517th TRG secures free Wi-Fi in student dorms

  • Published
  • By Senior Master Sgt. Joshua Ganong
  • 517th Training Group

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit the Presidio of Monterey campus, over 800 Air Force pipeline Cryptologic Language Analyst and Airborne Cryptologic Language Analyst students attending language training at the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center, at the Presidio of Monterey, California, scrambled to adjust to a new virtual environment. Over the span of 40 to 67 weeks, Airmen found themselves attending one of the longest and most difficult technical training courses directly from their dorm rooms.

One of the key concerns that came to light during the pandemic was the fact that the free campus Wi-Fi was not available in the student dorms. To have Wi-Fi int their dorms, the students had a subscription fee of $54.99 per month. The out-of-pocket cost for students to go through their own technical-training during the 2020 and 2021 period of the COVID-19 lockdown was more than $1.5 million in a one-year period. This raised a major concern that the 517th Training Group was eager to address.

Upon her assumption of command in the summer of 2021, Col. Jennifer Saraceno, 517th TRG commander, dove into the concerns brought up by the staff and student body, and not having Wi-Fi in student dorms was at the top of the list.

“Our top priority here at Presidio of Monterey are the students and ensuring they have every opportunity for success,” Saraceno noted.  “We wanted to remove obstacles and provide the necessary tools so that they could focus on their mission of learning critical foreign languages.”

The 517 TRG set out to resolve the problem and worked with the United States Army Garrison at the Presidio along with the 17th Contracting Squadron to secure a Wi-Fi capability that would equip 808 CLA pipeline students across nine dorms with free Wi-Fi at any given time.

“Col. Saraceno and I were told providing government funded Wi-Fi to the dorms was not feasible and trying was a futile effort,” Chief Master Sgt. Shaun Khoenle, 517th TRG senior enlisted leader, noted. “Since internet-based homework and studies are more and more the norm for our Student Airmen, we found the old status quo was unacceptable.  Senior Ganong was charged with making government .edu Wi-Fi happen, and he exceeded all expectations in doing just that.”

Future CLA study at the DLIFLC to meet the nation’s demand for foreign languages experts. The students study for eight hours a day in the classroom and must dedicate an additional three to four hours of homework every night.

“Wi-Fi is not a nicety; it is a requirement and students must have it to succeed here at the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center,” according to Senior Master Sgt. Joshua Ganong, 517 TRG operations superintendent and Wi-Fi dorm initiative lead. “We were able to work everything out and get them free access to Wi-Fi and at a lower total cost. This is a very tangible investment into our students and a reflection of how important they are in any future struggle the nation may face.”

The student Wi-Fi initiative is in part spurred forward by the 2nd Air Force’s implementation of AETC Wide Area Knowledge and Education Nexus (AWAKEN) project that envisions creating a Wi-Fi campus on every Air Education and Training Command technical training location, and ensures the Air Force continues to be at the innovation forefront and training at a time when the world stage seems to be in transition once again.