Technology has changed the face of warfare, and Spec. Kristopher Haney of Irrigon has played a major part in that change.
Haney, a 1998 graduate of Riverside High School, originally thought he wanted to be a teacher and entered Blue Mountain Community College with that goal in mind.
"Then, I realized I couldn't stand kids," he joked.
Haney said that he switched from education to computer science, but found sitting in a classroom was getting old for him. He then worked at Safeway and the Wal-Mart Distribution Center.
"My plan didn't consist of the Army at all," he said.
That changed when he began exploring ways he could obtain skills he had not developed, as well as a job that would utilize those skills.
"When you join the Army you get your job, but you get all sorts of other things as well," he said. "I've learned discipline, a good work ethic and how to respect those who outrank you, whether you respect them as individuals or not."
As a member of the 7th Signal Brigade, 44th Signal Battalion, Haney said he was one of the most popular guys in the Army. He and his troops were charged with setting up the Internet, secret Internet, video teleconferencing systems, local and long distance phone systems and the "red" phones for generals throughout the world.
Haney operated out of Germany and has served on missions in Iraq, Turkey, Nigeria, Italy and Belgium.
"We were the golden children back then," he said. "Everybody wanted us."
One way modern telecommunications have changed the face of warfare is "you're able to send information a lot farther and a lot faster," he said. "With video-conferencing, you're able to see battle plans directed by the man who created the battle plan in the first place instead of just getting a piece of paper."
His visit to Iraq was a quick one, to set up communications systems in that country early in the conflict. Most of the work was performed in Turkey before his team moved into Iraq itself. He did not have what other troops would call a typical stay in Iraq.
"It was really relaxing," he said. "We were set up on a golf course. Our tent was on the 10th green. I heard maybe one bullet go off the whole time."
He said that when work was done for the day the soldiers enjoyed practicing chip shots right outside their tents.
Haney returned to the United States because he felt it was time to learn a new skill.
"Before I left (Germany) I was training everybody else," he said of his three years there. In search of new skills he is currently stationed at the National Training Center in Fort Irwin, Calif., and is in charge of making sure soldiers receive necessary training.
He then heard about a program where soldiers who had been a part of Operation: Iraqi Freedom could receive 14 days of leave time to their home towns if they agree to recruit while they are there. Haney jumped at that chance and is enjoying visiting high schools in the area.
This year he will complete the fifth year of his six years of duty, and while he won't re-enlist because of neck problems, he's not planning on saying goodbye to Uncle Sam.
"I'll work as a civilian Army employee at Fort Lewis," he said. He also hopes to return to Europe as a civilian. He was able to travel extensively during his time in Germany, but never made it to England, the home of his grandparents.
"The Army has been the best experience of my life," he said.