MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. – In preparation for their upcoming deployment in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and follow on missions, Marines of Alpha Company, 8th Communications Battalion, II Marine Expeditionary Force Headquarters Group, participated in a field exercise aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, Sept. 24-25.
The Marines set up camp on the morning of Sept. 24 and spent less than nine hours to fully complete their mission to establish communications between two separate locations.
“The Marines are performing great,” said 1st Lt. Patrick Skehan, operations officer for Alpha Company, 8th Comm. Bn., II MHG. “We came out here with a lot of energy. Yesterday morning, Marines were moving and any roadblocks that we faced, we overcame. We got out here and we accomplished what we set out to accomplish, which was to get communications up and running.”
Using the ANTCS-156C Phoenix Terminal and antennae between two camps separated by miles of wooded terrain, the Marines could power phone lines and even access the internet. The Phoenix Terminal provides nearly all internet, phone and data communication capability to Marines in Afghanistan, according to Cpl. Thomas Adams, a satellite communications operator with Alpha Company, 8th Comm. Bn., II MHG.
Despite their success and rapid set up of all necessary equipment, the Marines did not accomplish their mission without their share of complications along the way. When they first arrived, one of their antennas had a broken cable. After taking the antenna down and trouble shooting, the Marines quickly resolved the problem.
“It’s pretty much just trouble shooting the whole time, which is what we mostly do,” said Cpl. Christopher Huff, a data technician with Alpha Company, 8th Comm. Bn., II MHG. “We try to prepare everything before we come out in the field. That way we can come out, plug things in and everything works. Unfortunately, stuff like the cable and certain settings changes are the kind of things that happen. That’s when we have to really know what we’re doing.”
“The way I view it, there are things that are in your control and there are things that aren’t in your control. So the things you can control are things you can plan for,” said Skehan, a native of York, Pa. “Those are things we did well, such as logistics and setting up radio nets. There are always elements that you can’t foresee happening and those are the types of roadblocks you encounter when you go out into the field. Because we planned this really well, we were able to mitigate all negative effects we encountered.”
For the Marines, training such as this can be difficult to plan and coordinate. For this particular field exercise the Marines started planning in July.
“We would definitely like to get out to the field again,” Skehan said. “We’re preparing to deploy to Afghanistan. We plan to do a very thorough after action report. We’ve been documenting everything throughout the field exercise, most importantly, things we did well and things we can improve upon. When we get back from this exercise we’re going to put that after action report together so units who come out after us can look at what we did to better help prepare them.”