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COVID-19 operations: Connecting global communications

A U.S. Air Force Staff Sergeant is pointing at a computer screen.

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Christopher Walker, 691st Cyberspace Operations Squadron noncommissioned officer in charge of infrastructure management, discusses operations within his section at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Apr. 1, 2020. The 691st COS is responsible for network administration for all bases and geographically separated units within U.S. Air Forces in Europe-Air Forces Africa command or theatre. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Devin Nothstine)

A vulnerability management sign is waning from the ceiling in the middle of a room full of a lot of computers.

A vulnerability management sign hangs to signify the section inside the 691st Cyberspace Operations Squadron at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Apr. 1, 2020. Vulnerability management handles software patches, secures the network daily for mission specific software and scans for vulnerabilities on the network. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Devin Nothstine)

U.S. Airmen look at a computer and discuss data.

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Christopher Walker, 691st Cyberspace Operations Squadron noncommissioned officer in charge of infrastructure management, and Tech. Sgt. Catherine Bowden, 691st COS NCO in charge of boundary management, discuss current operations at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Apr. 1, 2020. Airmen assigned to the 691st COS increased the availability for thousands of members to telework through virtual private networks. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Devin Nothstine)

A U.S. Airman looks at his computer screen and is reflected off of his eye-glasses.

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Joshua Pobre, 691st Cyberspace Operations Squadron network management operator, reviews information on his computer at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Apr. 1, 2020. The 691st COS operates and defends the Air Force’s networks to advance the Air Force’s core mission sets. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Devin Nothstine)

RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany -- RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany – The 691st Cyberspace Operations Squadron provides the capability to practice physical distancing while maintaining mission success in response to the spread of coronavirus disease 2019.

Airmen assigned to the 691st COS lead the way not only for U.S. Air Forces in Europe-Air Forces Africa but also numerous bases globally. These Airmen have provided the ability to now stay connected at home to maintain mission readiness, responsiveness and resiliency for U.S. forces.

“We don’t just support USAFE, we can support anybody worldwide,” said Lt. Col. Rebecca Russo, 691st COS commander. “Our [cyberspace operations] squadrons are spread-out for a reason; to be globally focused and regionally placed.”

The equipment and system currently in use is intended to afford select command and control positions access to the network, shared drives and communication connectivity while working at an alternate duty location. However, 691st COS Airmen found an alternative, increasing the availability through virtual, private networks for thousands of members to telework.

“Expanding this capability and using the equipment to its full capacity allows members to work from home, if needed, to limit the spread of COVID-19,” said Master Sgt. Jerome Dyer, 691st COS network management section chief.

These capabilities allow bases, such as the 86th Airlift Wing, to continue their mission and generate airlift while keeping the health of the force as a top priority.

“We love our partnership here,” said Russo. “We are globally focused (with) a regional understanding of the importance of everything that USAFE brings to the fight in a moment’s notice.”

The work that the Airmen at the 691st COS provide showcases the Air Force’s ability to quickly adapt to any situation, sustain mission readiness and protect its force.