CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan -- Marines see a man walking, he does not see them. He hunches down and starts to dig. The Marines believe he is planting an improvised explosive device, but they do not know for sure. There is nothing that identifies him as the enemy.
For the Marines of 2nd Radio Battalion, Task Force Belleau Wood, his communication will be the key in determining whether or not that man is friend or foe.
“It’s almost impossible to tell who the bad guys are,” said Lance Cpl. Andrew J. Armstrong, a forward observer with Fire Control Team 5, Supporting Arms Liaison Team Chuck, 2nd Air-Naval Gunfire Liaison Company. “The Taliban use farmers, women and children as shields. They hide among them and use them to their advantage.
“When Radio Battalion got out here, they opened our eyes as to where the Taliban were hiding. They’re the Marine Corps’ greatest asset out here right now. Those guys are money.”
Where Radio Bn. makes its money is in giving coalition units indication and warning of insurgent activity. The battalion consists of linguists and signal analysts who identify enemy communication and help units identify potential areas of enemy activity. If they confirm any hostile intentions, they pass the information to the unit they are supporting. That unit then administers justice as required.
For ANGLICO, a unit that specializes in providing close air support, thoroughness is very important.
“It helps build our case to drop ordnance,” said Cpl. Darrell Martin, a forward observer with 2nd ANGLICO. “We have to have all the facts laid out in front of us before we attack. We have to be precise, that way we don’t kill any civilians.”
In one instance, Radio Bn. helped ANGLICO stop an improvised explosive device attack by insurgents. Radio Bn. received communication concerning someone burying something on a road. Looking through a pair of binoculars, ANGLICO Marines were able to spot two men digging. They also spotted wires going into the ground, which indicated the men were burying an IED. The men were then caught and made to dig up the large pressure plated IED they had just planted.
In addition to helping stop insurgent attacks, Radio Bn. Marines also collect information on future operations, information on IED factories and facilitators, enemy tactics and numbers of insurgents.
For Cpl. Scott Harvey, a cryptologic linguist with Operational Command Element 2, Company Charlie, 2nd Radio Bn., cracking the insurgents’ code is not always easy, but when it works, it is a rewarding experience.
“It’s difficult adjusting to the local dialect, terminology and phrases,” said Harvey, a native of Tulsa, Okla. “You have you to find a way to translate that into something that makes sense in English.
Harvey takes pride in the fact that his unit is able to give warning of an attack and ultimately save the lives of Marines.
“We have a direct effect on the situation and the tactical stance of the Marines in the area. There’s no one else in the Marine Corps that can do the job that we do.”