News: Signal warrant officer prepares to be over and out
Story by Spc. Anthony Hooker
FORT McCOY, Wis. – It’s hard to imagine all of the changes he’s seen in 40 years. Serving through two wars, six different Presidents, and countless advances in technology, Army Reserve Chief Warrant Officer 2 Clifford Poythress is nearing the end of a successful 40-year career in the United States Army. Poythress, an information systems technician with the 324th Expeditionary Signal Battalion, has also successfully served as an infantryman and in transportation. The 59 year-old, Lagrange, Ga. native, who also works for the city of Atlanta as a security engineer, said he has served so long because he loves being in the military.
“The Army has given me everything,” said Poythress, who joined the 324th ESB in 2008. “By everything, I mean when I entered into the Army, I had no money, no degree, no worldwide friends; I only had friends in Lagrange.”
Poythress has gained a reputation throughout his battalion as a tireless worker. Maj. Montrese Love, commander of the 324th ESB, said Poythress will be difficult to replace because of his experience and his willingness to serve at the command’s request.
As a TPU [Troop Program Unit] Soldier, he has
been incredibly flexible, Love said. "He has brought the unit a lot of
reassurance because he has been always willing to take on assignments and will work the issue until he has completed the task. That ability is not easily replaceable."
Capt. Joe Addison, the 324th ESB’s officer in charge of plans and operations, echoed Love’s remarks. “(Poythress) is dedicated, enthusiastic . . . gives 110 percent,” Addison said. “He takes great pride in his unit.”
Poythress is currently serving as the 324th ESB’s senior warrant officer in charge of training and operations during Grecian Firebolt, a three-month long training exercise that put various Reserve units in real-life and scenario training. While leading Soldiers during the Army Reserve’s largest annual communications exercise, Poythress said he will continue to get Soldiers what they need on the battlefield as well as explain how to manage any resources they get.
“When I joined the service, there was no formal school training,” said Poythress, whose primary duties are troubleshooting local and wide-area network tactical systems and updating all signal equipment for the battalion. “You got with someone and they showed you what to do – OJT (on the job training).”
Spc. Rebecca Feldhaus, a signal support systems specialist with the 324th ESB, said Poythress has always been willing to reach out to troops in the unit. “Chief will regularly pull you aside and ask you about what you are doing,” said Feldhaus. “He often will take the time to show me how to do something. I appreciate it because it makes me feel more valued by the unit and as a Soldier.”
Staff Sgt. Otis Jennings, a noncommissioned officer in charge of company-level operations, follows Poythress’ approach to training. The Greenville, S.C. resident who recently completed a tour to Afghanistan said he credited a large part of the company’s success to time spent fielding equipment under Poythress’ leadership prior to the deployment. “I was tasked to get 14 Warfighter Information Network-Tactical systems updated and prepared for mobilization,” said Jennings. “I had a team of Soldiers who transported some of the equipment down to Fort Gordon to meet Chief Poythress. It was chief’s idea to match team personnel with the equipment when it was being updated. He even went up to Greenville, S.C., to update systems that did not make the trip. Before we deployed, Soldiers knew exactly what parts were good and what needed monitoring.”
Jennings said Poythress’ methodical but detailed approach gave his team a technical advantage once they set up systems in Afghanistan. “By giving teams an easy-to-follow method, the Soldiers were able to update systems themselves once software was handed out…saving teams a lot of maintenance time when systems were disabled,” said Jennings. “The communications chief over there thought we were active-duty because of our (technical recognition) level.”
Jennings said being around Poythress has also taught him the importance of patience. “Chief doesn’t like to rush into things, so he won’t start one project until all his pieces are in place. That experience helped me, because I let Soldiers try to resolve link issues on their own if the system went down. If I was a young sergeant, I would have kicked all of those Soldiers out of the shelter and told them ‘go play or something’.” Chief’s one of those old Soldiers who makes you learn, said Jennings. “He’s not just content to give you a task; he tries to make sure Soldiers are familiar with what they have equipment-wise and that helps improve their efficiency.”
The Army Commendation Medal and the Expert Infantry Badge are among Poythress’ Army accomplishments. Poythress is particularly fond of the EIB because it tested his brain as well as his hand-eye coordination. “I earned the Expert Infantry Badge in 1975,” Poythress recalled. “I’m proud of it because part of the badge’s qualification is knowledge-based. Ten-thousand Soldiers applied for it and only 10 got it . . . and I was the only black guy to get the award.”
Poythress expressed a lot of appreciation for improvements in educational opportunities and the emergence of minorities and women to influential positions in the military. He believes if you do what you are supposed to do, you get promoted.
Outside of the Army Reserve, Poythress has also earned two masters degrees, one in information systems and a second in business administration. He also holds two bachelor’s degrees in accounting and networking, and regularly shares how being in the military helped pay for each one. Pfc. Allen Meadows, an administrative assistant with the 324th ESB, said Poythress always tells him to take advantage of military opportunities. “He’s always willing to take you aside and talk about schools you can consider,” said Meadows. “He’s even taken me out and given me the opportunity to train with signal equipment.”
After serving for so many years, Poythress said it will hard not to miss the Army Reserve when retires. “The military is all I’ve known since I was 20 years old.” “I have my education, my friends worldwide, but I will miss the people. It’s hard to compare a civilian work experience to a military one because they are more likely to help you in an adverse situation. You just have more of a team environment, where people will extend themselves to help you.”