MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. --
Marines with 9th Communication Battalion set up supporting communications and data transmission services for 1st Marine Expeditionary Brigade during Javelin Thrust 2012/ Large Scale Exercise-1 at the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center in Twentynine Palms, Calif.
The Marines arrived June 18 to set up the brigade’s communications network and support the operation. The exercise serves a part of a three exercise continuum aimed to validate the readiness of 1st MEB as a global crisis response force.
The battalion embarked from Camp Pendleton with command and control center tents, gear and equipment and more than 46 tactical vehicles designed to operate a command and control center.
Javelin Thrust differs than typical training exercises aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif., where 9th Comm. Bn. is based, by supporting more than 400 Marines and sailors of the 1st MEB command element.
Over the past ten years, the battalion has typically deployed to environments where communications networks were in already place, like Iraq and Afghanistan. Javelin Thrust provided the battalion to establish its command and support system from the ground up.
“This is a culminating event,” said Maj. Fernando Jimenez, the 9th Comm. Bn, Javelin Thrust detachment, officer in charge. “This is what it’s going to take to support a MEB should it be called upon. Our ability to command and control is being validated, and we are succeeding.”
The battalion provided Marines with various occupational specialties to equip 1st MEB with the assets and knowledge they’ll need to maintain communication during the exercise. Sgt. Steven S. Pulliam, a motor transport mechanic, and his Marines took responsibility of providing the battalion day-to-day resources.
“We support the MEB with water, fuel, food and transportation,” said Pulliam, who serves with 9th Comm. Bn. “One of the big things we do here is keep the generators running and make sure the water bulls [water tanks] are clean and full of water for everybody.”
Keeping the equipment cool in the Mojave Desert training area is a challenge for 9th Comm. Bn., as the temperature peaked over 100 degrees.
“I’m in charge of making sure that the generators and air conditioners are running,” said Cpl. Francisco R. Cruz, an AC mechanic with 9th Comm. Bn. “We supply the power and necessary temperature to keep the gear cool so it runs in its proper function.”
Communication between the brigade’s command operations center and the ground units is a critical function to conduct a large-scale exercise. Maintaining a communication system is vital to keep operations fluid.
“I’m here supporting the technicians we have from the other satellite systems for communication,” said Lance Cpl. Michael P. Raymond, a multi-channel communications equipment technician with 9th Comm. Bn. “We’re the ones that make sure communication goes through smoothly and any data or commands that are given are sent through.”
Sgt. Arthur I. Baronov, a technical controller, is responsible for installing, maintaining, operating and troubleshooting tactical communication networks for the Marine Corps and coalition forces in a deployed environment. Technical controllers typically work with the majority of the communication equipment as subject matter experts for the other 9th Comm. Bn. Marines.
“We act as the central hub for coordinating the troubleshooting and establishment of a fully functional communications network using tactical gear,” Baronov said. “The biggest part of our role is to monitor our network and make sure we have reliable communication.”
The battalion also provides communication from the sky via satellite. The Marines training on the ground communicate with other units through field radios. They rely on the radio operators to monitor and maintain connectivity with the command element. Sgt. Patricia L. Reynolds, a field radio operator with 9th Comm. Bn., said her Marines had communication support ready for the Marines training in a matter of days upon arrival.
Every phone call, e-mail, field radio command and satellite transmission goes through 9th Comm. Bn.’s equipment. The exercise hinges on the battalion’s ability to do their job and keep the momentum.
“It’s all about communications to effectively command and control,” Jimenez said. “We’re doing our part. The Marines have done a fantastic and phenomenal job. From the day they hit the ground running, they’ve not stopped. We’re professional, flexible and reliable.”
With the communication structure set up and running efficiently, 1st MEB is one step closer to proving its worth as a crisis response force with the ability to provide communication support for any operation it’s called to.