Staff Sgt. Joshua Balasa, a satellite communications systems crew chief master trainer from Whidbey Island, Washington, recently competed in the U.S. Space and Missile Defense Command’s annual Best Warrior competition in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Traveling more than 5,000 miles from Charlie Company, 53rd Signal Battalion, in Landstuhl, Germany, Balasa took the competition as a personal challenge, giving it his all in an unseasonably early June heatwave.
I had the opportunity to speak to Balasa before the next-to-last event in the competition to gain some insight into his life and Army career.
Q: Why did you join the Army?
A: I joined the Army to gain maturity. I watched my sister struggle through college and I didn’t want to do that, so I joined at 18 right out of high school. Now nine years in, I believe I gained that maturity.
Q: Have you been a 25 Sierra (satellite communications systems operator) the entire time and where have you been in the Army?
A: Yes, and three years ago I went through the 1 Charlie course and became a SATCOM (satellite communications) systems controller. I started off at Fort Bliss, 3rd Brigade, 1st Armored Division, then 4th Brigade, same division, then went to Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, in the 228th Signal Company in the 54th Signal Battalion as an information management officer. I then went to Fort Carson with 3rd Brigade, 4th Infantry Division, where I was a joint network node squad leader. I deployed to Eastern Europe for Atlantic Resolve while I was there, then onto Germany where I am now.
Q: You’ve been around the world and back in less than a decade. What are the highlights?
A: The people I have met. The military is a melting pot of people all across the world, not just the country - if you count the people that join to get citizenship - you have all these different personalities and perspectives, and it enriches your own knowledge seeing different points of view from all types of people.
As far as places I have been - Kuwait. Stationed out there for a year, there’s not a lot of distractions outside of work, so it’s a lot of time for self-development and getting those extra workouts and enrolling in college classes. For me, I am signal, so getting those technical certifications, I got a few out there.
Q: What is it about your career field you like?
A: 25 Sierras are the pivot point for communications. We are what connects a unit to the rest of the world. On the ground side where I was supporting a brigade combat team, my equipment would be providing phone and internet services to Soldiers in an austere environment without any type of physical connection to landlines.
Giving them that ability to reach out and call their families made me feel good. Working on the controller side, taking all the Soldiers that are on the ground trying to do the job that I used to do and providing them customer service so they can have a high quality of service. Providing that same level of support down to the units they support, giving those connections back to the real world wherever they may be across the globe.
Q: What made you go out for Best Warrior?
A: I just wanted to see if I could do it. To set a good example to all the NCOs (noncommissioned officers) in my company. I’m a little bit older than a lot of them in my unit, so I said, if I could do it, you can do it better than me.
Q: Has it been difficult?
A: As a 1 Charlie yes, but as a normal 25 Sierra, I would get training like this all the time - weapons fundamentals, moving tactically, etc. When you are in a BCT (Brigade Combat Team) as a 25 series, you’re not a 25 Sierra or Quebec, you are just a communications guy.
Q: How has Germany been?
A: Pre-COVID, awesome. The German government has been pretty strict on locking everything down, which I don’t blame them, but the ability to travel and see Europe to get that cultural experience is a lot of fun. Before COVID, I took about a month hopping around Europe. Went to Poland, Venice, Berlin, Austria and Vienna.
Q: What are your long-term goals in the Army?
A: I want to make sergeant major at brigade level or higher, or whatever is equivalent in the (U.S.) Space Force.
Balasa will be transferring over to the Space Force in October when the U.S. Army’s Satellite Operations (SATOPS) Brigade becomes incorporated into the military’s newest branch. He will remain in Landstuhl for another two years thereafter for a total of five years in Germany.