Faces From the Front for April 11, 2011 - Sgt. 1st Class Jose Zarate
Current Unit: Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 86th Expeditionary Signal Battalion
Current Position: Electronics Maintenance Chief
Current Location: Afghanistan
Hometown: McAllen, Texas
Years of Service: 16
Technology is continuously changing. Electronic gadgets and communications equipment become outdated very quickly as the next generation hits the market. This is true even for the Army as it strives to provide Soldiers with new technologies that increase mission readiness and effectiveness.
In Afghanistan, Sgt. 1st Class Jose Zarate and his team see to it that new electronic and communication technology is implemented as it becomes available and current systems are properly maintained.
Zarate is the electronics maintenance chief for a regional signal communications and electronics shop. His work enables Soldiers throughout the south and west regions of the country to communicate effectively and guarantees that they have the proper electronics equipment to complete their missions.
“My shop is responsible for the repair of signal communication equipment for both Afghanistan Region West and Afghanistan Region South. My Soldiers and technicians work on various electronic equipment, everything from night-vision devices to radios, and let’s not forget the Warfighter Information Network, which provides the battlefield commander with access to the internet and intranet,” Zarate explained.
“We are responsible for the direct support maintenance of 314 signal assemblages,” Zarate added. “A signal assemblage is basically communication equipment that provides Voice over IP services, internet and intranet connectivity. Just like in your home, you would call either the Geek Squad or your local telephone company to come repair your equipment because you can’t access the internet. Signal maintenance is basically the same.”
Zarate and his team are highly skilled and have been specifically trained for their mission. Zarate himself has attended military electronics and radio repair courses. As a result of the team’s training and dedication, they’re proficient in ensuring that all equipment is properly implemented, maintained and repaired.
And, if overseeing the electronic and communications systems and equipment for half of Afghanistan was not enough, Zarate and his Soldiers took it upon themselves to construct a new Regional Signal Maintenance Facility.
“The building we inherited was very cramped and the roof leaked terribly,” Zarate explained.
Acting as the construction foreman for the project, Zarate provided oversight and guidance as his fellow Soldiers worked on the structure.
“My Soldiers worked long and hard on this construction project with little to no construction experience,” Zarate said. “The completion of the project gives my Soldiers a spacious workspace and a more environmentally safe area to work from.”
While Zarate has faced his fair share of trials and tribulations during this tour, he draws support from his faith and his family, which enables him to overcome all obstacles.
“Juggling so many projects at one time has been difficult,” Zarate said. “I overcome challenge after challenge with The Serenity Prayer and the support of my friends and family back home.”
Zarate looks forward to returning to the U.S. in the coming weeks and spending time with his family, especially his father, with whom he has developed a stronger relationship as a result of his Army service.
“My father is a Vietnam veteran, and this deployment has brought me and my father closer. Having deployed during a time of war, we now share a unique bond that many don’t have. I have a better understanding of his trials and some of the hardships he endured, and he shares his experiences with me more now that I have deployed.”
Zarate plans to complete his bachelor’s degree in computer science after this tour.