Young Airmen learn from, support mission during COVID-19 pandemic

Senior Airman Valerie Graw, a cyber operations controller in the 88th Communications Squadron, Cyber Operations Center, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, works on the base’s virtual private network, email system, user-submitted tickets and more. (Contributed photo)

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Senior Airman Valerie Graw, a cyber operations controller in the 88th Communications Squadron, Cyber Operations Center, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, works on the base’s virtual private network, email system, user-submitted tickets and more. (Contributed photo)

Senior Airmen in the 88th Communications Squadron at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base are performing their mission with a steady professionalism during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Senior Airman Valerie Graw, a cyber operations controller in the 88th CS Cyber Operations Center, said she and her coworkers have had to rapidly support and respond to many changes during the last month involving the base’s virtual private network, email system, user-submitted tickets and more.

“We’ve seen increases in bandwidth and gateways; we’re working with higher-level Air Force to make sure everything is getting pushed out correctly so it functions and everyone can continue to work,” she said. “It’s interesting to watch as we figure out where we fit in, whether it is at home or at the office, and how we are working together with other organizations to keep them up and running as well. We have had trial and error times and we’ve learned from them.”

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With the 88th CS mission-essential, its high call volume dictated creative and immediate solutions to challenges, Graw pointed out.

“We have had to stay on our toes,” said Senior Airman Nathaniel Dean, 88th CS cyber operations controller. “We’ve had long days, but we are through the initial high-volume period and are maintaining.

“It’s good to know we are able for so many Wright-Patt workers to work from home and perform the mission,” he continued. “That’s a good learning experience to know that is possible. I’ve learned I can adjust, adapt and stay calm to complete our mission.”

Despite its challenges, the current situation does have a positive aspect.

“I am grateful to have been a part of this to watch it all unfold,” Graw said. “I don’t know if anything like this will ever happen again, but if it does, there are a lot of things in place and discoveries we’ve made about our jobs on the fly that will serve us well.”

Leadership in the 88th CS has developed some “muscle memory” too, she said.

“They will be able to guide the Airmen and civilians in a way that shows the lessons learned. In the past couple of weeks, the 88th Communications Squadron has really stepped up and has shown we can support the mission in a timely manner,” Graw said. “I think people have seen that. Lt. Col. Crepeau’s (88th CS commander) town halls have been helpful; he is very open with all of us.”

She said she feels she has developed resilience during the current COVID-19 situation.

“We are a huge team and we all work together. That makes it so much easier,” Graw noted. “We are all here for each other. It’s nice to have that camaraderie because we are mission-essential and have to take care of one another.”

Taking care of the mission requires patience on everyone’s part, Dean said.

“Please be patient. We are aware of the issues and we are working diligently to address them,” he said.

Graw’s and Dean’s work has drawn notice from their supervisors.

“We have seen how these Senior Airmen are working through these historical times,” said Staff Sgt. Eric Garrison, senior duty officer, Cyber Operations Center. “I’ve seen both of them display incredible wingmanship and leadership and believe this whole experience has helped shape them into future NCOs.”

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