Photo Information

U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Darren P. Mikesell, a data specialist assigned to the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), takes a practical examination test during a ground to air transmit and receive (GATR) inflatable satellite antenna (ISA) demonstration aboard Camp Lejeune, N.C., March 7, 2014. The 26th MEU communications and data Marines conducted the training and a proficiency examination on the equipment to enhance their expeditionary readiness. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Joshua W. Brown/Released)

Photo by LCpl. Joshua W. Brown

26th MEU communicates globally with GATRs

21 Mar 2014 | Lance Cpl. Joshua W. Brown

Weighing less than 300 pounds, inflatable and two-man operable; the ground to air transmit and receiver (GATR) provides critical communication capabilities to the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit.

“We align the [GATR] to a satellite in space,” said Sgt. Kenton Ciesla, 26th MEU cyber network chief. “When we’re connected, we have a certain amount of time we are allotted to utilize the satellites.”

The GATR connects to satellites orbiting the earth at a constant rate, meaning the satellites’ locations never change in correlation to the earth’s rotation. Once connected, the MEU can access the Internet through a modem linked to the GATR.

Ciesla said the GATR is easy to manage and has a smaller footprint compared to other systems used by the Marine Corps.

“It’s quick to take down, and it’s simple,” said Ciesla. “All you have to do is deflate, wrap-up and go.”

Once the GATR is inflated, an operator uses a spectrum analyzer to align the GATR and an assistant manually adjusts it. The GATR can be deflated rapidly, and packed away into three cases; each weighing less than 99 pounds.

“Ideally the weight could be divided between two ruck sacks managed by two Marines,” said Ciesla. “You could drop off the two Marines and have Internet access in under an hour.”

The GATR requires one Marine trained to operate it and an assistant to set up the equipment. Marines assigned to the MEU received training to use the equipment from GATR instructors and demonstrated their knowledge of the system during a training event.

Sgt. Xavier Velez, a data systems specialist assigned to the MEU, said, “It was valuable training and really informed us on the capabilities the GATRs have.”

The training event enhanced the Marines’ knowledge and operational skills with the GATR through a series of classes, a written exam, and practical application.

“The instructors were very knowledgeable and were quick to answer any questions we had with facts,” said Velez. “It really showed us the GATRs are great tools for an expeditionary unit.”

A rapidly deployable communication system, with a light footprint, is essential to the MEU’s ship-to-shore based concept. In addition to the GATR, the MEU uses a number of other communications systems to fulfill different mission requirements. Each one provides the Marine Air-Ground Task Force with the ability to communicate and operate in any environment.

According to Ciesla, the GATR is not meant to replace other systems organic to the MEU; it’s meant to be used in conjunction with other systems and offers a wider range of capabilities and provides more in terms of mission success.