FORT GEORGE G. MEADE, Md. --
When Airmen from the 707th Communications Squadron returned from their holiday break in the beginning of January, their first day back did not go as expected.
It all began on Jan. 2, when a couple 707th CS Airmen were about to perform cyber infrastructure maintenance. Tech. Sgt. Jennifer Unthank, a Cyber Transport Supervisor with the 32d Intelligence Squadron augmenting for the 707th CS, was one of the first Airmen on the scene.
“One of the Airmen felt a drop on his head from the ceiling, so they went down the hall to the Civil Engineer Offices to get a bucket, thinking it was a minor leak,” Unthank said. “They heard a ‘whoosh’ of water and shouted down the hall for help.”
A HVAC pipe burst on the third floor in Bldg. 9801B, threatening vital communications servers across the entire wing.
“Imagine a torrential downpour of purple rain in a room – that’s the simplest way to put it,” said 1st Lt. Christopher Parsons, 707th CS Network Control Center officer in charge. “Our first thought was; ‘It’s probably not good for people to be standing around in there with all the electrical equipment’.”
According Parsons, they made the judgement call to get any communication equipment unplugged as quickly as possible and to cover the equipment to minimize any potential water damage.
“Our Airmen started ripping up floor mats and tearing up cardboard boxes to place over the server racks,” said Parsons. “It was a crazy situation, but everyone kept moving and reacting.”
Parsons and Unthank then directed 707th CS Infrastructure Airmen to check the server and storage networks directly below the flooded room. Unfortunately, the water had leaked all the way to the first floor of the building.
“For about 27 hours, we had people on site drying out our equipment, configuring replacements, and working to get the network back up,” said Unthank.
Tech. Sgt. Juan Ayala, 707th CS Cyber Operations non-commissioned officer in charge, and his team worked to gather a damage assessment and consolidate a listing equipment that needed to be replaced.
“My role was to guide our team in restoring communications and to coordinate with the infrastructure shop to restore services,” said Ayala. “I helped by replacing four UPS [backup power] that were water-damaged and replaced two network switches that provided server suite connectivity. We then had to reconnect over 40 network cables to reestablish connectivity to the server. This was keeping users from logging on and connecting to network resources such as share drives.”
Additionally, Staff Sgt. Andres Thomas, 70th ISRW Civil Engineer Customer Service NCOIC and his team of CE Airmen were placing and emptying buckets of water to preserve the server equipment.
“We also poked holes in the ceiling tiles to prevent them from falling on Airmen as we were clearing the equipment from the room,” said Thomas.
Despite major interruptions in the 70th ISRW mission, 707th CS Airmen pulled a 24-hour shift, ensuring the network was brought back online as soon as possible.
In addition to the Airmen already on scene, Carlos Topp, from the 22d Intelligence Squadron, was summoned as he had an intimate knowledge of the network and was able to assist with the network’s reconfiguration while validating equipment integrity.
The joint team effort from the 707th CS, 70 ISRW/CE, and Mr. Topp resulted in the non-secure, NIPR, network services being fully restored in less than 27 hours, they fully restored SIPR services in less than 10 hours and their no-cost temporary fix saved more than $250,000 in equipment.
The 707th CS Operations Flight deputy, Capt. Lance Matsuda said it was an outstanding team effort by all personnel involved.
“Our Airmen are truly the best-of-the-best and we can’t thank them enough for their decisive, innovative solutions and dedication to the mission,” Matsuda added.
“We initially assessed that network services could be down for at least one week,” Capt. Ronald Furniel, 707th CS Operations Flight commander, briefed leadership. “Due to the team’s outstanding professionalism and innovative solutions, we managed to partner with three other non-communications squadrons to deliver full network restoration in less than 27 hours.”