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Being a good cyber warrior sometimes means leaving technology behind

ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. -- Col. Joseph Scherrer, 689th Combat Communications Wing commander, designated May 24 as a day without Internet or e-mail to create awareness of how dependant the unit has become on technology. More than 1,500 689th CCW personnel took part in "a day without e-mail." (Photo illustration by Robert Talenti)

ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. -- Col. Joseph Scherrer, 689th Combat Communications Wing commander, designated May 24 as a day without Internet or e-mail to create awareness of how dependant the unit has become on technology. More than 1,500 689th CCW personnel took part in "a day without e-mail." (Photo illustration by Robert Talenti)

ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. -- The 689th Combat Communications Wing, as part of 24th Air Force's cyberspace force, uses hi-tech communications equipment to take the network into austere environments.

Despite Combat COMM's satellite dishes and spinning airfield radars, sometimes its the ability of Airmen to effectively communicate that makes the most difference.

We've become so dependent on our smart phones and social media accounts that we often miss an opportunity to stop, shake someone's hand and ask them how things are going. In a recently published commentary, "The Enlisted Perspective: Analog leadership in digital times," Chief Master Sgt. James Roy, Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force, directly speaks to the need for us to step back from technology and interact on a personal basis.

"We need to strike a balance; we must continue to emphasize the importance of technology - a resource we cannot and will not stop exploiting - and at the same time emphasize the importance and value of analog leadership," said Roy. "Analog leadership means temporarily putting down the iPads and Android tablets, logging out of Facebook and Twitter, and switching phones to airplane mode to stop the stream of texts coming in and out. It means shutting off the technology and talking to each other."

Recognizing that human interaction and team building is critical to the combat communications mission, Col. Joseph Scherrer, 689th Combat Communications Wing commander, implemented "A day without e-mail" wing-wide event May 24. The goal: build personal relationships.

"The rules of engagement included no email, no Web or Internet, and the minimum use of telephone or personal communications devices," said Scherrer. "The wing used this time to step back from all of our technology and to connect with our fellow combat communicators."

Everyone participated in the event, including the 51st Combat Communications Squadron.

"It (day without e-mail) made many individuals within our groups realize just how much we depend on Internet usage and different technology to solve problems and how obsolete face-to-face has become," said Master Sgt. Olivia Samuels, 51st Combat Communications Squadron Noncommissioned Officer in charge of cyber surety. "Overall, everyone in our work center enjoyed it."

The Wing's staff took full advantage of this exercise and stepped away from their computers.

"The time taken to stop and talk to one another will pay huge dividends in the future," said Neil Carrington, 689th Combat Communications Wing security officer. "It was a great experience to make some professional ties with our co-workers and just interact with each other."

As the 24th Air Force's expeditionary cyber communicators, combat communications is fully engaged with communication systems in day-to-day operations, but this event was a pause for the unit.

"The focus is on work center and squadron team building, training and professional development," said Scherrer. "This event allows us to get back to basics and actually communicate face-to-face."