Modern-day MacGuyver

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Amber Powell
  • 177th FW/PA
Unlike most detachments, the 177th Fighter Wing Detachment 1, Warren Grove Gunnery Range (WGR) has less than 10 service members that keep it running.

With the range covering nearly 10,000 acres, it is important that the small team works effectively and utilizes ingenuity to complete their mission.  Master Sgt. Samuel Arlia, a radio frequency transmission systems specialist, uses his extensive talents and ability to do exactly that.

Arlia, who enlisted in the Air National Guard in 1998, has been with the 177th Fighter Wing, Egg Harbor Township, New Jersey since 2000 when he transferred from the 125th Fighter Wing, Jacksonville, Florida.  He has been working at the Warren Grove Gunnery Range since 2002.

"I'm a radio guy," said Arlia. "I've always been into technology.  When I came to the range and went to radio training, it intrigued me and I loved it. I want to remote pretty much everything."

With that passion driving him, Sam has created a blueprint to develop a simulated power plant that will be wirelessly controlled.

"We're going to put smoke stacks up and Sam's going to have smoke coming out of them," said Tech. Sgt. Matthew Dever, an infrastructure specialist assigned to WGR. "In each phase, there will be different LEDs so when the pilots (conduct) simulated drops on it, the joint terminal attack controllers (JTACs) on the ground will be able to turn off some of the lighting so it will look like the pilots hit it."

The range has mount sites that are used by the JTACs in tactical training to operate from.

"Sam has the new mount site all figured out," said Dever. "We'll have lighting, sound and cameras recording it and sending it back to another area so ground controllers can be watching, in real time, troops going in with pop-up targets."

"All the transmissions you hear on the radios and some of the phones, everything's being recorded. It's a whole system Sam put together," said Dever. "He didn't create the system but he engineered it and tied it all together. If the JTACs are controlling, during training, with all the aircraft tied in, Sam can put all that audio on a CD."

"If there ever was an accident here, everything is recorded. That's the primary reason that it is recorded," said Arlia.   He explained that since the recording equipment is required, it makes sense to utilize it for scoring and to provide an output of their mission. 

"That's the whole idea behind the mount site and the cameras," Arlia continued. "The JTACs love it because when they leave and take that audio they just controlled aircraft with, since they're here training, they can debrief with that later."

Not only did Arlia design and coordinate how the mount site will come together, but he set up a solar power plant to power all the lights surrounding the area.

"Before we had to bring in a battery and charge it on our work bench and then make sure we brought it out and set it up when we had night flying," said Arlia. "Now we don't have to do any of that. It's just out there being charged all the time and when we need it, because it's wireless, you just turn it on and it lights up in the tower showing it's on."

Another project Arlia has begun is setting up seven security camera towers throughout the range. The towers have a 360 degree camera and wireless radio at the top. It uses batteries that are powered by solar panels. The cameras will all be linked back together in the tower.

"Sam went to school to learn how to climb towers and did all the engineering for where to put them on the range," said Dever. "The research and the man hours that went into this are just insane. The details of how far you can run power over Ethernet, all of it. I can only speculate, but it's an insane amount of money Sam saved the government to build this whole system himself."

Arlia's interest in technology started at an early age.

"I had those little electronic kits growing up with little springs and wires where you have to make circuits and alarms," he said. "One time, I took the board and wired it to my bedroom door. The light switch was on the outside of the room before you go in there, so I put a kite string and it went up through these little eyeholes, up and over the room. It had a little rubber band around the switch so I could just pull it and hook it onto this little hook by my bed and the light would come on and then I could unhook it and the light would go off."

Arlia, who has three sons and one daughter, couldn't be happier that his kids are following in his footsteps.

"We just got them a snap circuit type thing that they play around with. They love electronics. Just the other day, my oldest was talking about taking their little Lego men and being able to make them robotic," he said with a smile. "So we talked a little bit about how we could do it. It might spur another project here soon."

Most of the projects Arlia works on at WGR uses resources the range already has available along with equipment acquired through the Defense Logistics Agency Disposition Services. The ability to be more efficient is what fuels his work. While working in the tower, Arlia built a spreadsheet that allows anyone to enter the longitude and latitude coordinates that JTACs or pilots give them over the radio. When the numbers are inputted, the locations can be found immediately on a map.

"If I want to know what this point is, or what they're talking about, yes, I could look it up but I want to be able to just punch it in so I can focus on the aircraft or whatever is going on," said Arlia. "I want to be able to get things done quicker so I can pay attention."

"I like to make things easier and take man hours away from everyone else having to do stuff like going down range and making sure things are charged and all that," Arlia said. "And yes it might add stuff to me, but that's why I'm here."