CAMP HANSEN, Okinawa, Japan --
Marines from various units within the 31st Marine Expeditionary Force conducted a communications exercise here, June 23 – 30.
The exercise was designed to train new Marines in equipment operation and test the seasoned Marines in their knowledge, in preparation for an upcoming deployment.
“During the exercise we set up all the communications assists including; satellite, radio, wire, telephone, switchboards, computer system and servers,” said Gunnery Sgt. John E. Davis, staff non-commissioned officer in charge of the communications detachment, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit.
The communications detachment recently executed a command changeover and now has a new platoon commander, adding to the need for the training, according to Davis.
“It is important for the platoon commander to know what equipment we have and whether or not it is functional,” said Davis. “Inventorying the equipment is one thing, but actually pulling it out, that is when we find out what works and what do not.”
The newest Marines of the communications detachment will see the greatest benefit, as they have little experience in operating any of the equipment.
“Most of the new Marines have not done anything since their school but inventory equipment,” said Davis. “The Marines need this training before we go ashore, so they have an idea what is going on.”
The Marines operated various types of equipment during the exercise while also encountering numerous problems that were far from unfixable, according to Cpl. Jonathan M. Hegedus, a satellite communications operator for the communications detachment.
Three of the biggest items in the communications equipment arsenal are the Support Wide Area Network D1-v1, which are integrated, IP-based communications satellites that will accompany the Marines when going ashore during operations.
Backing up the three SWAN’s, the detachment also operates a Phoenix Tactical SHF Satellite Terminal, which is a quad band tactical super high frequency satellite communications terminal mounted on an M1152A1 vehicular platform.
“Although there is a lot of really good equipment, there are always complications,” said Hegedus.
The Marines faced minor difficulties in equipment operation while conducting this training, providing valuable lessons.
“Difficulties or problems that we encounter can usually be fixed on the spot, if not worked around,” said Hegedus. “It is better for the new Marines to learn these things here, while we have time, rather than waiting until we are conducting an exercise."
Increasing precision in operations is important, given the vital role the detachment has in 31st MEU operations.
The communication detachment plays a critical role in providing long haul satellite communication and signals intelligence capabilities to the MEU Commander, according to Lt. Col. Gary T. Roesti the executive officer of the 31st MEU.
“The technical expertise provided by the (communications detachment) in the form of planning, employing and operating tactical communications systems serves as a force multiplier by ensuring the MEU commander has the ability to gather information and exercise command and control across a highly dispersed operating environment,” said Roesti.
The 31st MEU is the United States' force in readiness for the Asia Pacific and the Marine Corps' only continuously forward deployed MEU.