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09 22 2020

Meet Senior Technician Benjamin Babucke

Behind NATO's mission to preserve the security of Alliance airspace is a dedicated team of technologists who solve any technical problems that may arise, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

At the NATO Communications and Information (NCI) Agency's Communications and Information Systems Support Unit (CSU) in Uedem, Germany, Benjamin Babucke is one such technician.

Babucke specializes in support to the Air Command and Control systems that are used in NATO's Combined Air Operations Centre (CAOC) in Uedem. Babucke came to the Agency after years of experience in industry as an Auditor and Security Consultant, and 12 years in the German Armed Forces.

NATO's air policing mission is purely defensive. A team of fighter aircraft and crews remain at the ready, 24/7, to react quickly to airspace violations. Needless to say, such a mission requires flawless communications. That's where the Agency's CSUs in Germany and Spain, where NATO's other CAOC is located, come in.

Meet Senior Technician Benjamin Babucke

What drew you to a position in NATO?

I would say the culture, the multi-nationality, the diversity. I feel more comfortable in NATO instead of global companies. It's the spirit I would say, as well. For example, on our team we have Italians, Spaniards, Danes, Norwegians, and more or less, everyone has different skillsets and you're learning continuously from each other. Whether it's private life or business life it doesn't matter, it's always interesting.

I always wanted to be part of something greater and challenging. Therefore, I took my chance when I had the opportunity to apply for a NATO position and I'm glad that it was successful.

What kind of technology is needed for the air policing mission?

The mission requires a wide variety of technology, starting from the radar heads, which are tracking the planes, to reliable and secure communication systems. We require analogue and Voice-over-IP technology, and a wide spectrum of various radio communication systems. Meanwhile, the wide area network infrastructure, and the crypto infrastructure, including firewalls and intruder detection and prevention systems, are ensuring the seamless and safe exchange of information inside NATO. We use different operating systems we must be prepared to troubleshoot, and we use specialized software specifically designed for NATO use.

The list is far from being complete, there are many other important internal and external stakeholders and resources working together in the background, such as various departments of the Agency, and industry from NATO Nations.

As we – the Agency – are continuously working hard to implement the latest, state-of-the-art technology, I would like to highlight the importance of education and training work, which helps to get the proper and professional knowledge.

What has it been like for you working for the CSU during COVID and responding to COVID?

My personal work didn't change so much. The only difference is on a normal day shift I have more or less been alone. We have two shift teams. Normally we are supposed to sit in one room, but we split the team because of the COVID situation.

During COVID, the most important thing has been really the feedback and the communication within the team. So we have a group chat all the time open via Skype. When we need to do something on-site, there are always two technicians over there who can check data or give information. In my opinion, I think the most important part is that we get over this time without any big issues, especially for our main users.

Was it different to work in this way?

Yes. We can do everything nowadays more or less with Skype or Polycom. But in the long-term, visibility with the user is quite important. Due to my audit experience, I've seen quite a lot of companies who changed to complete centralization. But in the end, user satisfaction comes along with high visibility, especially when you are working in critical infrastructures where it is necessary that technicians are on the premises and can interact fast, depending on the urgency. So in the end, you always need to find the balance.

How will support to the air policing mission change in the near-term and long-term future?

The most important goal for the near-term future is to help NATO's future Air Command and Control system come alive at Uedem, the Air Command and Control System (ACCS). ACCS will bring one NATO-wide standardized air operations support system.

ACCS is already live for some users. We have it in place in Uedem, and we are supporting the live operators in the Combined Air Operations Centre (CAOC), who are involved in testing the system.

In the long-term future, we are looking forward to implementing the next addendum of the ACCS, which will follow and support NATO's rapidly changing requirements.