Marines run cyber network for I MEF exercise

23 Feb 2015 | Courtesy Story I Marine Expeditionary Force

When the commanding general is in the command operation center and needs to know the activity of the units in the field, he turns to his computer. That computer and the network that supports it are provided by data network specialists.

In order to keep information flowing, data network specialists set up one of these networks for I Marine Expeditionary Force Exercise 2015, a MEF-level exercise that evaluates training and readiness to deploy in support of combatant command operations, being conducted at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California, Feb. 17-24.

“Everything rides on us,” said Gunnery Sgt. Christopher Messerole, the data chief for 9th Communication Battalion, I MEF. “We exist to provide a stable network for the commanding officer.”

During the exercise, the data network specialists set up and maintain a data network that provides commanders with information on friendly and enemy troop movements as well as communication with Marines under their command.

“Teamwork is what keeps the network running,” said Messerole. “We have well-trained Marines working together.”

Supporting the network means more than plugging in a few cables. Data network specialists may not face the enemy on the front lines, but they defend against an unseen foe.

“We have to fight off cyber attacks,” said Messerole. “For this exercise, they have Marines dedicated to finding the network’s weaknesses and trying to break in.”

Messerole added that he is confident in his Marines’ abilities and the training and preparation they did leading up to the exercise.

“We probably did about a month of training before we even came out here,” said Messerole. “We tested gear, set it up and ran it, so that when we got here, we would be able to just set up and go.”

Corporal Adam Cobb, a data network specialist with 9th Comm. Bn., I MEF, said that the training prepared them for everything from maintaining the network itself to supporting the computer and electronic needs of the Marines.

“We do a lot of things,” said Cobb. “We run laptop and phone cables, we set up accounts on the computers, manage outlook, and keep the printers working.”

With each Marine trained and ready, it’s the team as a whole that accomplishes the mission.

“We know each other’s strengths and weaknesses, and we play off each other,” said Cobb. “Not everyone can be great at everything, but everyone gives 110 percent.”

The exercise will test the network as well as those using it as I MEF pulls together to combat a simulated near-peer enemy force. With each obstacle they overcome, the Marines prove that they are ready to respond to any threat, anywhere, any time.