Photo Information

COMBAT OUTPOST RAWAH, IRAQ – Master Sgt. Albert E. Lopez, assistant operations chief with 1st Light Armored Vehicle Battalion, Regimental Combat Team 2 lifts one of the poles that serve as a roof for the battalion’s mobile combat operations center. The forward COC provides a link in the chain of communication with the battalion’s firm base and its mobile units. Marine Corps Photo By Lance Cpl. Ryan C. Heiser.

Photo by Lance Cpl. Ryan C. Heiser

First LAR extends eyes and ears throughout western Euphrates River valley

18 Apr 2007 | Lance Cpl. Ryan C. Heiser

Regimental Combat Team 2 launched operation Valiant Guardian on March 26, 2007. In support of that operation, 1st Light Armored Vehicle Battalion has sent its Marines throughout the western Euphrates River valley to disrupt enemy movement and form communication bonds with the local populace.

In order to effectively accomplish this mission, the battalion needed to create some means of communicating with its units over extremely long distances, and provide additional combat support at the same time.

The answer: a mobile forward combat operations center, also known as a COC.

“All infantry units have forward COCs, ours just happens to be mobile because of the nature of our unit,” said Master Sgt. Albert E. Lopez, the battalion’s assistant operations chief.

The battalion has several units and attachments working together throughout their area of operation, so it is no easy feat to have eyes and ears on everything at the same time.

“We are out here working with Charlie Company, plus they got the quick reaction force, canine units, and all kinds of units with separate missions,” said Lopez, a Costa Mesa, Calif., native. “We direct communication traffic between all of them with higher headquarters.”

Communication is the number one priority of the forward COC, according to Pfc. George K. Gelow, the forward COC’s radio operator.

“The COC has one of the biggest roles in missions because it directs communication, plus it has the ability to call in air support, carries firepower, and has enough Marines to supply a guard unit,” said Gelow, a Daytona Beach native. “It (COC) has everything anyone would need to complete a mission.”

The battalion’s commander, Lt Col. Kelly P. Alexander, travels with the forward unit, so he can give more timely decisions on pressing matters.

“We get all the Intel and give it to the lieutenant colonel so he can make the best decisions and we can push those commands back down to the smaller units,” Lopez said.

The forward COC also provides communication support for any injured Marines on the battlefield, which is invaluable considering the vast range the battalion routinely covers.

“If we had no communication out here, then there would be no way to transport injured Marines off the battlefield, and no way to direct the movement of friendly units. It would be a huge disaster and people would definitely die. We make sure that doesn’t happen, and that’s the importance of our mission,” Gelow said.