Face of Defense: Sailor Works to Protect Soldiers From Explosives
By Army Pfc. Christopher McKenna
Special to American Forces Press Service
COMBAT OUTPOST MEADE, Iraq, Sept. 3, 2008 Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Samuel Solis couldn’t have pictured himself working on Army vehicles in the Iraqi desert when he signed up to become a sailor.
Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Samuel Solis monitors one of the systems designed to counter improvised explosive devices in an Army tactical vehicle at Combat Outpost Mead, Iraq, Aug. 24, 2008. He is part of the Joint Counter-Radio-Controlled IED Electronic Warfare Composite Squadron 1, attached to the 101st Airborne Division’s Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team. U.S. Army photo by Pfc. Christopher McKenna, Multinational Division Baghdad
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
But that is exactly what Solis, a native of Ore City, Texas, is doing as the lone sailor attached to an Army squadron deployed here to help protect soldiers from improvised explosive devices.
"My job is to maintain the counter-IED equipment on all of the vehicles that go outside the wire," Solis said. He is part of the Joint Counter-Radio-controlled IED Electronic Warfare Composite Squadron 1, attached to the 101st Airborne Division’s Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team.
"I maintain the equipment and make sure that, when at all possible, improvements are made," he said.
Solis arrived in June after working as a cryptologic technician onboard the USS Sampson out of San Diego. A cryptologic technician is similar to an electronic warfare officer on a ship, except operating with equipment optimized for maritime missions.
"I got my skill sets from the Navy and use that over here," he said. "I went through a week-long course here, and I'd say about 90 percent of what I do is from hands-on training."
Prior to arriving to the unit, Solis didn't know what to expect, especially being in the Navy and joining the ranks of an Army unit.
"Since I've arrived, I feel like I have been accepted well," Solis said. "I've never once felt like I don't belong. I feel like I am a part of the team, and in the same sense, I am treated like I am a part of the team."
Each of the regiment’s four outlying patrol bases has a specialist to help maintain the trucks outside of Meade. "We assist the supported commander with employing defensive and offensive electronic warfare and are helping to build the Army's organic electronic warfare capability for their future deployments," said Navy Lt. Cmdr. Mike Miller, from Oak Harbor, Wash., electronic warfare officer with the squadron.
When a system has a fault, Solis examines equipment in the vehicle, troubleshoots, then takes the needed steps to get the system running properly again.
"Being at Combat Outpost Meade would have to be the most challenging aspect of my job. Being in a remote location, the logistical aspect is challenging," Solis said. "Having a crew specialist at each of the patrol bases has made it a lot easier. They're smart. They know what they're doing."
Solis’ experiences and capabilities instill confidence in his fellow servicemembers.
"Guys like him are the ones making the difference," Miller said. "He is one of the key guys out there helping the commanders execute counterinsurgency operations safely."
(Army Pfc. Christopher McKenna serves in Multinational Division Baghdad with the 101st Airborne Division’s 3rd Brigade Combat Team.)