During his 22 years of military service, Rich Miles studied battle tactics - enrolling in advanced courses, soaking up the expertise of Army leaders and legends.

But it was as a civilian that he finally deployed to a war zone.

Now serving in Iraq as the Liaison Officer for the Program Executive Office Command, Control and Communications - Tactical (PEO C3T), Miles is putting his preparation to use. As the on-the-ground representative for the PEO, he is responsible for sustaining and supporting C3T systems in theater, as well as synchronizing the withdrawal of equipment and personnel with the drawdown of forces in Iraq.

"There's nothing better than seeing it - talking to the Warfighter on the ground and seeing plans being developed," Miles said. "You read this in the book, you read about tactics, but when you live it you know it's true that we have good Soldiers and they want to do the right thing."

Miles, who retired from the Army as a lieutenant colonel in 2003, deployed to Iraq in January 2010 as the PEO C3T Liaison Officer (LNO). He serves as the subject matter expert on PEO C3T systems in theater, including key communications networks such as the Warfighter Information Network - Tactical (WIN-T), and force protection systems such as those provided by Program Director, Counter-Rocket, Artillery and Mortar (C-RAM). Miles also represents the PEO to the United States Forces - Iraq (USF-I) headquarters, the 402nd Army Field Support Brigade and numerous other Army and Joint organizations.

"His candid and forthcoming attitude fostered and maintained a cohesive team and partnership with PEO C3T and United States Forces - Iraq," said Lt. Col Terry M. Wilson, Product Manager Command Post Systems and Integration (CPS&I). PdM CPS&I, to which Miles is assigned, is part of Project Manager, WIN-T. "His performance has been absolutely superb in spite of the complexity of the drawdown environment and an Army that is transitioning to support and assist operations."

The U.S. mission formally shifted from Operation Iraqi Freedom to Operation New Dawn on Sept. 1, 2010.

During the height of the conflict, the U.S. presence stretched to thousands of posts throughout Iraq. The drawdown called for shrinking that footprint to just six enduring hub locations for both people and equipment. Throughout the transition, Miles is ensuring visibility and accountability for hundreds of PEO C3T personnel and thousands of pieces of equipment, while distilling numerous operational orders into "clear and concise directions," Wilson said.

"He has been invaluable in keeping the PEO informed of theater expectations and activities involving the drawdown of forces in Iraq," said Joseph Hollenbeck, director of the PEO C3T Readiness Management Division. "Rich has been instrumental as the authoritative and responsive source providing our Program and Product Managers the most up-to-date planning guidance allowing them to plan proactively - not execute reactively."

Given that the Status of Forces Agreement between Iraq and the United States calls for the last American troops to leave the country by the end of 2011, Miles is also laying the groundwork for the future. He is helping to educate Iraqis so they fully understand the tactical capabilities of systems like WIN-T, as well as how to safeguard the information traveling over the network.

"They are trying to secure their tactical communications, and they're leaning on us," Miles said. "It's going to lay down what it's going to look like when we leave. How many times do you get a chance to do that'"

He was also instrumental in ensuring frequencies were allocated for the Command and Control on the Move (C2OTM) digital backbone, Wilson said. C2OTM is a network of integrated Battle Command applications inside a mobile platform.

Colleagues say Miles is well-suited to a difficult and evolving mission. His strong relationship with units and constant on-the-ground feedback has allowed senior leaders to adjust system components to Warfighters' needs, said Jimmy Preston, chief of the business management branch for PdM CPS&I.

"He is a very outgoing person, very personable, and he's well-versed in the subject matter," Preston said. "And anything that he's not versed in, he's the type of guy that will dig until he gets the data and information required to do the job. He's very thorough and he's well-respected among his peers."

Though Miles was prepared for his mission, he said there were some lessons he could only learn on the ground. For one: Don't be defined by rank or status.

"Regardless of your situation - if you are a contractor, or you're a government person, or you're a Soldier - it's a 'One Team' thing here," Miles said. "From the general down to the private, they're always willing to learn and be a cohesive team to bring you into the fold. Everyone treats you with respect."

Another surprise was the around-the-clock pace. Miles calls it "two for one" - for every day worked by those at home in the United States, the team in Iraq works twice as long. After a patrol is complete, that can mean many more hours of review, analysis and ensuring everyone and everything is accounted for.

"The mission just doesn't stop here, and that's not a bad thing," he said. "The mission just goes, and you've got to go with it."

Miles' first deployment is going to last longer than planned, as his service in Iraq has been extended for another six months. He said he is eager to finish what he started, and with the support of his wife and the PEO C3T community, the time goes by quickly.

"I couldn't have asked for a better chain of command," Miles said. "I've been here for awhile, but it doesn't seem like that. I'm so proud to be here, to experience this."

Claire Heininger is a staff writer for Symbolic Systems, Inc. supporting the Army's PEO C3T.