Sgt. Kyle Hatcher, a former resident of Ottawa has been serving in Afghanistan and Uzbekistan for the last six years as a networks specialists for the Army National Guard.
By: Josh Ellerbrock
PUTNAM COUNTY - The US military has perfected moving large concentrations of men, machines and information across the world. And part of that effort goes to Sgt. Kyle Hatcher, a networks specialist for the Army National Guard and a former resident of Ottawa.Hatcher, 28, originally from Lima, has worked near the border of Afghanistan and Uzbekistan for the last six years making sure that information for our troops is received and spread without mishap as a networks specialist trained by the US Army.
A networks specialist makes sure that a mess of computers form a network of connections so that information such as emails and other documents can be shared effectively. Hatcher also sets up phone and radio communications for men and women in the field.
To plan for the military's eventual withdrawal, he is also teaching the Afghan forces his own job so their own organizations can effectively communicate, which can be a bit difficult when comparing Afghan resources with the United States technology market.
"It's all paper and pencil over there," he said. "You have to be very resourceful."
Afghanistan has much lower living conditions than the United States. Most places lack running water and electricity. The military brings its own generators to field its electronic equipment. Food is also much less available, due to an arid climate and problematic transportation systems.
Where Hatcher was stationed - northern Afghanistan - the surrounding landscape was flat and brown. The area, however, was the major thoroughfare for travel and imports between Afghanistan and its northern neighbor, Uzbekistan. Hatcher and his fellow soldiers were stationed there to curb any trouble and to help train the local Afghan border police.
For the most part, the border crossing was a quiet place. Farther south, the US military met with more resistance. Every once in a while, soldiers stationed farther south could get mortars dropped on them or be engaged in firefights, Hatcher said.
"If we didn't improve or train (the Afghans), they are going to go back to how it was," Hatcher said. "I just think everybody needs a better understanding of what we're trying to do out there."
Even when stationed in a relatively safe place, Hatcher had to keep on eye out for any hostiles.
"You have to be careful when you are out or about," he said. "In the war, you don't know who you are fighting."
Hatcher joined the military after the events of 9/11. The first military man in the family, Hatcher felt that he could do something positive by joining the nation's fighting force.
"I wanted to do what I could to help us to get back to where we should be," he said.
So far, his experiences have been mostly positive. In a difficult job market, Hatcher gets to keep his job as long as he wants it, and he gets free training for his job every few years as the technology changes.
Currently, Hatcher is back in Ohio. He arrived in the United States last month and is stationed in Cleveland doing the same job here as he does overseas. Here in Ohio, however, he gets to be with his family.
It's tough to be away from the family, Hatcher said. But in a way, he said, the distance only makes the heart grow fonder. Hatcher plans on staying with the military for the next 14 years, he said.
"There's still a lot of work to be done for (Afghanistan) to maintain themselves," he said.