MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. - A radio check as a unit heads out on a mission, scheduling a convoy by phone or sending an email to confirm a supply drop in the field might seem like easily accomplished communication, but there is more to it than meets the eye.
Telecommunication, data and radio operator Marines worked quickly to get these communications up and running in time for the start of Exercise Steel Knight 2014 aboard Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, Calif., and accomplished that mission in only one day, supporting more than 500 Marines and sailors.
“We’ve set up different phone lines within the command operations center, the forward operating bases and the headquarters tent,” said Sgt. Ebony Tatum, telecommunications supervisor, Headquarters Company, Combat Logistics Regiment 1, 1st Marine Logistics Group, and a Fort Washington, Md., native. “We also set up fiber lines with 1st Marine Division, so we can communicate with them as well as other 1st MLG units.”
The ability to make phone calls is just one of the capabilities these communications Marines provide in the field. Data Marines set up the Support Wide Area Network in order to get other services, such as email, up and working.
“First we have to get the [transmitter] up that connects to the satellite in the sky,” said Lance Cpl. Brenden Salinas, data network specialist, HQ Co., CLR-1, 1st MLG. “After that, we can turn on our servers and communicate with other units.”
Salinas’ job goes further than just making sure the network is up and running in a timely fashion. When he’s not ensuring the overall communication abilities of CLR-1 are working in the field, he’s troubleshooting computer issues for individual Marines and sailors.
“I’m working the help desk,” said Salinas, of Westbend, Wis. “When someone’s computer doesn’t work or they can’t send emails, I find a way to fix the problem.”
While both the telecommunication and data Marines are busy setting up transmitters and phone lines, the radio Marines already have the initial form of communication operating.
“We set up the first line of communication,” said Lance Cpl. James Biggs, radio operator, HQ Co., CLR-1, 1st MLG. “We just put our antennas up really quickly, and we’re ready to go. We connect those antennas to the COC, so that they can hear everything that’s going on.”
Not only do radio Marines provide the COC with another communication outlet, they also set up an electronic tracker that allows the COC to see exactly what is happening on convoys.
“We track the vehicles on a GPS, so we can see where they are. We can’t really coordinate anything unless we know where they’re at,” said Biggs, of Atlanta, Ga. “We also make sure convoys do not go near any live-fire areas during the exercise.”
Without the Marines who make these capabilities possible, communication to schedule events such as transportation of personnel and supplies would not have been feasible. These Marines contributed to keeping the lines of communication open and making Exercise Steel Knight 2014 a success.
Exercise Steel Knight 2014, which took place Dec. 9-16, is an annual exercise designed to prepare the 1st Marine Division for deployment with the Marine Air-Ground Task Force as the Ground Combat Element with the support of 1st MLG and 3rd Marine Air Wing. Combined, the MAGTF is able to deploy and respond in a timely manner to any situation across the globe.