FORT PICKETT, Va. -- Distributed operations can present a challenge to the command of a Marine Expeditionary Unit. They may require dispersion of forces across a theater, and the further apart the subordinate elements are from the parent unit, the more difficult it is to communicate.
With the help of a new piece of satellite technology, this communications challenge may soon be a footnote in the history books for the 26th MEU.
The MEU Wide Area Network makes constructing the communications infrastructure between the major subordinate elements and the MEU an almost irrelevant consideration.
Captain David C. Joseforsky, SWAN Project Officer at Marine Corps Systems Command, is the Marine in charge, ensuring the MSWAN system is integrated into the 26 MEU.
He said the system, "allows the MEU to deploy with satellite communications capability to extend their data and voice networks."
Joseforsky said that capability allows the MEU commander to deploy his forces on a non-restricted basis. In essence, they will be able to deploy further, cover more area, and still be connected by satellite communications.
1st Lieutenant Jonathan J. Pfunter, officer in charge of the Joint Task Force Enabler, agreed with Joseforsky's assessment of the MSWAN system.
He said prior to the MSWAN, communications was a limiting factor for distributed operations, but the new system changes that.
"Now we can truly conduct distributed operations anywhere we need to as long as the [JTF] Enabler is ashore," he said.
He said current systems can only provide web-based, short-ranged communications, but the MSWAN extends that range to about 10,000 miles, which adds significant additional capabilities to the MEU.
Joseforsky said the 26th MEU is the first MEU to get the MSWAN system, and the acquisition resulted from an Urgent Universal Needs Statement the MEU submitted to MARCORSYSCOM, which identified the system as an essential need.
Within six months, Joseforsky and his team procured the system and put it into the hands of the Marines who will be using it in the field.
26th MEU communications Marines took classes on operations and assembly of the system, and also got some hands-on experience with it during the Marine Expeditionary Unit Exercise (MEUEX) currently taking place, Sep. 25 - Oct. 5, Fort Pickett, Va.
Sergeant Rogan P. McCauley, a satellite technician with the 26th MEU, said the MSWAN looks very promising.
"It has the potential to minimize the communications footprint and increase the speed and capability [for communications] over greater distances," he said.
McCauley was quick to point out the system is very user-friendly.
"The system design and creation is one of the best I've seen in the Marine Corps in the last 10 years," he said.
Making the system even better, he said, is that the system's designers have taken feedback from Marines in the field who have worked with previous versions and have integrated that knowledge into the MSWAN design.
Pfunter said the system definitely fulfills the needs of the MEU when compared to other systems he has worked with.
"Previous systems haven't met the needs of the MEU; training wasn't provided, or maintenance was an issue," he said. "This system solves those problems."
Pfunter was enthusiastic about being able to employ the system on the 26th MEU's upcoming 2007 deployment.
"Once we get the training completed, I'm excited to use this system in a real-world environment," he said.
The 26th MEU is roughly two-thirds through its rigorous, six-month predeployment training cycle designed to form the aviation, ground combat, logistics and command elements into a cohesive, rapid-reaction force capable of a wide-spectrum of missions. The MEU will continue to train for its scheduled 2007 deployment in support of the Global War on Terror.
For more information on the 26th MEU visit www.usmc.mil/26thmeu.