CAMP BLUE DIAMOND, AR RAMADI, Iraq -- When Cpl. Vingua joined the Marines to tinker with radios, he never thought he’d be in Iraq helping to save lives.
Vingua is a 21-year-old radio repairman who works with ultra-high and very-high frequency radios on a daily basis here in the heart of the 2nd Marine Division’s headquarters during this deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
He works for a small unit called the Direct Air Support Center (DASC) – part of Marine Air Support Squadron 1. When the ground troops need close air support, the DASC is their direct link to aircraft to support a mission. Air strike requests and helicopter-borne evacuations are routed through Vingua’s radios at the DASC, where Marines here at the combat operations center communicate with DASC liaison officers who are with the infantry at the regimental and battalion unit levels.
“I wanted a technical military occupational specialty that I can apply to a civilian job for if I choose to get out of the Marines when my time is up,” said the Worth, Ill. native.
Working with 100-pound military radios which are the direct link to pilots, is just what he needed. He joined shortly after the events of Sept. 11, 2001 when he was attending college.
“I just wasn’t putting forth the effort to be successful,” he admitted. “This has been a better choice.
Infantry Marines can send radio transmissions directly to aircraft to request for fire support, but with the myriad of operations in the province, it’s important for the DASC to relay the request to ensure it’s done safely. And that’s where Vingua’s radios make all the difference when it comes to providing air and fire support for troops on the ground.
“Depending on the terrain, we can communicate a good distance through out the area of operations (about the size of North Carolina),” said Vingua. “That’s pretty good here since the desert is mostly flat.”
Vingua’s radios allow the members of the DASC team to operate from up to 1 kilometer away, making it easier for him to maintain the radios in a cool, dry place while Marines operate in the surrounding desert.
“It’s important to keep the radios safe and running, because if we’re not on top of it, we’re not controlling aircraft,” said Vingua.
Through the radios, the DASC alerts flight crews of friendly artillery units that may be firing in a certain area or what enemy forces might be emplaced in another area. They also use integrated computer technology to track ground troops and convoy movements in the area of operations. The systems save time and it allows for a more efficient way to support the troops either with medical evacuations or close air support.
“I like working here because I get to see the effect of my work on a grand scale,” said Vingua. “Medevacs don’t happen without us and it’s good to know that Marines rely on us.
“We’re actually helping to save Marines’ lives; that’s why I love the job.”