NCNG's Cardwell Helps Maintain High Level of Readiness



Greg Cardwell, N.C. National Guard Greg Cardwell is a civilian state employee working for the North Carolina National Guard as the Electronic Security Systems supervisor. He and two electronic technicians maintain a high level of readiness to service alarm systems 24 hours a day, seven days a week at National Guard facilities across the state. They design, install and repair intrusion detection systems, or IDS, and closed circuit television cameras in 127 armories, maintenance facilities and some State Highway Patrol facilities.

Federal Department of Defense regulations require alarm systems to be tested once a month and serviced every six months, and when an armory reports a malfunctioning alarm, DOD regulations require the communications team to return phone calls within four hours and be on the premises within 24 hours to repair the alarm.

Cardwell is on call for the western half of the state and his two technicians are on call for the eastern half where more facilities are located. Fortunately, Cardwell said the systems are well maintained.

“From Murphy to Morehead, we're covering nearly every county in the state.”

Major storms are usually the cause of most issues with the alarm systems, Cardwell said. When the April 2011 tornado that damaged the Clinton armory, Cardwell took a three-day supply of batteries to maintain the alarms until power was restored.

When hurricanes threaten the state, Cardwell and his team are on standby – vehicles loaded with supplies and equipment, ready to bring security systems back on line quickly after the storm has passed.

"The N.C. National Guard soldiers at the facilities are our customers," he said. "We want to work as fast as possible so they can spend time with their families. They have a hard enough job with deployments and other state assignments without having to spend extra time at work."

Cardwell learned his communication skills while serving in the U.S. Army for four years and the N.C. National Guard for seven years. After graduating from Bunn High School in 1984, he spent the two hottest months of the year, July and August, in basic training at Fort Jackson, S.C. Upon completion, he was assigned to Fort Gordon, Ga., where he received his advanced training in communications.

Cardwell worked on multi-channel communications and troposphere satellites. Tropo satellites are found in the lower atmosphere and used to bounce radio signals without needing a line of sight. He said this is often referred to as ping pong communications.

Next, he spent three years at Fort Hood, Texas, working in the 142nd Signal Company, 2nd Armor Division. That's where he met his wife, Millie, and they were married on Dec. 30, 1986.

Cardwell finished his Army career as an E4 specialist and joined the N.C. National Guard, 5-113 Field Artillery, glad to be back in his hometown of Youngsville. He was still working in communications and was soon promoted to sergeant.

During a training exercise at Fort Bragg, Cardwell was running a communications line through some trees when a truck snagged the line and sent Cardwell flying into the air, ripping his rotator cuff. He was taken to Womack Army Center, and four surgeries later, Cardwell had three titanium pins and two straps to hold his shoulder together. He was medically discharged from the Guard, but returned a month later in a civilian position, an electronic technician. Two years later, he became the supervisor and has been working in that capacity for the past 15 years.

Cardwell has met his share of dignitaries in his current job, including the president of Moldova and two U.S. presidents, George H. Bush and George W. Bush. On a presidential trip to Salisbury, Secret Service agents used the local armory to park the motorcade so it would be in a controlled environment. Agents shook all the doors of the armory to make sure they were locked, and door was shaken so hard it set off an alarm. The alarm was subsequently damaged and Cardwell was sent to repair it.

“The job has grown leaps and bounds since 9-11,” Cardwell said. “We're behind the scenes, but we touch a lot of stuff,” he said about working with electronic security systems.

“We have to deal with both federal and state regulations, and that can sometimes be tricky,” Cardwell said. “During times of national emergency or if called up for rotation to war, the Guard becomes a federal entity. During state duty such as hurricanes, the governor calls up the Guard using state funding.”

The complex alarm system in the new Joint Force Headquarters in Raleigh has been Cardwell's biggest challenge so far. He said integrating a building that houses both state and federal employees was a large learning curve for him. He was an expert in federal regulations while the state had different protocols. For example, in an emergency the Guard's building would be on lockdown, restricting access to specific people and places. Now, the JFHQ houses state employees from the Department of Transportation, State Highway Patrol and Emergency Management, and the types of workers needing access to the building include many partner agencies. Monthly meetings took place before the facility opened and they were able to work out the differences.

Cardwell explained that he and the other civilian state employees of the N.C. National Guard are 100 percent federally funded. Each year, Cardwell goes to the National Guard Bureau in Washington, D.C. to secure ESS funds for the next five to seven years as needed. On a recent trip, he took part in completing their budget for 2018.

Cardwell's job duties include training new North Carolina Guard members at each armory on the communication systems and to certify them. Cardwell is also a national ESS instructor. Six times a year, he gives week-long ESS training to at the National Guard training center in Little Rock, Ark. Cardwell himself must be recertified in ESS every three years.

He recently returned from a national Conference of ESS Managers where he received an award from the National Guard Bureau for his assistance in the Electronic Security Systems community.

“Greg is an industrious and consummate professional,” said Lt. Col. Craig Robinson of the N.C. Air National Guard. “His job knowledge and expertise of the ESS field supersedes his peers.”

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Contact: Patty McQuillan
Phone: (919) 733-5027


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