KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan -- Specialist Corey Strohmeyer was on a mission in southern Afghanistan when, during a partnership meeting, he heard an explosion in the distance.
"We heard it and saw the smoke come up," Strohmeyer said. "We didn't know what it was."
Strohmeyer, a radio-telephone operator for Regional Command (South), called the Combined Joint Operations Center at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, to ask about the explosion.
When he learned it was a controlled detonation conducted by the International Security Assistance Force, he informed his supervisor and the mission continued.
The incident represents what Strohmeyer, a Delaware National Guardsman, does as an RTO for RC(S). He goes out on missions with ISAF leaders, establishes communication with headquarters, relays messages to them, and receives messages to pass on to his supervisor.
Captain Peter Erickson, an aide-de-camp for RC(S), who Strohmeyer often reports to, said communication is "vital to operations."
"The importance of an RTO cannot be overstated," Erickson said, adding that RTOs help the "commander to command… they allow you to talk in real time."
Erickson also said Strohmeyer has done a "phenomenal job," and that he is "tactically and technically proficient."
Strohmeyer, a Lewes, Del., native, joined the Delaware National Guard in January 2011. He is a part of Company A, 198th Expeditionary Signal Battalion, and drills monthly in Georgetown, Del.
Strohmeyer also works full-time as a federal technician for the Delaware National Guard Joint Forces Headquarters in Wilmington, Del., although he has been in Afghanistan for the past few months serving on his first deployment.
Strohmeyer started off his deployment working as an information technology specialist, but when RC(S) headquarters needed an RTO, Strohmeyer's name came up as a candidate to fulfill the role. After interviewing for the job, he started the next day. He has also worked as an information management officer during his time in Afghanistan.
"My experience so far is a constantly changing one," he said. "My job is different on a day-to-day basis."
Yet, Strohmeyer has been efficient in providing communication and doing his job, said Sgt. 1st Class Josh Conley, a personal security officer for RC(S).
"It's amazing to see him work with levels that are well above his pay grade," Conley said.
Conley added that Strohmeyer has exceptional troubleshooting skills -- vital skills to have when working with tactical satellite antennas and tactical radios, as Strohmeyer does.
"He'll go meticulously through all of the steps to find the problem, and if he can't, he's very resourceful in finding the person with the right answers," Conley said.
On one particular mission at an Afghan National Army compound in southern Afghanistan, as several personal security detail Soldiers provided security and two AH-64 Apache helicopters hovered above him, Strohmeyer sat on top of a hill with a fellow Soldier maintaining a tactical satellite antenna.
"We were hanging out there doing our thing, and two ANA guys brought us hot tea," he said.
In a heightened security situation, no one would have faulted Strohmeyer for refusing the tea, but even as he sat on the wall of a mortar emplacement maintaining communication with headquarters, he received the kettle.
The story represents, in a nutshell, Strohmeyer's personality. He doesn't take himself too seriously and never compromises his capabilities, always keeping an ear in his headset to receive important messages for ISAF leaders.
Whether he's drinking tea courtesy of ANA soldiers or calling in to RC(S) headquarters to ask about controlled detonations, Strohmeyer accomplishes the mission with the precision expected of RTOs, and he has gained new experiences along the way.
"I really am enjoying this deployment," he said. "I get a lot of face time with a lot of high-ranking Soldiers. You get better insight into the inner workings of the Army at a higher level."