II MEF takes a crash course in communication equipment

14 Jun 2006 | Sgt. Tracee L. Jackson

Marines from 8th Communication Battalion, II Marine Expeditionary Force are enlisting the support of several east coast commands for a month of communications equipment training. Rather than sending individual Marines away to school for in-depth instruction on commercially-sold equipment, civilian instructors are being imported to teach 49 students at once.

According to Master Sgt. Kenneth Moore, technical control engineer for II MEF who is overseeing the evolution, the month of education is aimed to refresh skills of experienced communication unit leaders and prepare junior Marines for upcoming deployments in support of Operations Iraqi and Enduring Freedom.

“In the communications field, we have a lot of equipment that we call ‘commercial off the shelf,’” said Moore, 35. “This gear is contracted out to the Marine Corps from civilian agencies. The experts are the people who manufacture the equipment, and we go to them to learn about certain communications systems,” he said.

Inside the classrooms comprised of tents and large metal boxes in the middle of a dirt field soaked with seasonal rain, the curriculum includes operation of the Digital Technical Control facility.

A DTC is a $2.5 million base station which can be deployed anywhere in the world and provide up to 14 connections to other nodes, or areas that receive communication.

Also high on the training list is the Global Broadcast System and a new multiplexer that is being integrated into the Marine Corps to work with the already-implemented MRC-142 radio.

COTS gear is a staple of modern Marine Corps communications, said Gunnery Sgt. Roy R. Sims, 34, 8th Comm. Bn. training chief. However, when Marines go to war, the manufacturing representative can’t go with them. This is why it’s important that individual Marines from a variety of military occupational specialties understand how to operate and troubleshoot the systems, he further explained.

“In order to operate equipment, you have to be able to fix it as well,” said Sims. “For example, if you need to fix a telephone, you need to know how the phone works to begin with. The civilian contractors are showing us different operations with the multiplexer, different switches, and stuff like that.”

Lance Cpl. Amy Rendon, 20, a Unit Level Circuit Switch Operator/Maintainer from Kaukauna, Wis., is now half-way through the evolution. She said the training provided to her will set her up for success in future operations.

“In the mornings, we usually have classes about whatever it is we’re going to learn that day,” she said. “Then, they give us our scenario and we spend the rest of the day working on that skill.”

“This training is designed to be very hands on,” said Moore, who noted that while classroom instruction is a valuable part of each day’s training, much time is spent on practical application.

Today’s communication Marine has a large measure of technology to stay on top of - from tactical and non-tactical communication lines, internet and video, to satellite information. However, the Marines of 8th Comm. Bn. are competently rising to the challenge with a warrior’s attitude.

“Comm. wins wars,” explained Sims. “He who has the best communications will win. It saves lives every day.”

June’s training opportunity is part of the larger project of preparing II MEF Marines for future combat deployments. With each hour of instruction, the pool of communications experts grows to suit the mission of the force.