By Mr. Michael M Novogradac (Hood)July 22, 2016
WEST FORT HOOD, Texas -- Nine Signal Soldiers from a Seagoville, Texas Reserve unit are helping save big bucks in communication cable installation here.
Platoons of the 820th Signal Company (Tactical Installation Network) are rotating in and out at the Operational Test Command during their annual training.
Cost savings are close to $97,000.
The cable installers are routing new copper and fiber cables while moving communication gear out of a small 8-by-12-foot room with no heating or air conditioning.
The equipment has been known to shut down unexpectedly at times because of heat and humidity, according to Jason D. Barrett, OTC's deputy chief of network and cyber security.
"We've had to put a stand-alone air conditioner in there to keep the equipment cool," Barrett said. "When we put the A/C in there, the next thing you know is, we have condensation with water collecting in a bucket. So you have water in a bucket with electrical equipment, and it becomes a safety hazard."
Getting the Soldiers to Fort Hood for their AT was simple. Barrett, originally from Tyler, Texas, is a Reserve Signal officer who commanded the 820th between 2014 and 2015 when he was a captain.
Now, Barrett is the executive officer for its higher headquarters, the 98th Expeditionary Signal Battalion, of the 505th Signal Brigade.
Essentially, the 820th's presence means their salaries, transportation and lodging is paid for. Cost savings come in because OTC doesn't have to pay any of those costs.
"OTC bought all the supplies -- all the fiber and the copper cables, and we have all the tools," Barrett said. "The 820th brought a lot of their tools, so all we needed was their manpower to get all this done."
The 820th's Soldiers belong to one of only five such companies in the Army: two active duty units, two Reserve, one National Guard -- and they all take turns replacing each other on deployments.
Barrett said some of the 820th's Soldiers have deployed anywhere from five to seven times. "What they're doing here is identical to what they'd be doing when they go down range," he said.
According to Staff Sgt. Carlos H. Gonzalez, the 820th's platoon sergeant from Odessa, Texas, his Soldiers are receiving the best possible training while here.
"It's good training for our Soldiers to maintain proficiency in their job skills," he said. "In our case that is terminating fiber -- terminating what we call CAT5, which is the lines for your computers and telephone lines."
Gonzalez works in a hospital as a physical therapist. Other Soldiers are policemen; one is part owner of a food catering business, while others are college students.
"Being Reservists, we don't all work at this kind of work outside of the military," he said.
"We're lucky enough to have with us, Sgt. Manuel Hernandez from Lubbock, Texas, who does this kind of work in the civilian sector, and he is very good at it," Gonzalez said. "So we try to utilize all of his training and all of his knowledge to help us to learn more and to make sure our missions become successful."
Barrett expressed great appreciation for the 820th's skills and work ethic.
"If we relied on contracting this work," he said, "it could be a four- or six-month process even to get started, because of proposals, and bids, and selecting someone to do it.
"These Soldiers? They are so experienced and well-trained, that there is nothing they can't do with copper and fiber cables."