By Spc. Mike AlbertsApril 5, 2007
HAWIJA - In the desert somewhere between the objective and their "home" in Iraq two Soldiers work together silently in the dark. Without a word, and with movements that seem synchronized, they quickly fasten antennas, attach cables and hoist the large receiving and transmitting device.
"Got it'" asks the stocky sergeant. "Ya, got it," responds the spectacled specialist.
And just like that - in less than 15 minutes - the communications hardware is assembled and ground forces are relaying critical information from just outside the morning's objective in a southern portion of the Kirkuk Province back to the command post.
Sgt. Jose Yanez and Spc. Jared Ward, both signal support specialists, 2nd Battalion, 27th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, have established the critical link in the mission's communication chain. They kick-back in the cab of their vehicle. Ward crunches on a candy bar. Yanez sips his soda. Mission accomplished and its just 5:45 a.m.
Yanez grew up in Brownsville, Texas, where both parents still currently reside. Over his more than 10 years of military service, Yanez has spent time with units in Germany, Georgia and North Carolina before moving to Schofield Barracks, Hawaii late last year. He's one of the few who is on his third deployment to Iraq.
"I was in Iraq in February 2003 through June of that year when the war first started. Then, I changed units and got orders to go back in March 2004 for a year," said Yanez. "After I got back from Iraq in 2005, I eventually got orders to Hawaii and got assigned to Third Brigade that was already over here. I just arrived about a month ago," he continued.
Yanez explained that his "retransmission mission" means that he and Ward are part of the first push toward the objective. "We make sure that everyone can talk to each other from the forward elements all the way to the back," he said.
Noon rolls around and Ward and Yanez exit their vehicle after hours of monitoring radio traffic. Yanez explains that it is possible to construct a radio with just three "MRE (Meals Ready-To-Eat) spoons" and certain other natural material. Clearly, Yanez' time at Fort Bragg, N.C., with Special Forces units has paid off.
Ward, a native of West Monroe, La., whose family now resides just outside of Corpus Christie, Texas, listens to Yanez, shakes his head approvingly and moves to the rear of the vehicle to grab chow. With his distinctive southern country drawl, Ward explains that his father is in the same field in the civilian world. Like his father, Ward finds that he really enjoys his work.
"The best part about my job is knowing that we are a big asset to the mission," said Ward. "If people can't talk out here then people can get hurt or injured, and if that does happen, we are the ones that [provide the means] for reaching those that are in need," he said.
Four hours later, Yanez and Ward get the order to "break it down." Together, in silence, they work. Again, in less than 15 minutes, the equipment is disassembled and packed away. Just that quickly, both Soldiers hop into the cab of their vehicle to head back home.
"First in, last out," said Ward. "There's a lot of perks to being in 'commo,' but it seems that we're still always the last to leave."