CAMP HABBANIYAH, Iraq -- Communications is extremely important in ensuring each unit completes its mission while supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom. This is true for the Marines at the 2nd Marine Division Training Center that provides basic marksmanship and weapons handling skills to the Iraqi Security Forces as well as advance training to Coalition Forces.
This asset is made available to the DTC by the efforts of a six man communications detachment from Communications Company, Headquarters Battalion, 2nd Marine Division. These Marines are multitasking on a whole different level from their traditional counterparts.
Upon arriving at the DTC, the Comm. Marines consisting of a data chief, wire man, two radio operators and two Mobile Multi-channel Equipment operators, spent the first three days scrambling to set up a fully operational communications shop. A shop providing the center with secured and unsecured internet, phone, multi-channel radio and single-channel radio connectivity.
“This is new to anything I have ever seen,” said Staff Sgt. Thomas F. Miller, the DTC’s data chief and senior Marine for the communications detachment. “This is a company size set up minus the servers and switchboard. We provide a website, basic connectivity, the ability to communicate with the mobile training teams and military transition teams, the ability to order needed gear and supplies, liaison with the various commands and radio communications for ranges and patrols.”
This task, though difficult in itself, was made significantly more so by the procurement of assets.
“The most challenging aspect of setting up the shop was figuring out who would provide the assets. We have stuff signed out from the (2nd Marine Logistics Group), the division and the (II Marine Expeditionary Force),” Miller explained.
“We attempted to set up directly with the division out of Camp Blue Diamond, but because of the distances and obstructions, it didn’t work. We had to pull services from the closest base which is Camp Taqaddum. We also needed gear organic to specific units, so we pulled what we needed from each.”
This heavy tasking wasn’t all the Comm. Marines would face.
“Although the Comm. Marines further the mission by maintaining communications between the division headquarters at Camp Blue Diamond,” said Chief Warrant Officer 5 Terry L. Walker, “I also needed them to help prepare the center to be occupied and get it up and running. I also asked them if they would like to be instructors and assistant instructors. To a man they all jumped at the chance. It is just what they wanted.”
Each Marine in the detachment soon found himself filling various roles within the fledgling DTC to get ready for instructing members of the Iraqi Security Forces. When not on watch or maintaining communications gear, they wielded hammers, saws and a variety of other tools to refurbish the facilities main building, class rooms, living quarters, showers and vehicles.
“When we moved up here and occupied the building, we refurbished it. It was all done by these Marines (members of the detachment and Marksmanship Training Unit),” explained Walker. “We have a lot invested in this facility but it isn’t monetary. It is the sweat and ingenuity of the Marines.
“All the Marines have secondary requirements. For instance, you don’t run a facility this size without having individuals in charge of vehicles, grounds, the building, air conditioning systems. We didn’t go out and get special people to do it. We capitalized on the skills that we have.”
The Marines time isn’t spent just maintaining the facility and communications though. Each of the Marines serve as weapons instructors for the various courses. They teach classes ranging from marksmanship and weapons handling to land navigation and communications. They also provide communications instruction and planning outside the DTC to the adjacent units and guard forces.
“I am an instructor for the Iraqi Small Arms Weapons Instructors Course, teach land navigation, personal security and serve as a primary weapons instructor on the ranges,” Miller stated, explaining some of the roles the Marines serve in. “I have also set up communications plans for the adjacent units and went out on patrols with the Army and the engineers.
“Sergeant Shepler (Robert A Shepler is a radio operator attached to the DTC) is an instructor as well, teaches classes to the MiTT teams and the adjacent commands. Corporal Hall (Russell R. Hall is a wire man with the unit) is also and instructor as well as a troop handler and weapons couch on the range. Now Sgt. Bryant (Marcus Bryant is a MUX operator) is an instructor, a coach and also an Armory custodian along side one of the MTU Marines. The jack of all trades in our group is Cpl. Ryan Touliver. He is an instructor, vehicle mechanic, carpenter, electrician, plumber, basically the guy for everything you need.”
According to Miller, there is seldom a team that has worked as closely as these Marines have in such a wide variety of skills.
“Normally in a company you wouldn’t have a team working so closely like this. There you would have them broken down in their shops and segregated. The way our shop is set up benefits these Marines greatly,” he continued. “We all get a feel for different jobs. The cross training is great.”
As the DTC continues to move forward in instructing the ISF in basic marksmanship and weapons handling, the detachment looks for ways to improve the communication services they provide. One such improvement the Marines hope to have up and running in the near future is an internet café.
“We have just about everything we need for it already. We are just waiting on a few things,” Miller explained. “It will be nine secured internet lines, nine unsecured internet lines and phone lines for the MiTT teams when they are here.”
The Comm. Marines of the DTC have greatly exceeded Walker’s expectations for and have had a tremendous impact on the mission.
“I am humbled by the amount of work and dedication to a cause that these guys have brought to the fight,” he stated. “It is easy to being the man in charge when you have Marines like this working for you. The Comm. and MTU Marines serve as single smooth operating machine. There are no differences between the two.”