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NEWS | May 20, 2019

Personnel cultivate plus side of painful experiences, earn award

By By Jacqueline Boucher

The plus side of painful experiences is that they can drive people to do incredible things. The challenges faced while serving the warfighter were motivation for two civilian employees to become key components of Soldier readiness.

Electronics Worker John Ross and Field Software Engineer Zach Prahl were named the Tobyhanna Army Depot Employee of the Quarter for the first quarter of fiscal year 2019, junior and senior categories, respectively.

Prahl can relate to his customers; he left military service to join Team Tobyhanna three years ago. Knowledge of the complexities of keeping Army systems mission capable is what fuels his determination to provide servicemembers the tools they need to do their jobs.

"Zach has proved himself to be a consummate expert and talented professional by providing the highest level of leadership and technical support," said Alan Knotts, Central Region Branch chief, at Fort Hood. "His efforts ensure the optimal integration and utilization of the Distributed Common Ground Station-Army (DCGS-A) systems, impacting the intelligence warfighting function at the division, subordinate brigades and tenant units." 

Prahl says he configures and maintains the DCGS-A systems for active, Guard and Reserve units primarily in the central region of the United States. Other duties include hands-on training and ensuring Army Battle Command Systems are interoperable. He also provides daily on-the-job training for personnel who support the DCGS-A mission on site or at geographically separated units.

"This award caught me by complete surprise and means a great deal to me," Prahl said. "The award validates my efforts in making the warfighter intelligence community more effective with the availability of DCGS-A systems." Prahl supports the 4th Infantry Division while assigned to Tobyhanna's C4ISR Directorate's Central Branch, Central Software Support Section at Fort Carson, Colorado. 

The DCGS-A is a system-of-systems that supports the intelligence warfighting function to assist the commander's visualization and understanding of the threat and other relevant aspects of the operational environment. Among other things, the DCGS-A provides timely, relevant and accurate data to Soldiers. The system consists of software and hardware. Hardware includes user laptops and desktops, fixed, portable and vehicle-mounted servers, and ground stations to receive share and store collected intelligence. Software tools allow users to select and pull from the system's 700-plus data sources, perform analysis and share intelligence products generated from that analysis, according to information posted on the U.S. Army Acquisition Support Center, Fort Belvoir, Virginia, website

Prahl credits developing and maintaining a strong customer relationship with resolving issues quicker, building rapport, and providing more opportunities to learn and test systems. 
"We can be more successful working as a team than independently," Prahl said. "I think the more field support personnel can integrate themselves with the personnel they support the more they will learn from daily exposure to systems and the more ready units systems will be."

It was John Ross's work in the C4ISR Directorate's ATCALS Range Threat Systems Division that caught the attention of his then supervisor, Paul Kaschak, chief of the Air Traffic Navigation Systems Branch. Ross recently accepted a position in the directorate's Sensors Division, I-MILES Branch.
The electronics worker claims the challenges he's overcome during his 11 year depot career have made him the person he is today. 

"I am extremely honored to receive this award," Ross said. "I am grateful for every opportunity and look forward to what the future holds for me at Tobyhanna Army Depot."

According to coworkers, Ross's support of the AN/MSQ-135 Mobile Tower System (MOTS) was instrumental to the success of the program. His duties included modifying radio and power racks that were installed into shelters. Quite often he would travel to troubleshoot and repair the system for the warfighter.

The MOTS provides the joint force commander with a highly mobile, self-contained, integrated and reliable information system platform. Its modular tactical air traffic control tower system is mounted on an armored family of medium tactical vehicles.

"John quickly became a subject matter expert on the mobile tower system," Kaschak said. "He has an exceptional work ethic, which has definitely had a positive impact on the other members of his team."

The seasoned professional used his training and knowledge of networking to improve the effectiveness of downloading and troubleshooting system software, according to Kaschak. The branch chief also pointed out that Ross applied learned techniques to real-world problems, which shortened the system troubleshooting phase from 14 days to 10 days. Furthermore, Ross's contributions to updating test procedures during the first article process, helped streamline the system inspection and opened the door for additional function tests, he added.

"I have always worked with an inspiring team," Ross said. "I take pride in what I do and push myself to do better every day."