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11 12 2021

Meet Chief Petty Officer John Balls, a Chief Technician at the NCI Agency

Chief Petty Officer John Balls joined the NATO Communications and Information Agency (NCI Agency) in 2018, but has already made a big impact with his work during the COVID-19 pandemic.

CPO Balls serves as Chief Technician at the Agency's Communications and Information Systems Support Unit (CSU) in Stavanger, Norway. He provides essential support for various exercises and events at NATO's Joint Warfare Centre (JWC) in Stavanger, Norway, in addition to various IT projects and end-user support.

Meet Chief Petty Officer John Balls, a Chief Technician at the NCI Agency

When the majority of the JWC staff were required to telework because of COVID-19, CPO Balls took the initiative to pre-configure and test a system to prepare 100 laptops for home use, enabling JWC staff to continue their vital work uninterrupted.

He also oversaw the support for Communication and Information Systems (CIS) during exercises, ensuring that any CIS problems were rectified as soon as possible, leading to the first ever time the NATO Response Force (NRF) was certified as being mission ready during a global pandemic.

Recently, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg awarded CPO Balls with the NATO Meritorious Service Medal for his outstanding contribution to the Alliance.

We asked the CPO a few questions about the work that led to him receiving NATO's highest honour.

What was the biggest challenge you faced supporting the NATO Response Force during the COVID-19 pandemic?

The biggest challenge was meeting the increase of Communications and Information Systems (CIS) support required for operational training, whilst still maintaining the appropriate infection control measures. When dealing with exercise-related IT support, we ensured that workspaces received a thorough clean before and after working on them to reduce the possibility of COVID-19 transmission, whilst also maintaining the pace of support that the Joint Warfare Centre (JWC) have come to expect. I achieved these measures whilst working within an A and B team split to safeguard CIS Support Unit Stavanger output to our primary customer, the JWC.

How is your previous experience suited to working at the NCI Agency?

It means a lot for me to be able to work for the NCI Agency. During the last 15 years of my Royal Navy career, I maintained and installed equipment within the CIS sphere of responsibility and still remain passionate about delivering technical solutions to enable NATO output. I had no exposure to the NCI Agency prior to starting at CSU Stavanger in June 2018, and was unsure what the role would fully entail. My previous experience has aided me when contributing to projects and new working initiatives, and understanding our role in supporting the wider NATO mission.

What is the most exciting part about your role at the NCI Agency?

Working as part of a team that strives to provide the best possible workable solutions to the JWC staff excites me. My previous experience in the Royal Navy greatly assisted me in quickly integrating into the team at CSU Stavanger and providing functional output and assistance to the JWC staff. I enjoy being part of projects to deliver new hardware solutions to the customer, whilst being afforded the autonomy to make decisions on how my responsibilities within the projects should proceed.

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