AVIANO AIR BASE, Italy — Remember the excitement when your office Internet connection beefed up to a T1 line from a 56,000-bits-per-second or slower modem?

Intelligence officers and others in the 603rd Air Control Squadron are experiencing the same excitement now, as they train with computers that will download information downrange twice as fast.

“You could compare it to going from a dial-up modem to DSL [digital subscriber line],” said Tech. Sgt. Roger Mitchell, who helped install new software to handle the faster connections for the 603rd.

That’s a good thing for the air control squadron, because “with the way the war is going, it’s got to be real time and real fast,” said 1st Lt. Jim Freid-Studlo, an intelligence officer with the 603rd.

The change is part of an Air Force-wide policy change aimed at standardizing communications equipment for all air control squadrons, Mitchell said.

When the 603rd controlled airspace over northern Iraq from November 2003 to June 2004, the squadron was still using Cold War-era computer technology to link from radars to operations centers to intelligence officers and commanders.

The result: “You’re just waiting and waiting for it to come over while things are happening all around you and people are wanting to know,” Freid-Studlo said.

That should not happen when the unit deploys to Afghanistan in coming months, Freid-Studlo said.

The faster connections mean that Freid-Studlo and others can download reports from other agencies faster and hold real-time text messaging sessions with soldiers in the field with less delay, he said.

“This is a serious increase in connectivity,” said Freid-Studlo, who practiced using the equipment last week in Maniago, Italy.

The 606th Air Control Squadron, based in Spangdahlem, Germany, will begin training on similar equipment next week, said Master Sgt. Michael Weisenberger, communication planner for the 606th.

“We’ve kind of always done our own thing,” Weisenberger said about communications equipment in the Air Force’s six air control squadrons. “Now we’re getting uniform.”

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