Bridging the lines of communication
Spc. Chris Cronin, center, an infantryman with 1st Battalion, 18th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team (ABCT), 1st Infantry Division, stands with South African Defense Force partners as they prepare for the next iteration of situational training exercises, July 30 as part of Exercise Shared Accord 2013. Cronin used his expertise with communication equipment to greatly aid his South African counterparts during the biennial training exercise which promotes regional relationships, increases capacity, trains U.S. and South African forces, and furthers cross-training and interoperability.

Outside his company he might be viewed as another infantryman, but within his unit he stands out among the rest--an infantryman who loves to keep all lines of communication open. He has made a name for himself throughout Co. B, 1st Battalion, 18th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team as a "MacGyver of Communications," a reference to the popular television character with a talent for building effective tools from basic ingredients.

The infantryman and communications specialist referred to is Spc. Chris Cronin, who came to Co. B six years ago.

"Shortly after his arrival we noticed that he had a knack for fixing things--even if it wasn't broken sometimes," said Lt. Joshua Miller, the Co. B executive officer. "So it was decided on by his then-platoon sergeant that since our communications specialist was leaving soon, he would be the guy and the rest is history."

Cronin was born in Santa Rosa, California on July 30, 1985 to James Edward and Janet Lee Cronin. He graduated from El Camino High School in 2004 and made the life-changing decision to join the United States Army as an 11B--infantryman.

"I joined the Army because I wanted to continue the tradition of my family," Cronin said. "My grandfather served in Vietnam and my uncles served in the Korean War. I grew up listening to their war stories. I decided then that when I was old enough to join the military, I would. I wanted to have my own stories for my future children."

After completing advanced individual training in 2006 he received orders to 1st Bn., 18th Inf. Regt. out of Fort Riley, Kansas.

"I received orders to Fort Riley and two years later I deployed to Iraq," said Cronin. "During that deployment I worked a lot with the communication specialist learning all I could about radios and electronics to help pass the time. By the end of my deployment I was able to break a radio down to its smallest component and put it back together -- better than before."

Almost one year after returning from his first deployment, Cronin deployed to Iraq for a second tour, but this time he decided to replace parts of radios with different pieces of wire and plastic he collected around the base.

"I perfected my craft while on my second deployment," said Cronin. " I would take components from other broken electronics and rig them to make some of our worst radios work. In doing so, I received a lot of recognition from my leadership; so much they made me the new communication specialist when we returned from deployment."

Cronin has put his years of experience and self-education to good use in South Africa while supporting Exercise Shared Accord 2013, a joint exercise between the U.S. and South African forces meant to increase capacity and enhance interoperability.

"From the moment he stepped foot in the tent, we noticed he was talking to our [South African Defense Force] partners about their radio equipment," said Army Staff Sgt. Eladio Gonzales, Echo Company Platoon Sergeant and Master Gunner. "He then let the company commander know about the challenges the SANDF where having with their communications systems."

Two days after working on their equipment, Cronin was able to fix two of their radios.

"When he came to us that first day to offer us help with our radios, we were very pleased by how personal and professional he was," said SANDF Lt. Nkosiyethu Calvin Ndaza, a platoon leader with the 9th South African Infantry. "My platoon sergeant and I were able to ask him questions about the mission, and he would help translate some of the U.S. forces acronyms so we could have a better understanding of how they maneuver."

The 1-18th Infantry and 9th SAI Soldiers conducted tactical movements, situation training exercises and a live fire exercise. Ndaza requested that Cronin become a part of their element to assist through the exercise.

"We did not have any issues with Spc. Cronin working closely with our SANDF partners," said Capt. John Young, Co. B commander. "It helped out tremendously for him to be able to break the barrier of communication and help them to better understand how we maneuver our forces."

By the end of the exercise, Cronin had proven to be a valuable asset to both forces.

"He is the type of Soldier you want to have part of your team," said Ndaza. "He is very friendly and we are looking forward to keeping in contact with him. We consider him a part of our platoon."

Cronin feels that he has learned a lot from this exercise.

"I have learned how to maneuver with elements from other countries," said Cronin. "I feel that as long as we keep our lines of communication open we will make a great force to reckon with."

Page last updated Thu August 29th, 2013 at 00:00