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Cal Guard is keeping Guardsmen connected

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U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Carlos Avelar, of the California Air National Guard’s 147th Combat Communications Squadron, 195th Wing, checks connections on a radio transmitter inside a vehicle April 17, 2020 in the Roseville, California. Cal Guard members continue to work with federal and local agencies during the fight against COVID-19. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Forest Decker)

ROSEVILLE, Calif. --

When humanitarian operations are happening at a statewide level, communication is key.

California Air and Army National Guardsmen, who are maintaining communication capabilities for Joint Task Force 115 personnel around the state, are in the J6 section and tasked with providing broadband and radio communication to fellow guardsmen working at the headquarters and in the field.

Located in Roseville, the small team is utilizing a variety of equipment to ensure that personnel working around northern California as part of the COVID-19 joint task force have internet connectivity and can communicate with each other.

“We worked on internet connectivity for the JTF 115 headquarters, installing WiFi cradle points and getting people’s computers set up for operations,” said U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Fred Tarbox, of the California Air National Guard’s 222nd Intelligence Support Squadron, 195th Wing. “We jumped right in and got the network up and got the mission going.”

The other piece of the J6 mission is the tactical communications section which covers connectivity between the headquarters in Roseville and operational locations such as food banks.

“We are providing tactical communications over radio for the task force; SATCOM, high frequency, and working with different waveforms to make sure everyone has the best connection possible,” said U.S. Army Spc. Ricardo Ventura, of the California Army National Guard’s 115th Regional Support Group. “We have also been trying to establish new connections to units working across the state to help bolster the overall communication capabilities of the task force.”

There are inherent challenges to working in a quickly-stood-up operation like the COVID-19 task force, but the J6 team is adapting and finding solutions to any challenges that arise.

“Acquiring computers for everyone was a challenge early on as well as navigating between Army and Air Force networks, but we have been able to successfully support everyone,” said Tarbox.

Tarbox reflects on his previous time in the Army and working jointly now in the Air National Guard.

“It has come full circle for me. I used to be in the Army and now being in the Air Force I get to see it from the other side,” said Tarbox. “We have worked together really well and have been able to sustain the mission from the communications perspective.”

Cal Guard is active annually in wildfire operations in the state but response to COVID-19 is a new experience, Ventura said.

“I’ve helped out with several of the previous fire operations in the stat. This effort feels even bigger and it is impacting an even greater number of people.”

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