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106th Communications Flight Advances to Squadron Status, Strengthening Cyber Capabilities

  • Published
  • By SSgt Kevin J. Donaldson
  • 106th Rescue Wing

Francis S. Gabreski Air National Guard Base, N.Y. -- The New York Air National Guard's 106th Rescue Wing Communications Flight was redesignated to the 106th Communications Squadron (CS) in a ceremony, Feb. 4, 2024.

Col. Glyn Weir, commander of the 106th Mission Support Group, alongside Lt. Col. Marybeth Koller, formerly the 106th Communications Flight commander and now the commander of the 106th Communications Squadron, performed the ceremonial changing of the guidons, symbolizing the unit's evolution.

Col. Weir commended Airmen of the squadron for their exceptional performance and strategic vision.

This redesignation signifies our commitment to advancing our cyber defense capabilities to meet the dynamic challenges of today's digital battlefield, Weir said.

Koller highlighted the squadron's critical role in addressing the ever-changing spectrum of cyber threats.

"In a world where threats evolve rapidly, our mission to protect and communicate vital information has never been more important," Koller said. "Today, we stand ready to face these challenges with renewed vigor and enhanced capabilities."

Chief Master Sgt. Robbie Hunt, the squadron's senior enlisted leader, detailed the benefits of transitioning to a squadron structure.

"Becoming a squadron not only increases our manpower and resources but also enhances our flexibility in responding to and neutralizing cyber threats efficiently," Hunt explained.

The transition also marks the squadron's adoption of the Agile Combat Employment (ACE) strategy, using smaller, versatile teams for rapid response and sustained readiness, Hunt said.

The change aligns with the Air Combat Command directive for a unified Cyber Defense Operations (CDO) career field, consolidating diverse cyber roles to streamline operations and bolster defense capabilities.

A Cyber Defense Operations specialist works to safeguard military networks and systems by monitoring and responding to cyber threats. They also maintain and operate traditional communication systems, blending legacy roles with cutting edge cybersecurity responsibilities to support mission readiness and operational security.

The Communications Squadron consists of over 30 information technology professionals, responsible for providing information security, technological support, and installation of applications, systems, and tools for the wing's workforce.

The integration of 11 cybersecurity Air Force jobs enhances our agility and puts us at the forefront of the cyber mission, Hunt said. One day an Airman could be working as a client support technician, the next as a network administrator, and then switch to radio communications, he added.

Senior Airman Dsent Nicholas, a cyber defense operator who has been with the Communications Flight since 2020, shared his enthusiasm for the upgrade.

"I am excited about the change from flight to a squadron because it represents our resiliency," Nicholas said. "Focusing too much on the present can hold us back, but this change shows our ability to adapt and move forward."

Reflecting on the squadron's legacy and future, Koller expressed pride and optimism.

"For decades, our unit has been pivotal in ensuring successful missions through robust communications support,” Koller said. "As the first commander of the 106th Communications Squadron, I am honored to lead our dedicated professionals into a new era of cyber excellence."

The 106th Rescue Wing, based at Francis S. Gabreski Air National Guard Base in Westhampton Beach, New York, operates and maintains the HC-130J Combat King II search and rescue aircraft, and the HH-60G Pave Hawk rescue helicopter. The 106th Rescue Wing is home to a special warfare squadron with pararescuemen and combat rescue officers, specializing in rescue and recovery, and deploys for domestic and overseas operations.