Texas Citizen Soldiers Keeping the Comms Working

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TIKRIT, Iraq – Communications are a major part of forward operating base infrastructure. Operating and maintaining these systems are instrumental to the success of theater operations and Soldier morale.

Whether it is internet or voice communications, the Soldiers of Alpha Company 136th Signal Battalion, from the Texas Army National Guard keep communications going at FOB Speicher, to the United States and to other regions throughout the world.

They handle all Voice Over Internet Protocol and data communications for this region of Iraq, explains 2nd Lt. Michael Estrada, 1st platoon leader of Alpha Company, 136th Signal Battalion.

texas soldiers
Communications Experts serving in Iraq from the Texas Army National Guard 1st Platoon A Co. 136th Signal Battalion (left to right) Spc. Leon Elad, 2nd Lt. Michael Estrada, Spc. Israel Guzman, Spc. William James, Sgt. Alan Cranfill, Spc. Thomas Sigler

“We are basically the Southwestern Bell of the theater,” said Estrada, an Austin, Texas native. “We monitor the switches that all the data goes through.”

The unit is composed of “citizen soldiers” from a variety of backgrounds. In civilian life, Estrada is a certified public accountant at Delottie & Touche accounting firm.

Spc. Leon Elad, a switch maintainer operator, is responsible for manning the shelters and operating the work stations. In civilian life, the Houston native is a student and has worked in computer network engineering.

“It is tough being out here, but it is a good experience for me,” said Elad.

Spc. William James, a nurse in civilian life, is working as a wire systems installer, also known as a “Cable Dog.” The Huntsville, Texas, native is responsible for running network cables and various phone lines throughout the FOB. James’s most recent mission was morale oriented, running cable line so that the Soldiers could watch the Super Bowl on a big screen.

Spc. Israel Guzman, a native of Puerto Rico, is also a “Cable Dog.” He is responsible for assigning phone numbers to different Digital Nonsecure Voice Terminals. As a civilian Guzman works as a computer network engineer. “Being in the Guard, we don’t get as much hands on time with our equipment as the active duty does, but the guys have really picked up on their jobs and are performing very well here,” said Estrada.