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Thunder within ISR: Hammering down Cyber Communications

Capt. JBernard Calpo, 707th Communications Squadron Special Missions Flight, repairs a connection on a CubeSat Jan. 16, 2018, in Laurel, Maryland. The 707th CS, aligned under the 70th Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Wing, supports more than 5,700 global personnel and 57 National Security Agency missions with their 230 ‘Thunder Warriors.’ (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Alexandre Montes)

Capt. JBernard Calpo, 707th Communications Squadron Special Missions Flight, repairs a connection on a CubeSat Jan. 16, 2018, in Laurel, Maryland. The 707th CS, aligned under the 70th Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Wing, supports more than 5,700 global personnel and 57 National Security Agency missions with their 230 ‘Thunder Warriors.’ (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Alexandre Montes)

Airmen of the 707th Communications Squadron pose for a group photo October 30, 2017 at Fort. George Meade, Maryland. The 707th CS, aligned under the 70th Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Wing, supports more than 5,700 global personnel and 57 National Security Agency missions with their 230 ‘Thunder Warriors.’ (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Alexandre Montes)

Airmen of the 707th Communications Squadron pose for a group photo October 30, 2017 at Fort. George Meade, Maryland. The 707th CS, aligned under the 70th Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Wing, supports more than 5,700 global personnel and 57 National Security Agency missions with their 230 ‘Thunder Warriors.’ (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Alexandre Montes)

Airman 1st Class Tevin Miller and Airman 1st Class Amanda Button, 707th Communications Squadron client system technicians, update software for computers that will be used on Air Force networks January 9, 2018 at Fort George G. Meade, Maryland. The 707th CS, aligned under the 70th Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Wing, supports more than 5,700 global personnel and 57 National Security Agency missions with their 230 ‘Thunder Warriors.’ (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Alexandre Montes)

Airman 1st Class Tevin Miller and Airman 1st Class Amanda Button, 707th Communications Squadron client system technicians, update software for computers that will be used on Air Force networks January 9, 2018 at Fort George G. Meade, Maryland. The 707th CS, aligned under the 70th Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Wing, supports more than 5,700 global personnel and 57 National Security Agency missions with their 230 ‘Thunder Warriors.’ (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Alexandre Montes)

Airman 1st Class Tevin Miller, 707th Communications Squadron client system technician, logs in recently acquired computers that will be configured for Air Force networks January 9, 2018 at Fort George G. Meade, Maryland. The 707th CS, aligned under the 70th Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Wing, supports more than 5,700 global personnel and 57 National Security Agency missions with their 230 ‘Thunder Warriors.’ (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Alexandre Montes)

Airman 1st Class Tevin Miller, 707th Communications Squadron client system technician, logs in recently acquired computers that will be configured for Air Force networks January 9, 2018 at Fort George G. Meade, Maryland. The 707th CS, aligned under the 70th Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Wing, supports more than 5,700 global personnel and 57 National Security Agency missions with their 230 ‘Thunder Warriors.’ (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Alexandre Montes)

Airman 1st Class Amanda Button, 707th Communications Squadron client system technician, reads through incoming user issues and creates work order tickets Jan. 8, 2018, at Fort George G. Meade, Maryland. The 707th CS, aligned under the 70th Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Wing, supports more than 5,700 global personnel and 57 National Security Agency missions with their 230 ‘Thunder Warriors.’ (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Alexandre Montes)

Airman 1st Class Amanda Button, 707th Communications Squadron client system technician, reads through incoming user issues and creates work order tickets Jan. 8, 2018, at Fort George G. Meade, Maryland. The 707th CS, aligned under the 70th Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Wing, supports more than 5,700 global personnel and 57 National Security Agency missions with their 230 ‘Thunder Warriors.’ (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Alexandre Montes)

Airmen of the 707th Communications Squadron Special Missions Flight pose for a group photo in front of a satellite Jan. 16, 2018, at Fort George G. Meade, Maryland. These Airmen maintain equipment and ensure satellite signals and transmissions are operational to support the 70th Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Wing and it partners. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Alexandre Montes)

Airmen of the 707th Communications Squadron Special Missions Flight pose for a group photo in front of a satellite Jan. 16, 2018, at Fort George G. Meade, Maryland. These Airmen maintain equipment and ensure satellite signals and transmissions are operational to support the 70th Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Wing and it partners. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Alexandre Montes)

Staff Sgt. Jonathan Cleghorn, 707th Communications Squadron intelligence analyst instructor, sits in a classroom Jan. 10, 2018, at Fort George G. Meade, Maryland. Cleghorn said he ensures Airmen are properly trained before becoming operational in specific mission sets within the Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance community. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Alexandre Montes)

Staff Sgt. Jonathan Cleghorn, 707th Communications Squadron intelligence analyst instructor, sits in a classroom Jan. 10, 2018, at Fort George G. Meade, Maryland. Cleghorn said he ensures Airmen are properly trained before becoming operational in specific mission sets within the Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance community. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Alexandre Montes)

Capt. JBernard Calpo, 707th Communications Squadron Special Missions Flight, repairs a connection on a CubeSat Jan. 16, 2018, in Laurel, Maryland. The 707th CS, aligned under the 70th Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Wing, supports more than 5,700 global personnel and 57 National Security Agency missions with their 230 ‘Thunder Warriors.’ (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Alexandre Montes)

Capt. JBernard Calpo, 707th Communications Squadron Special Missions Flight, repairs a connection on a CubeSat Jan. 16, 2018, in Laurel, Maryland. The 707th CS, aligned under the 70th Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Wing, supports more than 5,700 global personnel and 57 National Security Agency missions with their 230 ‘Thunder Warriors.’ (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Alexandre Montes)

Master Sgt. Jerome Collins, 707th Communications Squadron Special Missions Flight, repairs wiring on a CubeSat control console Jan. 16, 2018, in Laurel, Maryland. The 707th CS, aligned under the 70th Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Wing, supports more than 5,700 global personnel and 57 National Security Agency missions with their 230 ‘Thunder Warriors.’ (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Alexandre Montes)

Master Sgt. Jerome Collins, 707th Communications Squadron Special Missions Flight, repairs wiring on a CubeSat control console Jan. 16, 2018, in Laurel, Maryland. The 707th CS, aligned under the 70th Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Wing, supports more than 5,700 global personnel and 57 National Security Agency missions with their 230 ‘Thunder Warriors.’ (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Alexandre Montes)

FORT GEORGE G. MEADE, Md. --

In 2017, the 707th Communications Squadron was honored to receive both the Maj. Gen. Harold M. McClelland and Chief Master Sgt. James C. Swindell awards from 25th Air Force. These annual awards recognize achievements in communications and information dominance.  

The 707th CS, aligned under the 70th Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Wing, supports more than 5,700 global personnel and 57 National Security Agency missions with their 230 ‘Thunder Warriors.’

The squadron’s unique blending of 21 enlisted and seven officer U.S. Air Force Specialty Codes is what makes this them stand out from other communications squadrons, said Lt. Col. Mark Betters, commander, 707th CS.

Many people look at a communications squadron as just communications support, Betters said. That support is only 15 percent of this squadron’s mission.

“We do a lot of different things; we are not your typical ‘Comm.’ Squadron,” he said. “The way I see us moving forward is getting others to understand everything that we do, and that starts with a change of culture....”

From cyber to signals intelligence, space to engineering and nuclear operations, the Thunder Warriors work unlike a traditional communications squadron by using a full spectrum attitude to complete their objectives, Betters said. “The 707th CS provides quick, reliable and secure capabilities to warfighters and cryptologic operations around the globe.” 

The squadron’s personnel are designated to either support the National Security Agency mission for capabilities or the Air Force for the traditional communications mission. 

With operations, plans and resources, special missions, quality assurance and cyber support, these Airmen are reaching far beyond what Airmen at a traditional communications squadron do, Betters said.  

“We are touching everything that has a national level impact,” said Chief Master Sgt. Michael Dyer, superintendent, 707th CS. “The President is often briefed on the products we are collecting on, supporting or producing, depending on the different realms that we are (operating).”

“We live day-to-day knowing our switches and routers’ are nearing end of life, and we have to plan three to five years ahead to ensure we have the funding to modernize,” he said.  “We know big Air Force is looking at transforming information technology enterprise-wide, and we’ve started with Cloud Hosting Enterprise Services. Now, our mailboxes are bigger, and we’re starting to do more online. Everything is moving toward the cloud, so as we continue to transition, we need to make sure we are giving Airmen what they need to do their mission, and we need to ensure we have the resources to support these changes.”

Airman First Class Amanda Button, client service technician, 707th CS, has been in the Air Force less than two years. As a Thunder Warrior, she has already supported a presidential request, handled missions beyond her trained skillset and worked to make the Airmen around her stronger in their craft, Betters said.

The Thunder Warriors also focus on finding what is needed for Airmen downrange, in deployed situations.

A work center that specifically provides warfighters with up-to-date information and tools is another component to this team, said Capt. Joshua Embrador, developmental engineer, 707th CS.

“Our job is to make sure we are following all the procedures and know the risk of everything we send out to the warfighter,” he said.