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Deployed COMSEC worker excels, earns medal.

TOBYHANNA ARMY DEPOT, Pa. -- Jim Mason, an electronics mechanic in the Communications Security Division, has earned recognition for exceptional service to warfighters in Iraq. He was awarded the Achievement Medal for Civilian Service by the Army Field Support Battalion-Iraq for his pivotal role as the team leader for establishing the depot's Communications Security Forward Repair Activities in the theater of operations.

Mason led the efforts that established the first FRA in 2004 and the second site late last year. The sites provide sustainment support on more than 20 COMSEC items, to include the repair, testing, software upgrade, and exchange of secure voice, secure data and trunk encryption equipments. "The service we provided was because the depot was behind us," Mason noted. "It really was a depot group effort."

Mason said he had two primary reasons for taking on the assignments.

"These were opportunities to support the Soldier in the field," Mason explained. "The Soldiers are the ones paying the price and I saw the chance to serve those who needed us the most. Secondly, I like challenge, and establishing repair shops where they hadn't existed before is quite a challenge," Mason added

The depot personnel at the FRAs perform emergency repairs on damaged key generators and racks, and have assisted in the installation of secure communications links. They also arrange for the shipment of components to Tobyhanna that could not be repaired on site.

The FRA support was effective and timely, with more than 90 percent of work orders completed in 24-hour turnaround period. The FRAs support all branches of the Armed Forces. "Our in-theater presence has resulted in faster turnaround times, reduced maintenance repair costs, and insured compliance with the unique security requirements of COMSEC material. In addition, our presence also eliminated delays associated with the shipment of material back to Tobyhanna," said Jim Powell, chief of the COMSEC Division.

"The Soldiers were pleased with the rapid turnaround that met the units' requirements, and helped reduce expenses since we did not have to maintain a large supply of spares," Mason said. "We were the faces they saw, but again, the whole depot team was backing us up from here."

With their background in electronics, the FRA team members also provided emergency maintenance support on non-COMSEC communications-electronics equipment, such as SINCGARS radios.

Mason's team quickly overcame obstacles in establishing the first FRA, then used lessons learned to even more rapidly get the second FRA operational. Before the first FRA opened for business, a depot team modified and upgraded a 38-foot van that would be the work site in-country. Previously a STAMIS van, personnel in the Systems Integration and Support Directorate refurbished it to meet the unique needs of the mission, including specialized test equipment, tools, reference manuals, and parts.

Setting up the second FRA went more smoothly because of lessons learned from establishing the first FRA," Mason explained. "We did a lot of planning here, and sent a maintenance van a month ahead of us so that our equipment was there when we arrived."

The team quickly set into a typical work pattern of 12-hours-a-day, seven days-a-week. The daily routine was occasionally interrupted by errant mortar rounds from the insurgents. He lived in a trailer near his work site.

"Living and working conditions were pretty decent. Our quarters were laid out like a college dorm," Mason said.

The COMSEC FRAs are among a network of more than 30 FRAs operated by Tobyhanna to provide on-site support of C4ISR systems wherever U.S. forces operate or deploy.

Tobyhanna Army Depot is part of the C-E LCMC. Headquartered at Fort Monmouth, N.J., C-E LCMC's mission is to research, develop, acquire, field and sustain communications, command, control computer, intelligence, electronic warfare, and sensors capabilities for the Armed Forces.

Mr. Toolen is with the Tobyhanna Army Depot Public Affairs Office, Tobyhanna, Pa.
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Title Annotation:Communications Security Division's Jim Mason
Author:Toolan, Kevin
Publication:Army Communicator
Geographic Code:7IRAQ
Date:Jun 22, 2006
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