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Kunsan sparks change with new headset system

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Suzanna Plotnikov
  • 8th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

When U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr. issued the order to “Accelerate Change or Lose,” it quickly became the service’s guiding mantra in an evolving strategic environment.

One way the Air Force continues to facilitate innovation and change is through Spark Tanks, spaces where Airmen across the world gather together to explore innovative ways to improve outdated equipment and processes. 

In March, 2021, Tech. Sgt. Byron Cole, 8th Maintenance Squadron phase section chief, pitched the TruLink Wireless Headset System to the Wolf Tank, the Kunsan Air Base, Republic of Korea innovation cell.

According to Cole, the new headset is not only wireless but provides multiple upgrades to what the Air Force uses now to include superior hearing protection and pass through hearing capability.

“Traditionally, if you want to talk to me, you have to get really close and I have to lift my headset which compromises my hearing,” said Cole. “With the pass through hearing it sounds like we’re having a normal conversation but I never have to lift my headset or compromise my safety or hearing.”

With the TruLink system, the entire maintenance crew will be able to communicate during high risk activities such as Integrated Combat Turns and will also provide Hear-Thru technology and the ability to connect with radios.

“Currently the headsets [Invisio X5] are standalone,” said Cole. “The TruLink system brings the wireless aspect, which works up to a mile out and has 100 different channels. Normally whenever another person needs to come and respond to emergency maintenance I would have to get off the communication system until they are done. This new system allows anyone to key in to the channel of that specific location and start communicating with each other. We’re saving time and getting these aircraft turned and airpower back to where it is needed.”

The combination between the Inviso Bone Conducting Headset and the TruLink system not only provides better hearing protection but is also slim and comfortable enough to fit under the hood in a CBRN environment.

“The current headsets we use are super old and fragile,” said Senior Airman Justin Snodgrass, 80th Aircraft Maintenance Unit dedicated crew chief. “When you have earplugs in as well as the headset, it is almost impossible to communicate verbally with anyone if equipment is running or if you are around a moving jet.” 

The microphone on this system is also an added benefit for the crews. The current headsets make it difficult to communicate when performing work on the line, said Snodgrass.

“We have to have the microphone basically in our mouth for a pilot or another technician to hear us over our communication system,” said Snodgrass. “Pass through hearing is also a huge deal to us because a lot of the communication we have to engage in is on the ground when jets or aerospace ground equipment are running.”

Cole’s idea didn’t stop at Kunsan, though. The lead Air Force Spark Tank has recognized this system as one that has potential to be introduced at other bases.

“I think for a lot of us it’s the dream to go somewhere and maybe do a little something that can benefit those now and the people coming in the future,” said Cole. “I’m glad it caught some traction and we’re getting this out to the people that need it. To those that are unsure about going forward with innovation, don’t be scared to ask the question. There’s never a bad idea. Something small can turn into a huge movement once you get the proper feedback, so get out there and do it.”

Thanks to the precedent set forth by Gen. Brown, the next generation of flight line communication is here, increasing efficiency, safety and reliability with real-time wireless connection between aircrew and ground crew personnel.