphones because they are secured with encryption and have better connectivity. Radio towers can send stronger signals across Kosovo, whereas cell towers cannot. Therefore, the land mobile radios allow KFOR to operate over more expansive areas.
It is important for Soldiers to familiarize themselves with their equipment and know how it works. Professionals with DynCorp provide technical maintenance and support for KFOR.
The radio maintenance team operates out of Camp Bondsteel. Mike Cassel, the lead technician for land mobile radio maintenance and support department of DynCorp, has over 20 years of experience. At each tower location, some of the checks he helps conduct include running software diagnostics, testing the radio transmitting power and checking battery voltage.
When Cassel isn’t inspecting towers, he’s helping troubleshoot radios and passing his extensive working knowledge on to U.S. Soldiers.