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U.S. Marine Corps tactical data networking specialists, clockwise from left, Sgt. Jeremy D. Sadler, Sgt. Alexander Papiernik, Cpl. Andrew P. Parsons, and Lance Cpl. Michael D. Hargis, are dubbed as the Geek Squad. U.S. Marine Corps photos by Sgt. Robert M. Storm
Geek Squad Faces Future of Modern Battle
By Sgt. Robert M. Storm

JALALABAD, Afghanistan, Sept. 12, 2005 – "We are cyber-warriors; we are the future of the modern battlefield,” said a laughing Sgt. Alexander Papiernik, tactical data networking specialist, from Mineral Ridge, Ohio when speaking of the Marines in the communications shop.

The Marines are currently deployed to Jalalabad, Afghanistan with 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment in support of Operation ‘Enduring Freedom.’

"We do everything from E-mail to live video feed from aircraft. We can deliver a real time, instantaneous feed to anywhere in the world."
U.S. Marine Sgt. Alexander Papiernik

The Marines affectionately known as the ‘geek squad’ or by their Military Occupational Specialty, 0656, tactical data networking specialists, are responsible for installing, operating, and maintaining network systems.

Tactical data networking specialist responsibilities include installing and configuring hubs, routers, bridges, and other transmission mediums. They also install and configure server hardware and software.

Many times they are called upon to install, optimize and troubleshoot local area and wide area networks, and operate the tactical data network server.

“We do everything from E-mail to live video feed from aircraft. We can deliver a real time, instantaneous feed to anywhere in the world,” said Papiernik. “How many computer nerds do you know that have a grenade launcher? Bill Gates doesn’t.”

Tactical data networking specialists not only ensure the data communications for the battalion are kept running, they also help out fellow Marines with their own computer problems.

Since it would take six weeks for a computer to make a round trip to the states to be repaired, tactical data networking specialists are considered invaluable to the

Marines that use computers to E-mail friends and family back home.

“We get two or three fix-it jobs a week. Our biggest grief is when they try to fix it themselves. When that happens, it just makes it harder on us. Marines need to bring it to us as soon as there is a problem,” said Cpl. Andrew P. Parsons, tactical data networking specialist, from Winchester, Va.

The Marines execute the data plan for the battalion under the supervision of Sgt. Jeremy D. Sadler, network administrator, from Newark, Del.

The linking of the forward operating bases with secure communications is crucial to the success of the battalion in its mission.

Many of the bases are separated by miles of rugged terrain, so support would need to be sent as quickly as possible to be effective.

The use of up to date technology makes the range of the battalion significantly greater due to the ease of communication.

“Security and stability are the main concerns for our job. Thankfully, with Navy Marine Corps Intranet we’re a step closer than ever before. Now, all units will be on the same system,” said Sadler.

Besides keeping the battalion in constant communication for military applications, the tactical data networking specialists are also an important factor in morale, as they maintain the internet allowing Marines easy contact with their families and friends.

“When I came in the Marine Corps, we had to write letters, and you had to pay for your own stamp. Now I have Marines that can chat with their wives and even use webcams,” said Master Gunnery Sgt. Gerardo V. Panetta, battalion operations chief. “These guys are amazing. Without Marines like Papiernik and Parsons, we would be in a hurt locker. We usually have at least one computer go down a day, and we just bring it to them, and they get it right back up.”

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