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    Communications: critical to Marines on the battlefield

    Communications: Critical to Marines on the Battlefield

    Photo By Sgt. Scott Whittington | Cpl. Bryan J. Vanlieshout, 24, satellite communications operator for RCT-3, checks the...... read more read more

    HELMAND PROVINCE, AFGHANISTAN

    07.31.2009

    Story by 1st Lt. Kurt Stahl 

    Regimental Combat Team 3

    HELMAND PROVINCE, Islamic Republic of Afghanistan — A squad of Marines is patrolling through the Helmand River valley in southern Afghanistan, and suddenly machinegun fire rings out from a nearby compound filled with insurgents. The Marines immediately attain a grid coordinate for the exact location and radio for a fire mission. Within minutes, a precision round lands directly on the target and neutralizes the threat.

    This exact scenario occurred, July 28, and it's just one of many real-life combat missions that would not be successful without the work of communications Marines within Regimental Combat Team 3.

    Communications, or "S-6," Marines support the entire framework of operations here — from field radios to secure e-mail.

    There are about 140 Marines operating under the RCT-3 S-6, all of which have various backgrounds from radio and satellite communications to information assurance and data. The Marines are primarily from 3rd Marine Regiment's home in Hawaii, but a sizeable amount are augmenting the RCT from units stationed in Okinawa, Japan.

    Each one of the services S-6 provides is vital to the regiment's ability to execute its mission. In the case of a call-for-fire mission or casualty evacuation, the Marines on the ground utilize field radios to communicate back to their combat operations center, which has multiple communications assets available to coordinate the support request.

    The regiment has field radio operators that constantly monitor radio traffic and process important messages when needed. Cpl. Ray Wimmer, an S-6 Marine based out of Okinawa, does exactly that.

    "We call in medical and casualty evacuations, air drops, air support — anything the guys on the ground need," said Wimmer, who grew up in Kansas City, Kan., and graduated from Turner High School. "We communicate regularly with the battalions, and as the regiment, we report to the Marine Expeditionary Brigade."

    In a fire-mission scenario like the one on the morning of July 28, communications Marines like Wimmer play a crucial role.

    "When requesting a fire mission, the battalions contact us for approval. The grid coordinates are passed over the radio with a thorough description of the surrounding environment," Wimmer said. "We send the message back once the decision is made."

    While radio assets are crucial capabilities to Marines, the communications architecture is much more intricate and requires numerous specialized areas of expertise.

    The first step in building communications capabilities is establishing a link to a standardized tactical entry point, where services can be pulled to a control facility and distributed to forward units, according to 1st Lt. Christopher Wurinaris, a communications officer with RCT-3.

    "We provide both secure and unsecured networks, which provide the respective types of phone, e-mail and Internet service," added the 33-year-old officer from Tinley Park, Ill. "S-6 also provides what is essentially a secure chat room that enables multiple Marines to pass important messages in real time."

    These capabilities facilitate the timely flow of information between units that are spread across the regiment's vast area of operations.

    "The services provided by S-6 enable our commander here and commanders forward to get the most up-to-date picture of the battlefield," according to Wurinaris.

    The Marines of the RCT-3 S-6 do not all stay with the regiment headquarters the entire time. Several of them have been dispatched to forward locations in order to help the battalions set up their communications architecture.

    "Throughout the time we have been here, we have pushed out contact teams to support the battalions in getting their services up," Wurinaris said.

    "When we go out to a FOB [forward operating base], we set up a SWAN [support wide area network system], which provides the battalion the ability to have both secured and unsecured connectivity for e-mail, Internet and phones," explained Cpl. Tyler Springer, 20, a satellite communications Marine from Waukomis, Okla.

    These assets can help save lives when units are in urgent situations.

    "During Operation Khanjar, we provided communication services to the battalions, enabling them to relay any important information," said Cpl. Brint Gurung, 20, a multi-channel radio operator with RCT-3 who spent time forward at multiple combat outposts. "We erected antennas at each site, programmed radios and helped troubleshoot any issues that came up."

    Whether it is establishing satellite feeds or passing urgent radio traffic from Marines in contact, RCT-3 communications Marines are an irreplaceable piece of the puzzle in supporting the regiment's operations here in southern Afghanistan.

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    NEWS INFO

    Date Taken: 07.31.2009
    Date Posted: 07.31.2009 00:56
    Story ID: 36983
    Location: HELMAND PROVINCE, AF 

    Web Views: 708
    Downloads: 646
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