Marine Team Tests Enduring Freedom Communications Equipment
By Lance Cpl. John E. Lawson Jr., USMC
Special to American Forces Press Service
BAGRAM, Afghanistan, Mar. 25, 2004 The communications platoon from Headquarters Company, 6th Marine Regiment, held a two-day communications exercise, or CommEx, recently at Camp Bulldog here.
Marine Corps Sgt. Mike Fuller assembles and tests a humvee's communications equipment during a recent communications exercise at Bagram, Afghanistan. Communications platoon, Headquarters Company, 6th Marine Regiment, conducted the two-day exercise to test, troubleshoot and train with various communication systems and equipment for Operation Enduring Freedom. Photo by Lance Cpl. John E. Lawson Jr., USMC
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
First Lt. Greg A. Lizak, a Belmont, Calif., native, said communications "is not like flicking on a light switch and everything starts working. We have to adjust equipment and practice with it." Sgt. Javier Perez, assistant wire chief, said the Marines configured communications equipment to meet the requirements of potential future operations.
"We used the CommEx to determine what settings are right for our systems," the San Juan, Puerto Rico, native said.
The Marines set up and tested satellite and line-of-sight communications systems, along with other communication equipment. The equipment gives them the capability to transmit both voice and data.
Satellite systems broadcast a signal upward, bouncing it off satellites to reach its intended target. Terrestrial systems send signals directly to the receiving system.
"Satellite communication is like making a long-distance call while most line- of-sight communications is like making a local call," Lizak explained.
The 6th Marines deployed to Afghanistan in late February and early March to provide command and control to various combat and operating forces in the area.
"With units spread throughout our area of operations, communications gives the commander the ability to talk to units and get them what they need," Lizak said.
The equipment tested during the exercise also is used to communicate with the various provincial reconstruction teams operating in various remote regions of Afghanistan. To ensure the regiment's ability to communicate throughout the entire area of operations, the platoon contacted all units within the area, some hundreds of miles away.
Lizak said the system the Marines and other coalition forces use has encryption and other security precautions to prevent information from getting into the wrong hands.
Geography and different aspects of the region, such as varied elevation between the mountains and desert valleys, hinder communication, Lizak said. "It is difficult to talk over long range in this type of terrain," he explained.
The Marines worked hard to accomplish their mission, Perez said. "They worked all morning testing everything," he said. "This is what we do before we send Marines out on missions. They know everything that could go wrong and how to fix any problem in a timely manner."
Lizak said the exercise made sure the unit is ready to perform its mission. "Since we've arrived here we've been setting up and getting ready," he said. "This exercise was the first chance since we got here to do what we trained for and show what our platoon can do."