By Anthony RicchiazziNovember 19, 2008
TOBYHANNA ARMY DEPOT, Pa. - A newly-trained technician supporting warfighters in Iraq has been recognized by Central Command for outstanding duty performance.
Mark Bell (a resident of Moscow), an electronics technician, earned the U.S. Army Central Command's Civilian of the Quarter, 3rd quarter. Bell works in the Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Directorate and is on temporary duty for the Joint CREW Composite Squadron-One.
Navy Cmdr. Brian Allen, Multi-National Division-Central officer-in-charge, presented the award to Bell.
Bell has worked at the depot for four and a half years. Prior to deploying to Iraq to be a Field Service Representative, he worked in the Systems Integration and Support Directorate.
He arrived in Baghdad on July 5 for a six-month assignment as a Field Service Representative supporting the Counter Radio Controlled Improvised Explosive Device Electronic Warfare program. He received initial training at the CREW Regional Support Center there.
"Shortly following his arrival, word was put out on the floor that we were looking for a volunteer to fill in at Forward Operating Base Mahmudiyah while the current FSR went on leave," said Cmdr. Adam Masten, CREW technical officer. "Mark was the only one to volunteer for this position and needed to be on-site before July 23 to conduct turnover."
Bell would fill in for a site lead, so he was also required to learn the Theater Property Equipment material management system, quality assurance and troubleshooting procedures.
Furthermore, he needed to become the resident expert on different types of CREW systems, said Masten. He needed to learn to use two computer program systems, PBUSE (Property Book Unit Supply Enhanced - a web based computer program used to track and allocate theater property equipment) and Repair Data. "While we were all a little skeptical at first, we like to operate on a process of volunteerism, so we gave him the opportunity."
The Field Support Site at FOB Mahmudiyah consists of one Navy senior chief petty officer and one civilian FSR. The site supports hundreds of vehicles for Multi-National Division-Central and is in the forward operating area.
Masten said Mark spent the next two weeks working furiously. When he wasn't on the Regional Support Center floor installing systems, he was receiving training by the system original equipment manufacturer or theater property equipment personnel.
"In a nutshell, I ran the entire Warlock site at this FOB," Bell said. "I was in charge of CREW-equipped vehicles and the responsibility of ensuring they all worked properly."
"He never once uttered a complaint about being worked to death," Masten noted. "Two and a half weeks later, he flew off to Mahmudiyah for what he thought would be a three week fill-in job. After a three-day turnover he was left in charge, sleeping on a cot in his workshop in unfamiliar territory."
Masten said that Mark took to his responsibilities in Mahmudiyah with the same exuberance he became known for at the Regional Support Center. He was very proactive in getting the work accomplished, completing his first two CVRJ installs by himself, retrofitting all the Duke V2 vehicles he was responsible for and conducting the normal routine weekly maintenance schedule on all vehicles.
"It was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do; but like I always say, work hard and the rest will come easy," Bell said.
"Mark's exceptional performance was noticed by those down in Mahmudiyah and I personally received phone calls from two Army lieutenant colonels, one Navy lieutenant commander and two Army majors asking that he remain at Mahmudiyah with the return of their regular FSR," Masten said. "Due to a shift of units because of base closures, the vehicle density at Mahmudiyah increased and I was able to justify keeping a second FSR at the Warlock shop, although I would have loved to have him return here to the RSC."
Bell said that although he had several duties, the work was shared with the other two technicians when they returned.
"On a bigger base there is typically one person who specifically deals with paper work, quality assurance, training, etc.," he said. "Being a smaller FOB means all responsibility falls on the three of us. We learned each others jobs so that we can help each other out as well as cover for another during absences such as leave or emergencies."
He noted that working conditions in a small FOB are not the best, but they make continuous improvements to their shop, which also serves as office and sleeping quarters.
Working hours are not set and Bell and his coworkers had to be available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Because of the high activity of the units they support, Bell would complete equipment installations at midnight. He would also be called upon to troubleshoot systems at all hours for units about to go on missions.
"The 24 by 16 foot shop was built from the ground up by FSR personnel," he said. "Most work is conducted in front of the shop under a metal awning; however, we sometimes have to go to the vehicles depending on the situation. We continue to make improvements in order to better support the units and to make things as comfortable as possible."
Bell said the most interesting part of his job is meeting the Soldiers and learning about the different types of Radio Controlled Improvised Explosive Devices. "The most satisfying part of my job is the thanks I get from the Soldiers and knowing that this program saves lives."
"I am thankful for him and very proud that he has achieved this personal accomplishment," said Shelly Sherman (a resident of Scranton), who is serving as an electronics supervisor in the Joint CREW Composite Squadron-One. "He's an amazing person and he has an amazing story if you ever have the opportunity to talk with him. He has truly made me a proud Tobyhanna Army Depot employee to know that he is on my team."
Sherman is part of the Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Directorate's Air Traffic Control Division.
"Mark has already requested to stay an additional six months, which I avidly endorsed," Masten said. "I would gladly have him work for me anywhere. He is a self-starter and enthusiastic employee whose joy and mirth at what he does is highly infectious to everyone around him. He has a very positive outlook and makes it known that he is here to serve the Soldier. If he has a twin, please send him over as well."
Tobyhanna Army Depot is the largest full-service Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (C4ISR) maintenance and logistics support facility in the Department of Defense. Employees repair, overhaul and fabricate electronics systems and components, from tactical field radios to the ground terminals for the defense satellite communications network.
Tobyhanna's missions support all branches of the Armed Forces. The depot is the Army Center of Industrial and Technical Excellence for Communications-Electronics, Avionics, and Missile Guidance and Control Systems and the Air Force Technology Repair Center for ground communications and electronics.
About 5,700 personnel are employed at Tobyhanna, which is located in the Pocono Mountains of northeastern Pennsylvania.
Tobyhanna Army Depot is part of the U.S. Army CECOM Life Cycle Management Command. Headquartered at Fort Monmouth, N.J., the command's mission is to research, develop, acquire, field and sustain communications, command, control, computer, intelligence, electronic warfare and sensors capabilities for the Armed Forces.