Social Networking Creates New Breed Of Warrior - NBC Bay Area

Social Networking Creates New Breed Of Warrior

Tech-Savvy Beale Airmen Use $1B Weapon To Save Lives



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    Airmen keep their eyes on three-dimensional maps, eye-in-the-sky video and signals from countless electronic devices on the front lines.

    It's hard to keep track of, especially when you consider trying to manage not one but dozens of different chat rooms.

    It's no wonder the young, tech-savvy staffers at Beale Air Force Base have six different monitors to keep track of it all.

    "It's pretty overwhelming when you start," said Brian Cichowski, a multiple source analyst with the 548th Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Wing, based at Beale.

    These airmen have advanced social networking skills. Most have been raised using the Internet and have extensive experience with chat rooms.

    "I am continuously used to multiple screens, multiple applications," said Trent Arrington, a signals intelligence crew manager.

    This specialized group, one of five around the globe, use a top-secret network, a military Internet of intel, that allows these guys to see real time video and images from planes like Global Hawk, the Predator and the U-2.

    "The troops who have the laptops in their Humvees, we can broadcast real time, (and) tell them where the bad guys are," Cichowski said.

    They sift through all sorts of intelligence, and find what's important, like a roadside bomb or enemy ambush, then use military chatrooms to warn soldiers in battle.

    "We have that 'No kidding' feedback that says you just saved lives. You helped us to identify that IED that we almost ran over," Arrington said.

    At Beale, there are about 1,000 personnel. They're in charge of a $1 billion weapon, the military network that makes it all possible.

    "I'll tell you this site is known for being extremely operationally forward-leaning, for coming up with those cutting-edge techniques," said Col. Jenny McGee, the commander of 548th ISR.

    And when they are not saving lives from 7,000 miles away, these airmen are building virtual friendships with the soldiers on the front lines.

    "There's not a bomb every minute, and there's not bad guys every minute, so you just say, 'Hey, how are you doing? How is the weather there?" Cichowski said.

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