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Comm Helpdesk: circuit surgeons

Airman 1st Class Todd Stolte, 379th Expeditionary Communications Squadron help desk technician, troubleshoots a computer hardware issue here, Sept. 30. The 379 ECS help desk is the base's one-stop shop for all computer-related issues. Airman Stolte is deployed from Scott Air Force Base, Ill., in support of Operations Iraqi and Enduring Freedom. (U.S. Air Force Photo/Tech. Sgt. Jason W. Edwards)

Airman 1st Class Todd Stolte, 379th Expeditionary Communications Squadron help desk technician, troubleshoots a computer hardware issue here, Sept. 30. The 379 ECS help desk is the base's one-stop shop for all computer-related issues. Airman Stolte is deployed from Scott Air Force Base, Ill., in support of Operations Iraqi and Enduring Freedom. (U.S. Air Force Photo/Tech. Sgt. Jason W. Edwards)

SOUTHWEST ASIA -- Being sick is never fun and to add insult to injury, having to try and explain your symptoms to a doctor only makes it worse. However, by listening patiently and deciphering nontechnical medical language the doctor is able to make a diagnosis and prescribe a cure. But what happens when a computer is 'sick' and not functioning properly? There are computer physicians in this part of Southwest Asia ready to leap into action. To fix what ails their computers, users can turn to the 379th Expeditionary Communications Squadron communications focal point Helpdesk who will help decipher servicemembers' nontechnical computer language and provide a cure.

The first step in procuring a remedy for a computer problem is the unit's appointed client support administrator. The CSA is like a nurse in the medical field. They see the 'patient' first and use their training to correct the illness; however, if a nurse is unable to resolve a problem they call in the doctor, or in this case, the help desk.

Unit CSAs here are not necessarily CSAs at their home station. This can pose challenges for servicemembers at the Helpdesk because this might be a servicemember's first experience as a unit CSA and they may not be too computer savvy, said Senior Airman Scott Hall, 379 ECS help desk technician, deployed from Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. To overcome this, the help desk technicians provide basic and advanced training to all unit-appointed CSAs as well as limited on-the-job training.

However, even with training, unit appointed CSAs may still not know or understand computer technical language. "Often people will want something fixed right on the spot but they have a hard time explaining what exactly is wrong so there just isn't enough information to figure out the problem," Airman Hall said. "Instead, we have to be patient, listen carefully and take the time ne-cessary to figure out what is wrong. It is important that we, as Helpdesk members, be patient with unit-appointed CSAs and users, but they need to be patient with us as well. Problems get solved when we work together as a team."

This is where the remote tool comes in handy, said Staff Sgt. Alicia Smalley, 379 ECS help desk technician, deployed from Patrick AFB, Fla.

The remote tool allows help desk technicians to remotely log into servicemembers computers and watch as users recreate the problem; it even allows them to take control of the mouse and keyboard.

Sergeant Smalley said that the remote tool is very helpful in figuring out what is wrong with users' computers when there is a communication gap between the Helpdesk technician and the user. With the remote tool they can see what is happening and are able to experience the problem themselves, which enables them to correct the issue.

Although correcting computer problems and the myriad of issues associated with computer technology is a big part of the Helpdesk technician's day, they don't just take calls on computer issues. Helpdesk technicians also field all the trouble calls for phones, televisions and other mass communication devices across base. "Basically, if it is used for communicating we handle the trouble calls," Airman Hall said.

Since the Helpdesk covers such a broad range of communication-related issues and impacts every single person on base, their response is paramount to the success of the base's overall mission.

"Because communication is so important in today's fight almost every call we take is deemed to be mission critical," Sergeant Smalley said. "Truly, everyone's job here is important. We are all part of a big chain and the jobs we perform impact each other. If a part of that chain breaks, it can create a real problem which is where we come in."

Just as doctors diagnose and treat ailments, the Helpdesk technicians reconnect the base's communication chain when it is broken, keeping the communication flowing, the aircraft flying and servicemembers in the