Keeping the network running. Keeping people connected. Field technicians like Mario Jardines know their role with AT&T is critical – especially when staying connected may be someone’s only link to the outside world.

“We have to be out there making sure this network stays stable,” said Mario. “People need to be connected. It’s important to everybody, especially right now.”

For the past several weeks, AT&T field technicians around the country, have worked tirelessly – focusing on urgent matters like repairing service issues and quickly establishing connectivity to first responders, hospitals and medical facilities.

Through FirstNet, public safety’s only dedicated, nationwide communications platform, AT&T’s teams are actively supporting the network needs of first responders who are on the front lines managing this public health emergency.

Mario will admit there is some routine to a typical day in his shop in San Diego, Calif., but what happened in early February was far from typical.

Mon., Feb. 3 – 3:00 p.m.

“It started with a call from my boss,” Mario said. “He said we needed to get ready to set up a COLT quickly.”

A COLT (Cell on Light Truck) is something Mario and his fellow field tech, Vince Bennett, are familiar with – as they are often used in California during wildfires and other emergencies. This COLT was different. Mario quickly learned it was destined for Marine Corps Air Station Miramar – where hundreds of Americans evacuated from Wuhan, China after being exposed to the rapidly spreading COVID-19 virus would be quarantined.

“When we found out that we were setting up the COLT for Americans who were evacuating Wuhan, it boosted the importance of what we were doing,” Mario said. “When you think that these people are going to be quarantined and in-house for a while, it makes you realize that what you’re doing – and what we can provide them – is important.”

Tues., Feb. 4 – 3:00 a.m.

Mario and his colleagues – a team of techs, vendors, radio frequency specialists and others worked around the clock to get the COLT at MCAS Miramar operational and establish connectivity. The team knew that with evacuees due to arrive at the base in a matter of hours, every minute counted.

“We were there working through the night,” Mario said. “We were waking up different people in the middle of the night who could help us troubleshoot issues, and they were glad to help us. Support teams would get on their computers to help us work through problems that they weren’t even a part of. It was amazing. Had they not helped us it could have set the whole project back 8 to 10 hours.”

The team did not have time for delays.

Tues., Feb. 4 – 7:15 a.m.

Just about 12 hours before the first evacuees arrived, the COLT went on air. This is something Mario and his operations manager, Mike Lewis, said likely wouldn’t have been possible without the collaboration from multiple teams and more than a dozen people.

“I was impressed with how everyone made this happen,” Mike said. “It was amazing. It took us about 24 hours. Never had this been done so quickly. Everyone knew how critical it was.”

Collaboration, Connectivity & Pride

Area Manager Kevin Quinn, External Affairs Director Christine Moore and Technical Communications Manager Tony Salas were instrumental from the outset. And the team on the ground was aided by the work of several Radio Access Network (RAN) team specialists and other engineers.

And while proud of the team effort at the base to get the COLT online and reconnect the thousands of people who were quarantined at the base, Mario said it simply underscores his pride in the work he does every day.

“I am very blessed to have the job that I have,” Mario said. “I love to get up every day and go site to site. It humbles me when I get to work on projects as important as this one.”