Every soldier starts their career the same way as those before them–in an eight to ten week trial where they’re pushed and pulled (and stressed) to their limits; transformed from a civilian into a warrior. We all start out different but by the time it’s over, we all graduate as brothers and sisters with bonds forged in the fires of adversity. All thanks to a Battle Buddy.

What’s a Battle Buddy?

Throughout that process, we are each assigned a Battle Buddy. In the military, this is a peer you can rely on, who can help you when times are tough and who you, in turn, can help. We also use words like “brother” or “sister” to show this closeness. And long after we’ve finished our service, we still remember these men and women who stood by our sides during some pretty stressful times. My first Battle Buddy was a guy named Chuck from Maine. The second was Rich.

Rich and I were junior enlisted together in the same Company. Our careers kept intersecting over the next ten years until I found myself as a mobilized National Guard soldier patrolling the streets of a town most people couldn’t pronounce (in the former Yugoslavia).

Rich served in one of our sister companies while I ran a Personal Security Detachment of 22 men who were basically brawlers tasked with protecting visiting dignitaries or VIPs. Sometimes Generals, sometimes important civilians. Once it was the Philadelphia Eagles cheerleading squad. At the same time, Rich was serving in our line platoons leading a squad of Scouts. Scouts were men who focused on a more traditional mission; building stability in the region and ensuring that the local populace didn’t fall back into war.

The value of teamwork

About 80% of the way through my tour there, I was asked to take my team to the far side of the country and work with the Canadian Army for a couple of weeks. But as I worked up the mission, I quickly realized I was short about 8-10 troops and two vehicles. So I went to the boss with a “by name” request and 24 hours later, Rich and his squad were on loan. While these sorts of operational attachments and detachments aren’t unusual, you never really know who you’re going to get. But going out alone and unafraid is a lot easier when you know your attached troops are also your “brother from another mother”, so to speak.

We spent our two-week mission with the Canadian Army in a successful Coalition effort conducting joint patrols and building on the partnership of our two nations. With Rich and his team augmenting my team, I was able to complete the mission with a trusted friend and a crew that I knew was well trained. It was then that I learned the real value of a helping hand.

I’d go on to leave the service about a year later when my son was born, but I never lost the value of the Battle Buddy concept. And I’m glad to say that my team continues this culture of brotherhood in serving our customers here at Cisco. I genuinely love it, despite never being a “team sport” type as a kid (but don’t tell my current team).

A culture of service

This type of team culture isn’t unique within Cisco either. Under Chuck Robbins’ leadership, we’ve leveraged the characteristics of high performing teams for our mission of solving the toughest technical problems. And in my role today, with the Army as our customer, we’re also leveraging Cisco’s innovative solutions (including Webex for Defense) to solve those same problems.

For example, Cisco’s U.S. Department of Defense customers work on complex, closed networks. As a global leader in Information Technology, we’ve invested and have significant experience in solutions that allow us to work with Defense customers when others might not be able to. In turn, groups like our Classified Network Services (CNS) team can help our customers directly by offering solutions to their challenges supported by people with the right clearances at the right time.

Veterans like myself, who now work for Cisco, have worked hard to create Battle Buddy relationships with our customers. And while our engineering team might actually have a guy named Rich, in reality we’ve created an organization full of talented people who reflect the same heart of service and brotherhood that he did.

I’m grateful for the brotherhood Rich, and the others, shared with me during those years. Last month, when he came home from Europe, Rich and I had the chance to grab dinner and share some stories. It was then that he reminded me of the time we were driving out to the Canadian sector and his truck ran out of gas. To this day I don’t remember it, but we had a good laugh anyway. At the time I guess I was so stressed over the mission that I never noticed what was happening with him (and the truck). But even then he had my trust to handle the situation and get the job done for me, as a good battle buddy would. Thanks Rich–I got your 6.

Ich dien (I serve),

Jason D Port, Regional Manager
US Army Enterprise Region, Cisco



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