Photo Information

U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Elizabeth Russell, from Albermarle, N.C., and assistant radio chief, 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), conducts a test launch of the unit's tethered communications system during Exercise Eager Lion 2013 in Al Quweira, Jordan, June 12, 2013. Exercise Eager Lion 2013 is an annual, multinational exercise designed to strengthen military-to-military relationships and enhance security and stability in the region by responding to modern-day security scenarios. The 26th MEU is a Marine Air-Ground Task Force forward-deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility aboard the Kearsarge Amphibious Ready Group serving as a sea-based, expeditionary crisis response force capable of conducting amphibious operations across the full range of military operations. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Edward R. Guevara Jr./Released)

Photo by Staff Sgt. Edward Guevara

Communications essential to unit interoperability

4 Jul 2013 | Cpl. Michael S. Lockett

Shoot. Move. Communicate. This is one of the many sayings central to the Marine Corps rifle squad, the unit that the entire Marine Corps is built to support. Communications between units is one of the most critical components of a successful operation, especially for units as widely dispersed in their operations as the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit. 

“Communications is an essential aspect of the Marine Corps approach to war fighting. Due to the fluid nature of maneuver warfare and the constant need to exploit gaps in the enemy, adjacent units need to be in communication,” said Capt. Grant Hundley, executive officer of Company K from Richmond, Va., currently assigned to Battalion Landing Team 3/2, 26th MEU. 

“You can shoot and move all day, but if you don’t communicate, you might not get help when you need it, or make a dangerous situation more dangerous,” said 1st Lt. Michael Swenson, fire support officer assigned to Co. K. Radios are present in almost every aspect of the Marine Corps when operating in a field environment, from individual radios in squads or with platoon commanders, to vehicles radios, to even more elaborate systems, allowing widely dispersed units to talk to each other across miles, or even across continents, with the advent of easily portable satellite communications systems.

“Communications is critical, because without it, no one would know the current status of missions, Marines, vehicles, and so forth,” said Cpl. Derek Fontenot, radio operator from Lafayette, La., assigned to the 26th MEU command element. There are a variety of networks set up during the course of any particular operations – nets for companies, for the battalion landing team, for vehicle platoons and movements, for the ranges, and for different elements. All of this is designed to effectively put information in the hands of those who need it – to facilitate the smooth running of the MEU’s operations. 

“There needs to be a thorough understanding of who’s talking where and what information needs to be passed,” said Swenson.

“Our radio operators do a phenomenal job maintaining radio communications,” said Hundley. “Our radio operators in Kilo are adept at adapting to any situation.” With things like weather, distance, terrain, and a variety of other factors, radio operators need to be flexible and capable of rapid adaptation to the circumstances they’re operating in. “Terrain is always a big obstacle. Jordan, with its mountains: there’s certain communications that won’t work because they’re line of sight. Weather can affect it. The actual communications planning is a big factor. Making sure everyone is on the same frequencies and same encryption,” said Fontenot.

“Communications is important because it directly translates to success in the mission,” said Cpl. Conor McGrath, company radio operator with Co. K. “There will always be a requirement for communications,” said Hundley. “It’s critical for every part of the mission: medical, the attack, the defense. If anyone gets hurt, friend or foe, we’re able to call in a (casualty evacuation) to get them evacuated as soon as possible by (helicopter),” said Fontenot. “They’re important for the attack and defense because we can know whether to go right or left, to retreat or push forward, from those Marines right there at the very front.”