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Lance Cpl. Derek Heeter, field radio operator, 9th Communication Battalion, checks radio connection during a month long field exercise. 9th Com Bn., simulated a 1st Marine Expeditionary Brigade deployment situation.

Photo by Lance Cpl. Scott Reel

9th Com Bn., simulates MEB deployment operations

20 Sep 2013 | Lance Cpl. Scott Reel

Marines from 9th Communication Battalion, I Marine Expeditionary Force, conducted an exercise aboard Camp Pendleton, Calif., during September to prepare for operations in an expeditionary and deployed environment.  

Capt. David Burton, assistant operations officer for 9th Comm. Bn., oversaw operations and assessed the Marines’ capabilities of providing communication to a simulated Marine expeditionary brigade situation.  

“Our success allows the MEB to communicate across all warfighting functions,” Burton said. “We don’t provide command and control, but we enable command and control.”

From the moment the Marines hit the ground, they have 48 hours to set up their equipment and establish communication. The Marines were successful in 47 hours. 

“We’ve done tremendously,” Burton said. “I’m real proud of the Marines that have been out here. They’ve demonstrated the ability to not only execute their individual training and readiness standards but also to meet the intent of our battalion commander and thus commanding general.” 

The 9th Comm. Bn., allows contact between forward deployed units and the ‘rear’, or stateside. Units would not have orders without the Marines performing exercises as they have during the month of September. 

“What these Marines do is vital to the success of any operation,” Burton said. “You can have the best plan in the world, but if you don’t have the means to communicate that to your subordinates, you’re less than likely to be successful.” 

One of the Marines ensuring mission completion was Sgt. Christopher McNeil, a server chief for 9th Comm. Bn. 

The communication exercise operates like a fire-team, McNeil said. One member of an infantry fire-team will push forward into an ambush and establish control. Once established, other members will pass the Marine in control to provide assistance further in the fight. 

McNeil said the ‘forward’ section of communication will land on enemy territory and establish connection. Once this is successful, ‘main’ will take over while ‘forward’ continues to press further in country. The ‘main’ then has the ability to communicate through satellites and talk to commanders stateside and the unit pressing forward.

“Our responsibilities are pretty much to keep the networks alive and up so we don’t lose services,” McNeil said. “If we lose services we have to get them up as quickly as possible. If we lose services, troops don’t have that contact for orders.”

McNeil has been providing his experience and skills to the Marine Corps for nearly seven years and recently returned from Afghanistan, last December.  

“We have had some hiccups but it’s just a learning experience, something to take to the next field operation or next exercise,” McNeil said.