Photo Information

Staff Sgt. Matthew Opperman, with Service Company, 8th Communications Battalion, II Marine Expeditionary Force, works with a Phoenix satellite terminal during Phoenix course practical application for the section here March 10 to April 11. The Phoenix, which is much lighter and more mobile than the older satellite terminals, is the Marine Corps’ newest satellite system.

Photo by Lance Cpl. Meg Varvil

8th Comm soars with the Phoenix

13 May 2008 | Lance Cpl. Meg Varvil

The Phoenix is used to provide flexible, mobile, high capacity, extended-range communications connectivity using military and commercial satellite space segments.

This may sound like a foreign language, but some Marines are becoming notably familiar with “Phoenix” lingo.

The Phoenix is the newest satellite terminal to be integrated into the Marine Corps. The first terminals to come aboard Camp Lejeune arrived here March 4.

Satellite Platoon, Support Company, 8th Communications Battalion, II Marine Expeditionary Force, received four systems. Leaders with the platoon expect nothing but continued success once the terminals are fully incorporated into the battalion.

“Among many advantages, the increased mobility of the terminals will make satellite support so much simpler,” said Master Gunnery Sgt. William Sisco, operations chief for Satellite Platoon.

Two humvees transport one entire Phoenix system. The first vehicle carries the actual terminal and satellite, along with two operators and their personal gear. The second vehicle is the “Mobile Power Unit.” It contains the system’s generator, spare terminal equipment and two operators with their gear.

“We can power the satellite using the generator, power from either of the humvees or house power,” said Sgt. Jarvie Curtis, a satellite communications operator with Satellite Platoon.

Operators can prepare the Phoenix terminal for communication quickly.

“The Phoenix is definitely a faster set-up than our older satellite,” Curtis said.  “We can set up, find a satellite and pass communication within 30 minutes.”

Approximately 30 Marines in the battalion will go through classes to learn how to operate the new systems.

Three civilian instructors held classes for the first group of Marines here March 10 to April 11. Sixteen Marines were enrolled in the course.

The students were excited to be the first Phoenix operators at Camp Lejeune.

“This is a new system,” said Cpl. Dane Richardson, a satellite communications operator with Satellite Platoon. “We’re the first ones on base to train on it.  We’ll be the ones that are able to teach our Marines about this new satellite system.”

The course was fast-paced, and the Marines absorbed a plethora of information.

“We have a binder with about 1,400 pages that we’ve gone through in two and a half weeks,” Curtis said. “We also have other reading material, but it’s all stored on our laptops, and there are quick references on the actual terminals to help us teach other Marines.”

Each Marine was provided a laptop, which was connected to a server with a fully operational simulator of the Phoenix terminal. Many students appreciated how useful the simulator was when they first began learning about the new satellite system.

“You can make mistakes and mess things up, but you can’t break the simulator, so it’s great to learn on,” Curtis said.

After learning more than 200 abbreviations, spending time on the simulator and pouring over several books, the Marines began practical applications on the actual terminals.

“For practical applications, we set up in groups of four,” Curtis said.  “There are three operators and one technician in each group.”

At first, the groups set up the terminals and passed communications.  As their skills progressed, the instructors purposefully created problems within the terminals, and the Marines fixed them.

The students’ passion was evident through their work in the course.

“These are really sharp Marines,” said John Eldard, an instructor for the course. “You can tell they love what they do.”

Upon completing the course, each student received a Phoenix operation certification directly from the manufacturer.

The Marines then put their skills into action during the 8th Communications Battalion communications exercise here May 6-16.

Amidst the typical communications systems, there was a new Phoenix terminal.

However, the Marines’ leaders were more than confident in their Phoenix operating abilities.

Sisco said the Marines won’t have any trouble operating the new system. He added all the Marines passed the course, and two of them even aced the test, something the instructors said had never been accomplished before.

One more group of Marines is scheduled to take the Phoenix course, and all Phoenix operators and technicians will participate in further training in August.