Special to the Hood Herald

White Sands Missile Range, N.M. - The Network Integration Evaluation may be the largest operational test in the history of the U.S. Army Operational Test Command, but it has also been a bit of a family reunion for an Operational Test Command Department of the Army civilian and his senior airman nephew.

Mark Sury, OTC operations chief, Test Management Division, is currently at White Sands Missile Range, N.M., working as the NIE officer in charge of the Tactical Action Center, while his nephew, Kyle J. Causey, is an air traffic controller assigned to the 49th Operations Support Squadron, U.S. Air Force at White Sands.

While Sury monitors test concerns at NIE and maintains reach-back capabilities with OTC headquarters at Fort Hood, Causey stays busy ensuring that only authorized aircraft and personnel are operating in the reserved airspace.

"I'm synchronizing NIE events that affect OTC operations at Fort Hood as well as OTC leadership who are deployed in support of NIE twelve point two," Sury explained. "I'm also responding to requests for information requiring guidance from the commanding general."

"In the event unauthorized aircraft enters this airspace," Causey said, "we will contact all the parties involved and proceed to have them 'knock it off' while we attempt to contact the aircraft that has violated the airspace. It is our job to ensure the safety of both the aircraft in the air and the personnel on the ground."

Although uncle and nephew talk almost daily and visit each other three or four times a year, NIE 12.2 is the first time the two of them have ever "worked" together professionally.

"Our duties don't really overlap each other," Sury said, "so we're not actually interfacing daily, but it's nice to know we're at the same place at the same time working on the same mission."

Sury, inspired by his brother's two tours in Vietnam while serving in the U.S. Navy, enlisted in the Army in 1987 as a combat engineer and deployed in support of Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm, Provide Comfort and Stabilization/Implementation Force activities in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

In 2001, he was assigned to the then-Engineer Combat Support Test Directorate at OTC, eventually deploying as part of a Forward Operational Assessment team before retiring from active duty in 2008. He immediately returned to OTC as an Army civilian.

An Army brat, Causey grew up wanting to be just like his father, enlisting in 2002 upon graduation from high school. Weeks away from starting basic training, he got the bad news that he was disqualified from enlisting.

"In 2000, a doctor found a cancerous tumor," he explained. "After complete removal of any cancer, I was considered a health risk, resulting in my disqualification.

"I pretty much thought my dreams of a military career were just that - dreams," he said, "so I decided to become the first person in my family to get a college degree."

As he was about to graduate from Fitchburg State College in Massachusetts, Causey learned that after being cancer-free for four years, he could apply for a waiver from the surgeon-general and try again to make his dream of a military career come true.

With a bachelor's degree in criminal justice, Causey started Air Force basic training in 2007, graduating in 2008. He then completed three months of technical training, receiving orders to White Sands, followed by an additional year of advanced training before becoming a certified air traffic controller in May 2009.

Uncle and nephew are enjoying the close proximity, for the time being, as well as the challenges of NIE. And with NIE 13.1 looming large for the Army Test and Evaluation Command and its subordinate command OTC for the fall, they might just find themselves "working together" again.

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