Grecian Firebolt exercise logo

Signal sergeant squelches problems

by SPC Derick Vance

DEVENS RESERVE FORCES TRAINING AREA, Mass. � Popping, static and squelching noises ring through the air. Radio equipment lays stacked flush against the wall, along with manuals strewn chaotically across the table. Network diagrams are tacked to the wall like crooked picture frames in an unkempt house. Outside this confined space are a gaggle of soldiers who await answers, like students receiving information for a test.

Welcome to the office of SSG Chuck Harris, the 36-year-old noncommissioned officer in charge of operations for Company C, 280th Signal Battalion, during the Grecian Firebolt exercise here. Harris has served in 280th Signal Battalion for 18 years. Being the NCOIC of operations is a duty Harris said he takes seriously.

Along with Grecian Firebolt, the 280th � a National Guard unit from Westbrook, Conn. � is also supporting 12 units involved in the Petroleum, Oil and Lubricant Exercise held at military installations across the country in June.

SSG Chuck Harris answers calls in operations station

SSG Chuck Harris answers calls in the operations station of Company C, 280th Signal Battalion.

During POLEX Harris� days are 12-hour shifts; however, he could be called at any time during the day or night to troubleshoot a problem.

�I don�t pull a regular shift, I�m on duty 24 hours a day,� Harris said.

Harris� duties consist of planning Signal operations and prepping the unit before annual training. Harris, who supervises 12 Signal soldiers, works with the Single-Channel Ground and Airborne Radio System. He also uses a number of telephones to carry out the mission.

It�s important that he keep himself abreast of everything that�s happening during the exercise and also that he communicates with everyone as well. �Communication is key to any successful exercise,� Harris said.

All the units involved in the training exercise must have a communications hub, and Harris� operations center is like nerve central for those units. It�s understandable, then, that he said the most difficult challenge of his job is coordinating all the information he receives daily.

�You have so much input coming in. Trying to figure out who the output is going to is tough,� Harris said.

Harris brings technical expertise from his civilian job as an information-technology specialist. �I try to incorporate what I learn on my civilian job to my military job,� he said.

Many soldiers said they appreciate the way Harris works with multiple tasks and still finds time to help them. He�s flexible and hears and understands the troops� concerns, they said.

PFC Kelsey Vance, a radio operator from Killingly, Conn., said, �Harris listens well and knows what he�s doing.�

SPC Kim Kenny from Groton, Conn., added, �He�s kind and nice. He never yells at you.�

Since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, many Army men and women have rededicated themselves to getting their military job done, Harris said, and he is no different. �It�s very important that we get all soldiers up to speed,� he said.

SPC Vance writes for 214th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment, Richmond, Va.

Acronym QuickScan
NCOIC � noncommissioned officer in charge
POLEX � Petroleum, Oil and Lubrica nts Exercise

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