News: Signals NCO adjusts in Afghanistan
Story by Sgt. Antony Lee
KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan – Sergeant Jasmine Alford was a new soldier at basic combat training in 2010 at Fort Sill, Okla., when she had her first wake-up call courtesy of the U.S. Army.
A drill sergeant had instructed Alford and her fellow s oldiers to fill up their canteens from a water buffalo, and to do it quickly.
Alford did not understand, however, why they had to run to the water buffalo, which was only about 200 meters away.
“I was that private (who) when a sergeant told me to do something, I needed a reason behind action,” she said, adding that she proceeded to ask the drill sergeant, “Why?”
“I got lit up,” Alford, a McDonough, Ga., native, said with a laugh. “I proceeded to do more pushups than I’ve ever done in my life.”
Alford is now a senior Joint Network Node operator with Company C, Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, 4th Infantry Division. She is serving on her first deployment at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan.
As a senior JNN operator, she helps provide tactical internet and communication for division headquarters. But when her unit arrived at KAF in July and realized there would be no signal mission for her, Alford was assigned to the Iron Horse Express – a designated security and transport detail that shuttles service members and civilians from KAF to destinations outside the wire.
Alford took on the challenge without asking questions. Perhaps years ago, as a private, Alford would have asked “Why?” But as a noncommissioned officer with three years of experience under her belt, Alford understood what it meant to “be a soldier, adjust fire, and continue mission,” she said.
Her sense of service comes in part from her parents; both are retired soldiers, her mom a retired master sergeant and her dad a retired lieutenant colonel. Both inspired her to join the Army, she said.
“I didn’t want to be one of those college students who were overwhelmed with debt, and I saw how successful my parents were, and I decided to follow in their footsteps,” she said.
So far, it has been a great decision.
Two days before Alford attended Warrior Leaders Course, in November 2012, she received a phone call from her first line supervisor.
“Congratulations, Sgt. Alford, you got picked up to become sergeant,” her supervisor said to her.
It was a special moment not only because of the rarity of the announcement – it normally takes much longer than two years for a soldier to become a sergeant – but also because Alford’s parents were visiting her at Fort Carson when she received the call.
Staff Sgt. Rafael Santana, Iron Horse Express noncommissioned officer in-charge, HHBN, 4th Inf. Div., said Alford has done an exceptional job as a member of the Iron Horse Express.
“She is a very hard-working NCO,” said Santana. “She has done every position we have – gunner, driver, truck commander, assistant truck commander and convoy commander. She has done outstanding in every single position.”
As a truck commander – the role she usually takes on convoys – Alford’s job is to ensure the soldiers and their Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle are fully mission capable. It includes preparing radios, ensuring the Blue Force Tracker – a GPS system – is ready to go, and instructing the other soldiers, who each fill a different role, during the convoy.
During one of their recent convoys, when there was increased activity outside the wire, she ensured her soldiers stayed vigilant and took note of any suspicious activity. She also kept track of the medical evacuation and route status – both important tasks when commanding a truck.
Although it has been an alternative assignment than what she originally trained for, Alford, who still expects to do her signal mission before the end of the deployment, has appreciated the opportunity to work with the other Soldiers of the Iron Horse Express.
“(They) are like my brothers,” she said. “We’re family.”
She credits her supervisors, including Santana and Staff Sgt. Jared Knutson, her platoon sergeant, for creating an environment she could thrive in.
“It keeps me level-headed to have a chain of command that understands,” she said. “They made it clear that I could talk to them.”
Knutson, HHBN, 4th Inf. Div., said Alford is a “phenomenal NCO,” who carries her share of the workload.
“She was quick to learn as well as (teach) her soldiers about convoy operations,” Knutson said.
During her free time at KAF, Alford enjoys reading murder mysteries and attending karaoke night or country dancing sessions. She also attends church every Sunday.