By Sgt. Chris McCannApril 20, 2010
"They keep me connected to the battle and command systems - they allow me to be more efficient at my job." With that statement, Capt. Mike Maysonet, a liaison officer for United States Division - Center at the United States Forces - Iraq joint operations center, may have summed up the role of the information management office personnel perfectly. The JOC - the nerve center of U.S. operations in Iraq - is home to 134 computer stations, each with at least two computers and often more, said Information Systems Technician 2nd Class Tanesha McQueen of San Diego, Calif. More than 100 people are often working at any given time. There will be computer difficulties, said McQueen, whether it's a mouse starting to fail or a public-address system not working just before the battle update assessment. "We do most of the BUA preparations," said McQueen. "We assemble the slides, check the alignment on the screens, check all the microphones." If there's a glitch in a login profile on one of the computers, they fix it before the senior officer gets there and needs it. "We make sure everything is ready to go," McQueen said. Assisting the military service members are several civilian contractors, including Elijah Putnam, of Port Orange, Fla.,who served for several years in the U.S. Air Force, and decided he wanted to continue working with military personnel. "We do everything from basic hardware technical support to networking and server stuff," said Putnam. The job has its own challenges, they agreed. "The hardest part is dealing with all the different people," said Putnam. "You just learn to adjust and adapt and not take things personally - you make a bond with people." The best part of the work' "Working with the military," said Putnam. "It's the greatest thing, supporting them. The military has all the advanced technologies and the people have a very professional attitude to boot." Sometimes, the difficulties are just ... different. "We see things that Bill Gates never knew could happen to a computer," McQueen said. "Sometimes we fix them with sheer luck, and tell our co-workers 'I tried this, and it worked' - and lo and behold, we have a fix for when that problem happens the next time." If the problems don't get resolved, it could have major repercussions. "There are always backups, but in the big picture, if this JOC couldn't communicate, we'd have a lot of issues," Putnam said. "There would be no BUA, and then General Petraeus at Central Command wouldn't have his information. In theory, it could go all the way to the president, if the computers here went down." In reality, the service members and civilians don't let that happen; after seven years in Iraq, the systems are redundant and well-maintained. Nonetheless, maintenance keeps them busy and in the process of keeping up the system, they learn. "I enjoy working in the JOC," said McQueen. "I'm learning about myself and what I can do, what I'm willing to do, and what I expect of myself in the future."