President Honors Retired Army Colonel from Ventura Fire Agency
Hannah Guzik, Special to The Ventura County Star (California)
Should a natural disaster or terrorist attack wipe out part of the country’s communications networks, the Ventura County Fire Department’s information technology manager might be able to help. James Norris spent the past few years as the western team chief with the Department of Homeland Security’s National Communications System, planning for emergencies that might knock out wide swaths of phone and Internet networks.
This month, he was recognized by President Barack Obama for his work, accomplished during 30 years of military service.
‘Col. Norris is a consummate professional who focuses on details and cares about those he’s working for and working with,’ said Col. Steve Hensel, an Army Reserve officer assigned to the National Communications System who worked with Norris. ‘I’ve met only a few people who equal his level of compassion for the work and the people he works with.’ Norris, of Ventura, received the Legion of Merit, a military award, from Obama for his active and Reserve commissioned service.
‘It’s been an honor to serve my fellow Americans,’ he said. ‘We’re the greatest country in the world because we have so many diverse people of all kinds that love this country and want to make us great.’ The 52-year-old retired from the military in January but continues to work full time, managing the emergency communications systems for the county.
During his military career, Norris commanded at the platoon, detachment, company and battalion levels while with the 82nd Airborne Division, the 25th Infantry Division, the 2nd Infantry Division in Korea and the Army Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations Command.
Much of Norris’work centered on South Korea, and he has helped the nation draft plans to keep its people safe in case of a war with North Korea, he said.
“They have plans to protect their people, and also, when the time comes, to reunify the country,”he said. “They’re quite amazing people, and I believe their plans are solid.”
Norris, who retired because of the military’s law that limits service to 30 years as a commissioned officer, said he hopes to spend his free time teaching political science or business at an area college. He holds two master’s degrees, one in strategic studies from the ArmyWar College and one in business and organizational management from the University of La Verne.
He also will continue volunteering at the Veterans Home of California in Ventura, where he helps the chaplain with the Sunday service.
Norris will miss the work he did for the military, but he’s glad to have made room for young people to take his place, he said.
“I feel privileged to have had the opportunity to be a part of the armed forces, and I’m sad togo. But I know that others will pick up and carry on after me,”he said. “There’s a lot of great young people that want to serve their fellow man.”