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Tennessee Guardsman steps up to new challenge

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. John Rode, a Sevierville, Tenn., native deployed from the 134th Communications Flight, Tyson Air National Guard Base, is currently working as the 386th Expeditionary Communications Squadron assistant records manager at an air base in Southwest Asia. As an additional duty, Sergeant Rode also serves as his unit's operational security program manager. (U.S. Air Force photo illustration by Staff Sgt. Lakisha A. Croley/Released)

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. John Rode, a Sevierville, Tenn., native deployed from the 134th Communications Flight, Tyson Air National Guard Base, is currently working as the 386th Expeditionary Communications Squadron assistant records manager at an air base in Southwest Asia. As an additional duty, Sergeant Rode also serves as his unit's operational security program manager. (U.S. Air Force photo illustration by Staff Sgt. Lakisha A. Croley/Released)

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. John Rode, a Sevierville, Tenn., native, deployed from the 134th Communications Flight, Tyson Air National Guard Base, is currently working as the 386th Expeditionary Communications Squadron assistant records manager at an air base in Southwest Asia. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Lakisha A. Croley/Released)

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. John Rode, a Sevierville, Tenn., native, deployed from the 134th Communications Flight, Tyson Air National Guard Base, is currently working as the 386th Expeditionary Communications Squadron assistant records manager at an air base in Southwest Asia. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Lakisha A. Croley/Released)

Southwest Asia -- Stepping up to new challenges is something one Tennessee Air National Guardsmen is very familiar with, so when he received deployment orders to an air base in Southwest Asia, he anxiously packed his bags.

Staff Sgt. John Rode, 386th Expeditionary Communications Squadron assistant records manager, deployed from the 134th Communications Flight, Tyson ANG Base, said deploying to the U.S. Air Forces Central Command area of responsibility is something he has always wanted to do during his military career.

"I'm in an interesting position being a traditional Guardsman; I volunteered to come here and if I didn't enjoy it I could only blame myself," said the Sevierville, Tenn., native. "I feel like it's my duty when my fellow brothers and sisters have already been on multiple deployments that I must do my part to lessen the burden."

While Sergeant Rode holds the title of assistant records manager here, the NCO said he finds himself covering a broad spectrum of duties as those in the knowledge operations management career field often do.

"The knowledge operations management career field is probably one of the most diverse jobs I've seen," he said. "One minute I'm responsible for installing software for a computer as the client support administrator and the next minute I'm performing staff assistance visits [file inspections] for functional area records managers. Then we must make sure everyone in the squadron gets the package they've been waiting on for weeks by driving to the post office and picking it up. Dust storm or sunny day, we do it all. On top of all of that, we work directly for our [386th ECS] commander and ensure [his administrative requirements] are taken care of."

The 8-year Air Force veteran said he was hesitant at first about his job here, having little to no experience in certain aspects of the job.

"At first I was reluctant about the job because I was unfamiliar with much of it," he said. "A lot of people fear what they don't know, but once you jump in you have to swim. Things run at a much faster pace here and deadlines are much more stringent, plus our mission here affects the operational side, so time is of the essence. It's been a rewarding experience though. I'm thankful for the challenge."

The East Tennessee State University graduate said his favorite aspect of the job is interacting with people and traveling.

"I enjoy meeting new people all over the world whether it's in Tennessee, Germany, Japan or Southwest Asia," he said. "I live to travel and my career field is so broad that it gives me the opportunity."

In addition to this current deployment, the NCO volunteered twice for Operation Noble Eagle and was deployed during Christmas 2007 and 2008 in Yokota, Japan.

"I've met many wonderful people whether they were military or local nationals," he said. "On the job, I don't have to stay at my desk 8-12 hours a day because the job is so broad; I can walk down to different shops on a base and perform work that needs to be completed and learn about what someone else does day in day out."

As with every job, Sergeant Rode said there are certain qualities it takes to be successful in his career field.

"You definitely have to be a people person and be patient with others," he said. "You must have a tolerance for paperwork and be knowledgeable with computers and typing. You also have to keep up with the emerging technology that is transforming the Air Force."

During the little off time the NCO has downrange, he said he tries to use it to better himself or relax after a long day.

"We work hard all day with lunch and dinner breaks and the occasional [physical training] sessions," he said. "After the duty day, I hit the gym because being physically fit keeps the stress level much lower than just watching TV after work."

After dinner, a little computer time and laundry, the NCO said he gets a good night's rest before doing it all over again the next day downrange.

"I've only been one month, but this has been an eye opener to what people have gone through while deployed," he said. "I feel like I've bettered myself by coming here. I accept the challenges I'm faced with day in and day out and when my time is up here I can walk away and say 'job well done.'"