News: 'Rangers' NCO leads with a laugh
Story by Spc. Richard Colletta
FORWARD OPERATING BASE SUMMERALL, Iraq — Soldiers are often called on to step up and to fill in for duties above their current pay grade. That's exactly what Staff Sgt. Justin Thompson has been doing since he was a sergeant.
Thompson is a signal support systems specialist and the non-commissioned officer in charge for the communications section of Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2nd Battalion, 16th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division. Promoted just prior to the unit's current deployment to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, he's been filling a sergeant first class position since he was sergeant.
"I'm responsible for the battalion's communications, both voice and data, anything really that leaves [our base]. I ensure that line companies can talk back and give reports to battalion and battalion command and control elements throughout the battle-space," he said.
He makes sure everyone can talk and stay in touch with each other which are important aspects on today's constantly changing battlefield.
Thompson has previously deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom and said this has been like most of his past deployments.
"It's about two weeks of sheer chaos to start off with; then, you get into maintenance mode," he said.
Thompson has devoted a lot of time to improving communications capabilities for the battalion.
"It gets kind of technical, but the upside is that everybody that draws services from the battalion has really fast connectivity [and] no issues," Thompson said.
He said that in the communications field he has really seen the bigger picture and a lot of what the Army has to offer.
"It's been great. It's one of things I really love about my job," he said. "I don't have to be just Infantry or just assigned to any one kind of unit. I've worked for air defense, military police, armor and everything in between. It's good for me because I get a better view of the Army and how it works."
Thompson said that throughout the deployment his family continues to be an important part of his life. He is 33 years old and married with five children, three girls and two boys.
His wife, Ann-Marie Thompson received the Dr. Mary E. Walker Award in October 2008 for her outstanding volunteer work as a co-leader of his unit's Family Readiness Group.
"My wife is really strong. She can handle it. She raises all five kids, and that's not an easy job to do when you're doing it by yourself but she's got it," he said.
Thompson said that while the deployments can be rough his children understand.
"Everyone understands this is what Daddy does for a living, but it's to help people," he said.
One of Thompson's striking qualities is his natural sense of humor, although if asked he modestly denies it.
"Some people probably consider me funny looking, and first thing in the morning I probably smell funny," he said.
But, Thompson said his humor is really about being approachable.
"I want my Soldiers to come to me when they have problems. I want them to come to me when they don't have problems, so I know when I'm doing things right as well as when [I'm doing something wrong]. If I can make the mood lighter by cracking everybody up once in a while, then that's a bonus for me," Thompson said.
He said it is also important for good leaders to listen to their Soldiers.
"I think it's a great style of leadership to show Soldiers that you're actually
addressing their issues and that you care," he said.
Thompson says he has enjoyed his time in the Army and looks forward to continuing to serve.
"If you just want to come and do your time and go home you can do that, but you're only going to get out of [the Army] what you put into it. If you come in with an open mind and try to do one thing and do it really well, you'll go far," Thompson said.