Face of Defense: Family Bonds Keep Network Controller Going

By Pfc. Samantha Schutz, USA Special to American Forces Press Service  Jan. 14, 2008 – As the Army‘s 4th Infantry Division settles into its recently assumed control of Multinational Division Baghdad, the Ironhorse credo — “Mission, Soldier, Family, Team” — remains a strong influence in the unit’s everyday flow. 

For Army Sgt. 1st Class Anthony Rende, a native of Ilion, N.Y., and a network controller with Company C, Special Troops Battalion, being a deployed soldier on the Ivy team is an easy task as long as he knows his mission and has the support of his family.  Rende monitors communication links between the headquarters and its brigades.

If a communication link stops working, he must act quickly to coordinate with the brigade and troubleshoot the problem. Communication is crucial, since other Multinational Division Baghdad troops are constantly patrolling various streets throughout Baghdad.  Ensuring continuous communication is an around-the-clock mission, so it is divided into day and night shifts.

Rende tends his duties at night, while his family members back in the United States go about their day.  At his work station, Rende’s computer wallpaper is a collage of family photos: pictures of himself with his girlfriend, Lisa; his two daughters, Katelyn, 12, and Renae, 9; and Lisa’s children, Alan, 13, Ramon, 8, and Brianna, 3.  “They’re the ones who keep me going,” Rende said. “Sometimes it seems like my kids are there for me more than I am for them.” 

 From the time he enlisted in the Army 12 years ago, Rende has been stationed in and deployed to countries all over the world, including Germany, Croatia and Macedonia. This particular deployment has been the most challenging, he said, because his children are beginning to understand the meaning of his absence.  “They’re growing up,” said Rende. “I hadn’t even been here a month yet when Katelyn sent me a message on the Internet saying, ‘Daddy, I had my first boyfriend. We broke up already. I don’t like boys anymore because they don’t know what they want.’ She’s just not my little girl anymore.”  

When Rende is relieved of his shift in the morning, the first thing he does when he gets back to his trailer is log on to the Internet so he can communicate with his family via e-mail and instant messaging programs.  Also, Rende said, he stays in touch with friends from all over the world who he met on an online program called PalTalk, on which he hosts his own Internet radio show. Because of his tendency to make bogus phone calls during the program, he earned the moniker “The Crank Caller” and a fan base to go with it.  “The Internet here is too slow for me to do the show, but all my friends support me and can’t wait for me to come back,” Rende said.  

Although being away from his family and friends is difficult, Rende said, he tries to take advantage of the time he has to himself. He is pursuing an associate’s degree in applied science and technology by taking online courses through Excelsior College. “It’s important to keep your education going,” he said, adding that he advises young soldiers to take advantage of any kind of college or correspondence courses they can while they’re deployed.  Rende also tells his fellow deployed soldiers not to get complacent. Some soldiers who work in support of a division are not constantly in the line of fire, but that doesn’t mean the danger is gone, he explained.

Rende said he also reminds fellow soldiers to stay in good physical condition. He said he’s seen people gain 30 to 40 pounds during a deployment because physical training isn’t always scheduled into their day.  “But of course, family is the most important thing. Don’t shut your family out; have them help push you through,” Rende said. “I wear this uniform for my family.”  When he and the rest of the Ivy team complete their mission in Iraq, Rende will be eager to enjoy a day of putt-putt golfing and a night of movies with his family, he said. Until then, he said, he continues to always place the mission first.  

(Army Pfc. Samantha Schutz serves with 4th Infantry Division Public Affairs.)

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