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CAMP BAHARIA, Iraq - Lance Cpl. Jason V. Edds, a radio operator with 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, mans his unit's communications array, or 'ant farm,' here Aug. 17. The 20-year-old Oklahoma City native works alongside fellow communications Marines to keep their headquarters connected with each of their subordinate units in Fallujah by regularly cleaning, fixing and fine-tuning their antennas and radios.

Photo by Cpl Mike Escobar

Oklahoma radio operator keeps Marines tuned in

4 Sep 2005 | Cpl. Mike Escobar 2nd Marine Division

"Without communication, nothing happens."
This statement may seem strange coming from Lance Cpl. Jason V. Edds, an Oklahoma City native who describes himself as "never having been a very outgoing guy."

Nevertheless, 20-year-old, soft-spoken Edds performs a vital role in keeping counter-insurgency operations moving along smoothly for his fellow Marines with the 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, here.  Without him and his Communications Platoon teammates, missions to uproot terrorists here simply wouldn't happen.

Edds, a 2004 U.S. Grant High School graduate, works as one of approximately 40 field radio operators who assist their battalion in and around the former terrorist hotbed of Fallujah. He works largely out of the camp's 'ant farm,' an array of OE-254 communications antennas and field radios located apart from the unit's command headquarters.  There, Edds routinely inspects communication equipments’ wires and connections, ensuring that they are clean and functional.

"We make sure all the comm stays up in the battalion, and that we're able to talk to our bases out in town.  We take care of the gear here to make sure that happens," Edds explained.

Currently, the battalion's infantrymen occupy four bases in the area: Camp Baharia's combat operations center, two in Northern Fallujah, and one inside the nearby rural community of Saqlawiyah, a township many insurgents fled to after Coalition forces wrested Fallujah from them last year.  Several miles separate each of the camps. 

As radio operators, Edds and his team ensure the different bases maintain clear, constant communication, both with each other and their respective higher commands.

Edds described the ant farm he helps man as Baharia's re-trans station, an outpost that receives incoming radio traffic and sends messages to the battalion's infantry companies in Fallujah.

In addition to maintaining this ant farm, radio operators work out of the downtown bases to keep comm up on their end.  Like Edds, they clean and check their equipment, but also keep a strict sense of security in mind as they accomplish their tasks.

The Marines regularly input encryption data, known as crypto, into the radio waves used to transmit the messages.  This scrambling data garbles the information in between the starting and ending points, enabling unit personnel to discuss classified information via radio.

The sizeable task of maintaining his unit’s communication capabilities and keeping operational security airtight falls on Marines like Edds, who recognize the weight of responsibility the job carries.

“We’re one of the most important assets the battalion has,” Edds stated.  “If we didn’t have comm during operations, the commander wouldn’t know what was going on, and his Marines wouldn’t know what to do.  Operations would pretty much stop without comm.”