Atlantic City AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, N.J. --
The 177th Fighter Wing is one step closer to completion of a 112 foot tall radio communications tower.
The final section of the structure was hoisted to the top by crane and bolted down by Airmen with the 212th Engineering and Installation Squadron, 102nd Intelligence Wing, Otis ANGB, MA, and the 201st Red Horse Squadron, 193rd Special Operations Wing, Fort Indiantown Gap, PA, May 18, 2021, in partnership with the 177th Communications Flight and the 177th Civil Engineer Squadron.
The project, more than 10 years in the making, will help the unit communicate more effectively with Airmen and aircraft, on base and much farther away.
“With one hundred and twelve feet of height, a lot of the air to ground, air to air and land mobile radio antennas will be relocated here, which the added height will benefit the coverage,” said Capt. Richard Ryan, 177th Communications Flight commander. “The main priority was for the communication with the jets, but now that we have the tower the next phase will be the spectrum analyzation phase, where all of the intended frequencies will be analyzed and the placement of each antenna will be determined so they don’t interfere with one another.”
The whole project is comprised of multiple parts including the tower, the antennas and the shelter, which will house the electronic communications equipment.
“It’s definitely been challenging in the sense that there’s a lot of moving parts and it’s very multi-faceted,” said Tech. Sgt. Jonathan Tuxbury, cable and antenna systems craftsman with the 212th E&I Squadron, who also has an additional duty identifier as team chief nominee. “So we have the tower assembly and raising of the sections, we also have the waveguide bridge construction, there’s various parts of the tower and the tower itself that need to be grounded and then also ancillary items within the shelter itself including the control boxes.”
The funding of the tower was accomplished in several stages and has undergone a number of changes.
“The initial investment into buying the tower and communications shelter came from funds received as a congressional add a few years back,” said Senior Master Sgt. John Harris, 177th Comm. Flight plans and resources technician. “Since then it has required a lot of teamwork and coordination by several agencies. The 212th EIS and 177th CES have helped the Communications Flight tremendously to keep this project moving along. Both of those agencies play huge parts in the process of completing a project of this nature.”
Funding a project is only half of the battle. Finding fully trained and qualified Airmen with specialized tower construction skills is critical to success.
“We don’t have the crane, we don’t have certified tower climbers, there’s a lot of specific AFSCs that we don’t have at this base and only certain units have them,” said Ryan. “We could have contracted this whole entire thing out and had a civilian company come in and do it but it would have been more money and there would have been issues with submitting unfunded requests. But we have these engineering squadrons and that’s what they do. They’re assigned to different units, regionally, so they love doing these projects.”
In addition to the intricate planning and coordination by SMSgt Harris of the 177th Comm. Flt., other organizations have been integral to the success of the construction, thus far.
“We also have received support and assistance from the 201st Red Horse Squadron, the Lightning Force Academy, the South Jersey Transportation Authority, the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Guard Bureau to get this tower constructed,” said Harris. “The teamwork has been great and much appreciated.”
“It bears mentioning that this project has had a lot of allied support from 177th Civil Engineers,” said Tuxbury. “They’ve assisted us with setting the poles for the waveguide support bridge construction, and they helped us excavate to find where the ground ring was, as well, which surrounds the tower.”
Changes in leadership, personnel and continuity of operations, as well as budgeting constraints, soil testing results, airfield regulations and COVID-19 have all caused significant delays in the completion of this communications tower construction, but teamwork has proven to be a major factor in getting to the current stage.
“They’re having fun,” said Ryan. “They’re getting some training in. They’re not putting up towers all of the time, so when these opportunities come up, they look forward to getting to use the skills they learned in Technical School. They’re working hard, they like what they’re doing and they seem to be happy and excited about being here. They were doing two phases and last week a couple of them didn’t want to leave. They’re all excited about seeing the end result, knowing they had a part in building something.”