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CHIPS Articles: NIOC Colorado Sailor Earns 'On-the-Roof Gang' Award

NIOC Colorado Sailor Earns 'On-the-Roof Gang' Award
By Petty Officer 2nd Class Robert A. Hartland, Navy Information Operations Command Colorado - March 24, 2017
AURORA, Colo. (NNS) -- U.S. Fleet Cyber Command/U.S. 10th Fleet (FCC/C10F) named Senior Chief Cryptologic Technician (Collection) Brandi Williams as the 2017 recipient of the "On-the-Roof Gang" (OTRG) Award.

The award, named after the original Navy cryptologists who trained in a specially constructed block house on the roof of the old Navy Department building in Washington, D.C., is given to a Sailor or Marine who best exemplifies sustained superior performance and significant contributions to naval cryptology.

"In her more than 20 years of outstanding contributions as an exceptional cryptologist and superb Navy leader," said Cmdr. Mark Alexander, commanding officer, Navy Information Operations Command (NIOC) Colorado, "she demonstrated tireless initiative, great resourcefulness, and a passionate dedication to duty, worthy of the example set by the original OTRG members."

Williams, who originally hails from Phoenix, currently serves onboard NIOC Colorado, located at the Aerospace Data Facility Colorado on Buckley Air Force Base.

"I am honored to be mentioned in the same category of the original 'On-the-Roof Gang' who were self-taught, amazing cryptologists," said Williams. "Their contributions were historical and I am still speechless that I was honored with this cryptologic lifetime achievement award."

Williams started her career in 1996, where she quickly learned the importance of mastering basic cryptology. During both of her afloat tours, first on guided-missile destroyer USS Decatur (DDG 73) and many years later on USS Howard (DDG 83), she made significant contributions to shipboard mission accomplishments. Her contributions directly led to the capture of two tons of hashish, enabled direct action against a top al Qaida terrorist, and provided defense of the ship during an intense, high-profile diplomatic mission.

"There is no individual or family member I can thank directly," said Williams. "Every duty station I have been stationed at has had Sailors that helped push me to make a lasting and meaningful impact on the cryptologic community."

As a recruiter, Williams quickly became the regional recruiter in charge, leading all of her centers to recruiting success. In her national assignments, she quickly rose to important leadership positions and earned multiple awards including Senior Enlisted Leader of the Year and Military Performer of the Year.

"To sit and look at the places I have been and people I have worked with, this award is the pinnacle for cryptology in the Navy," said Williams. "This achievement is validation for what I have put my heart and soul into for 20 years."

Since 1983, the U.S. Naval Cryptologic Veteran's Association has sponsored the annual OTRG Awards, which recognize service members' sustained superior performance and significant contributions toward naval cryptology for an extended period of time.

Between the years 1921 and 1927, U.S. Navy and Marine Corps personnel taught themselves to break Japanese code and passed those skills informally to many of their contemporaries. The value of the information extracted was recognized under the auspices of OP20G, the former Office of the Director of Naval Communications. Formal training was subsequently developed and classes were held in a wood structure set atop the Navy Headquarters Building in Washington. Since the radiomen could not explain their classwork to others, they eventually acquired the nickname, "The On-the-Roof Gang."

Williams' contributions over her more than 20 years as a Navy cryptologist exemplifies leadership, initiative, resourcefulness and dedication, which personify the highest traditions established for cryptologic excellence by the original OTRG.

"Advice I would give to cryptologists today would be that nothing beats hard work," said Williams. "Stay up on new technology and put your mission first, while balancing your Navy administrative requirements."

NIOC Colorado is a subordinate command of U.S. Fleet Cyber Command and comprises Task Force 1080 of U.S. 10th Fleet.

Based at Buckley Air Force Base, its mission is to provide ready, trained and motivated information warfare officers, cryptologic enlisted personnel, and expertise to support fleet, combat forces, and national intelligence operations requirements worldwide. NIOC Colorado actively engages in the global war on terrorism, while operating in a challenging multi-service and multinational environment.

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