Photo Information

Cpl. Lissay Ly with the 1st Marine Logistics Group's Communications Company walks beneath a communication antenna at Camp Habbiniyah, Iraq. The antenna was set up May 6, 2006 in order to give Military Transition Teams secure communication. Official USMC photo by: Cpl. Stephen Holt

Photo by Cpl. Stephen Holt

Communications experts keep Marines connected in Iraq

16 May 2006 | Cpl. Stephen Holt 1st Marine Logistics Group

As the hot Iraqi sun was beating down, sweat ceaselessly dripped from the faces of Marines erecting a radio tower. They grimaced while pushing a metal extension of an expandable antenna in the air as commands to tighten up the slack on guidelines were yelled.

The tower seemed intimidating as it hovered more than 25 feet above the Marines' heads and could have crashed down if they weren't careful, but that didn't deter them and eventually the system was set up and secured.

Marines of Communications Company, 1st Marine Logistics Group, must overcome a variety of challenges like this daily so troops stay connected in the restive Al Anbar Province.

From the homing pigeons of World War I to today's cutting-edge technology of encrypted radios and satellite phones, a network of information is critical to commanders on the battlefield.

Modern innovations bring a new level of communication capability but have their own drawbacks that the 'comm' Marines must deal with before the equipment can function efficiently.

"Thinking outside the box is one of the biggest skills to have in 'comm,'" said Sgt. Katherine Bartal, site chief for the project and radio operator. "Anybody can plug in a cord (from) here to there, but what really is the difficult part about being in communications is troubleshooting."

Such trouble shooting was applied as the communications Marines relocated their antenna and battled inconsistent power at nearby Camp Habbaniyah to help Marines assigned to a military transition team. The MiTT is responsible for training Iraqi soldiers and according to the team, secure communication transmission is essential for them to accomplish their mission.

The system's placement wasn't as easy as they had anticipated, said Bartal.

Unconventional solutions help the Marines save time on such tasks and this occasion was no exception. For this task they tapped the power from their humvee to keep the equipment running while they inspected the set-up and tested the signal.

The support and innovation the Marines used here is replayed throughout Iraq every day as communications technicians keep their fellow Marines connected.

For Marines to employ any type of ordnance such as artillery rounds or bombs from aircraft, communication with the people that give the permission to drop the explosives is essential to carrying out the strike, said Sgt. Brian Salisbury, fire support Marine with 2nd Air and Naval Gunfire Liaison Company, 2nd Marine Division.

Good communication not only assists troops on the ground with heavy weapons support but also helps save lives in the heat of battle.

"The number one reason communication is going to save lives is because on the battlefield you need to know where everyone is. You have to have comm," said Salisbury, from New Bern, N.C., and added every service member must be accounted for before ordnance is dropped.

Witnessing an artillery strike is just one of the perks communications Marines like about their job.

"I like to know that we're doing something, especially when we're doing call for fire. You say your 'roger over' and then you hear rounds come down range," added Bartal, a 22-year-old from Morgantown, W.Va.

Combat operations are among the most visible moments in Iraq where communication is needed, but every Marine here benefits from 'Comm' Company's efforts daily.

Convoys, commanders at the different outposts and forward operating bases, operations centers and even Marines needing to make a morale call home all benefit from the communications specialists efforts.

"We provide the commanding general the ability to command and control his forces," said Maj. Robert K. Maldonado, commanding officer of Communications Company and Mastic, N.Y., native.

Maldonado added that anyone on Camp Taqaddam that needs to call home, access internet or e-mail, can do so thanks to 'Comm' Company.

"Communication is probably the number one thing on the battlefield besides a rifle," said Salisbury.

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