APRIL 15, 2017 / JORDAN VINSON
Meet Hesbon Jokas and Jerry Samuel. They are two members of a small group of Marshallese citizens employed by Kwajalein Range Services to keep the Kiernan Re-entry Measurement System site on target in its mission to monitor space around the Earth for satellites, debris and foreign missile launches.
Both Jokas and Samuel work at the TRADEX radar complex on Namur. They transitioned into their current roles from other jobs with the KRS team, and both have been working on island since the 1990s. Samuel has worked at the radar since 2009, when he was hired by TRADEX Antenna Lead Conrad Nakasone. Jokas was brought in to join the team in 2015.
As radar technicians, they busy themselves with constant maintenance and troubleshooting jobs on the radar antenna and radar receiver system. The goal is to keep the sensor continually pirouetting on its axes and tracking targets in orbit.
They tend to the radar’s water, air and oil lines and fix issues with the brakes and motors used to physically steer the massive dish. They chip and paint the radar structure to prevent corrosion in the atoll’s harsh saline winds, and they do a lot of welding and piping work as crews make improvements to the radar system during preventative maintenance projects.
Samuel, a Third Island native whom TRADEX Sensor Manager Jeff Jones calls a master welder and fabricator, has been integral to the radar team’s performance during the last eight years, Jones says.
“He’s the best welder on this island – bar none,” Jones says. “That’s his claim to fame. And he’s a great fabricator.”
Both Jokas, a relative newcomer, whom Jones describes as a “jack of all trades who will help out anybody” and Samuel have recently stepped into new, more technical roles. Now, either can be called upon to work the radar’s transmitter system during space surveillance operations. That makes them a crucial pool of support whom TRADEX managers can rely on when there are staffing shortages, Jones says.
Jokas, a Utirik Atoll native, says the new role has been a rewarding challenge, and that he has enjoyed getting up to speed at the radar. “I’ve been learning a lot,” he says. “There are lots of new things. If new things come through, we have to learn how to do it. It’s a great job.”