News: 324th Signal Battalion welcomes new commander
Story by Spc. Anthony Hooker
FORT GORDON, Ga. - Army Reserve Lt. Col. Eric Hopkins was formally introduced Dec. 7 as the new commander of the 324th Expeditionary Signal Battalion.
Hopkins, a Petal, Miss., resident, succeeds interim commander Maj. Greg Gibson and joins the 324th ESB after completing an overseas deployment to Afghanistan with the 401st Army Field Support Brigade. Previously assigned as a communications officer with units in Alabama and Mississippi, Hopkins said he is eager to resume service in the signal community.
“My previous assignment was not related directly to the Signal Corps, but logistics,” Hopkins explained. “Before that, I was the (officer-in-charge of communications) for the 4th Brigade, 75th Training Division. Our emphasis was on training simulation networks rather than providing tactical network access to maneuver units.”
With multiple deployments to overseas locations, Hopkins said he knows how critical signal operations can be to any mission.
“As a former infantry officer, I can and do appreciate the capabilities the signal element brings to command and control and the vital mission it has in defending our freedoms,” Hopkins said.
With company-level units based at Fort Gordon, Atlanta and Greenville, S.C., the 324th ESB challenges leaders logistically to accomplish their mission-essential tasks. With only a limited amount of military personnel available on a full-time basis, developing trusting relationships within the command quickly becomes a priority. Thanks to a number of scheduled activities, Hopkins received an informal review of his new troops as the unit performed a number of tasks during the battle training assembly.
After joining unit members to perform a physical fitness test, Hopkins received an incoming brief, participated in a dress rehearsal and actual change-of-command ceremony, and concluded his first day of drill being poked and prodded during a scheduled soldier Medical Readiness Processing event. Patiently waiting his turn to receive a flu shot and have his vital signs read, Hopkins said it was important to show his troops how vital personal accountability was.
“I want soldiers to see me receiving my shots, getting my teeth examined,” Hopkins explained. “If I am embarrassed a little bit during the process, it’s OK because I want my soldiers to know how important soldier readiness is to me.”
Hopkins bantered throughout the weekend with his senior leadership, lower enlisted troops and support organizations, showing an amiability that left Sgt. Eolus Ferguson impressed.
“I’ve been around (Hopkins) for a few days now and he has shown us signs of being a very decisive leader,” said Ferguson, the information management officer for the 324th ESB. “He was very engaging with all ranks, but he didn’t try to overwhelm anyone. He felt out personnel – getting to know people . . . he didn’t just sit back.”
For his part, Hopkins shared why he had such an optimistic view of his new position.
“Reservists are ultimate professionals,” Hopkins declared. “They have families and careers in addition to the Army career. They maintain the same standards as their (active component) military brethren – and yet do it in a part-time status. I am proud to be among such professionals.”