MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. -- Communications have always been one of the most vital tools of a military commander. Whether it's the battle standards and signal flags of ancient Japan, the drums and bugles of the American Revolutionary and Civil wars or the high-tech digital data and voice equipment of a modern infantry regiment, successful employment of communications tools means the difference between victory and defeat on the battlefield.
“Communication is the number one enabler for command and control,” said Lt. Col. John C. Reeve, executive officer, 6th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division. “Without the ability to communicate, a decision might as well have not been made.”
The Marines of 6th Marine Regiment communications section put their capabilities and tools to the pre-deployment test here October 2 as part of a training evolution designed to bring together the units that will fight under the II Marine Expeditionary Force (Forward) standard during its upcoming deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
The section was focused on putting their months of training to work in order to facilitate communications between the command staff of the regiment and II MEF (Fwd) headquarters, as well as with units from 2nd Marine Air Wing, 2nd Marine Logistics Group and Army units based out of Fort Hood, Texas.
“(The regimental staff) is acting out combat situations from the combat operations center we've developed,” said 1st Lt. Paul C. Barron, 24, assistant communications officer, 6th Marine Regiment. “Our Marines are also putting (standard operating procedures) to work and getting used to working with communications gear in a high operational tempo.”
The performance of the regiment, as well as that of II MEF as a whole, will be evaluated by the Marine Corps to proclaim the force's readiness to take charge of the Corps' area of responsibility in Iraq. The scope of the exercise is unlike anything else most of the communications Marines have experienced.
“This is the first exercise where we've linked up to higher and developed those working relationships,” said Sgt. Matthew J. Perry, a 25-year-old Northville, NY, native and data supervisor for the communications section.
Perry's responsibilities include planning policies for the data networks in Iraq. The ground work for everything end users take for granted, from shared drives and network printers to encrypted radio communication, is laid out here by Perry and his team.
“This is the largest thing I've planned in the Marine Corps. We've learned a lot about (the systems) and how to implement policies. I have a lot of confidence in my Marines,” said the 1999 graduate of Northville Central High School.
One of Perry's Marines is Lance Cpl. Robert P. Courtney, 20, of Chugiak, Alaska. As a data communications Marine, he is responsible for putting Perry's plans into action. These plans mean increased security and a less frustrating experience for the end user. Effective policies also mean less dependence on the Marines manning the help desk once the regiment deploys, he said.
“We allow the user to have better access to their data without them having to wait for us to send a technician out,” Courtney said.
In order to provide a realistic scenario, Barron and his Marines set up a tactical vehicle with numerous radios in order to simulate the infantry battalions that will be attached to the regiment when it deploys. Along with the seamless communications between higher and adjacent commands, these simulated subordinates provide a transparent, realistic tactical situation for the staff responding to situations as they arise in the combat operations center.
Whether it's a fireteam leader yelling commands to his automatic rifleman across a dusty Iraqi street or a colonel issuing orders to his battalion commanders via encrypted digital telephones, the importance of rapid, clear and effective communications cannot be overstated. With the lessons learned from this exercise, the communications Marines with 6th Marine Regiment feel confident they are ready to overcome any obstacle.