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NEWS | March 29, 2024

Signal Support Soldier carves path to success

By Staff Sgt. Jameson Harris 18th Airborne Corps

Staff Sgt. Erma Norried found new avenues and opportunities that were only made available after enlisting in the Army. One such path brought her to Poznan, Poland, where she currently supports the 415th Civil Affairs Battalion as a rotational force. Civil affairs plays a critical role in V Corps’ mission in engaging and partnering with local communities, increasing stability and the quality of life for civilians.

Norried's military journey began in Brooklyn, New York, in 2001 after witnessing the horrific events of September 11. Like many others in the country, the tragedy profoundly impacted her perspective of the country and service. The first in her family to do so, Norried decided to join the U.S. Army Reserve and became a signal operations support specialist. However, being the pioneer in her family brings its own challenges.

"My grandfather was a very old-school, traditional individual," Norried admitted. "He was not supportive at all of my decision to join the military."

She didn't let that stop her. Shortly after, she reported to basic training at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. There, she was challenged both physically and mentally. Her smile in all situations quickly made her stand out and she received notice from her drill sergeants. She still remembers vividly the moment she descended the 40-foot tower for the first time. At the end of training, she received a challenge coin from her senior drill sergeant for her perseverance.

"He told me to keep doing what I was doing," said Norried. "That's something I have continued to live by throughout the rest of my service."

Afterward, Norried went to Fort Eisenhower, then known at Fort Gordon, Georgia, to learn the intricacies of signal support operations. Soldiers learn to work with cables, build computers and set up satellite communications. As a new student, she initially found signal to be a complex subject to tackle.

"Back in my day, there were a multitude of wires for every type of connection," said Norried. "Figuring it all out was super overwhelming."

Not only did she become proficient in her work, but when communications went down for her training unit, her superiors sarcastically told her to fix it, and she did. They were shocked when she could do it and completely restored communication lines.

"What I thought was just a test turned out to be the real deal," said Norried. "I made a powerful impression that day."

Later, during her first deployment, she established communications between a unit in Iraq and one in America at Fort Liberty, then Fort Bragg, North Carolina. She spent a lot of time reviewing the training manuals because she would often be the only qualified signal operator for the entire company.

"The awakening moment for me was the first time a patrol came back without everyone alive," said Norried. "I knew then that I needed to do everything I could to maintain communication."

Her proficiency as a signal operator led to her recruitment for a civilian position at Oshkosh Defense in 2015. Oshkosh Defense manufactures military vehicles and technology focused on mobility, protection, and sustainability for defense and security needs worldwide, and Norried used her experience in signal to earn the job.

Her current command at the 415th Civil Affairs Battalion specially identified her to join Alpha Company for their rotation to Poland. Her top priority is ensuring her team can communicate quickly with all the outstations and field teams.

"I think I was chosen because I went with this company to the Joint Readiness Training Center," said Norried. "I kept all their communications active throughout the training exercise so they knew they could depend on me."

For Norried, Women's History Month is a reminder of how far women have come in the world, especially in the military. Through the U.S. Army, she has consistently been able to set herself apart. From fixing a whole battalion's communications to gaining an elite career in the civilian world, Norried has been able to advance herself in new opportunities to be all she can be.

“I am so grateful to have the opportunity to accomplish the mission in Poland and share my knowledge and experience with our partner forces,” said Norried. “As V Corps likes to say, it will be done!”