CAMP HANSEN, Okinawa, Japan -- After offloading hundreds of pieces of communications equipment from a recent deployment at sea, the Marines must ensure their operational capabilities are maintained.
Marines from the communications detachment of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, maintain their operational readiness through constant analysis and maintenance of the unit’s communications equipment.
The Marines of the 31st MEU use several types of communications equipment to maintain the operational “chatter” throughout the four major elements of the Marine Air Ground Task Force.
“The most used piece of equipment is the Support Wide Area Network (SWAN) because of its easy break-down and set-up capabilities,” said Lance Cpl. James S. Gummoe, a satellite communications operator for the 31st MEU, and a native of Huncasville, Conn. “It is the SWAN’s extensive use and high-paced deployment rate where the wearing of the equipment happens.”
The SWAN is used to provide a broad spectrum of information services in a deployed environment including video, multimedia, data and imagery. The SWAN is a communications asset that can be set up in 30 minutes or less, getting the MEU rapidly connected.
Disembarking from the ship after the 31st MEU’s Fall Patrol, the commdet must transition from an operational focus to a maintenance mindset. Once the gear has made it back to Camp Hansen, the arduous task of operational checks begins. Hundreds of hours of maintenance are required for the highly technical equipment, keeping it ready to support garrison and deployed environments.
“The communications platoon consistently maintains a high operational tempo along with strict and structured training programs designed to utilize our time to the greatest extent possible.” said 1st Lt. Pierce J. Virag, the 31st MEU communications platoon commander and a native of Oregon, Ohio. “There is no other MEU in the Marine Corps that maintains the deployment rate or operates at the tempo we see in Okinawa.”
The communications Marines of the 31st MEU recognize their importance in unit operations, keeping them dedicated to the laborious task entrusted to them.
“We are the direct path of communications among the ground elements of the MEU,” said Cpl. Eduin L. Poling, a satellite communications operator with the 31st MEU, and a native of Jonesboro, Ind. “Without our equipment up and running in a high-paced operational standard, the link from the commanding officer and his Marines is lost.”
The 31st MEU is the only continuously forward-deployed MEU and is the Marine Corps' force in readiness in the Asia-Pacific region.