MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. -- Whether calling in air support to destroy a dug-in enemy, calling in a helicopter for an emergency medical evacuation, or simply calling to let Marines know that chow is on the way, radio operation is a necessary and vital skill all Marines and Sailors must know.
Radio communication is the main mode to pass important information in the military and the Personnel Radio Component (AN/PRC-119) is the Corps' radio of choice, said Cpl. Justin D. Schoonover to a handful of Marines from the11th Marine Expeditionary Unit’s command element during a radio operations class at the command element radio bay March 29.
“Without (communications) no one knows what’s going on,” said Schoonover, a field radio operator and instructor with communications platoon
Schooner, from Mint Hill, N.C., said the purpose of the class was to strengthen the skills of operators and maintenance Marines from the communication platoon and teach Marines from other occupational fields basic radio operation procedures.
Marines never know when a crisis situation will strike. They have "to be ready to step up and use this radio effectively," said Schoonover.
During the class, Marines also learned about the radio's components, capabilities, basic radio transmission concepts, and how to prepare the radio for secure operation.
Cpl. David A. McLean, a computer technician and sometimes radio repairman, from Lawton, Okla., is more familiar with the inner workings of the radio and is used to seeing it in pieces. McLean, the self-proclaimed "E.R. doctor for communications equipment," said he took the class to give him a different perspective on the radio. Learning how the radio operates will help him be a better technical troubleshooter, he said.
Field radio operators like Lance Cpl. Howard L. Graves, from Alexandria, Va., and Lance Cpl. Thomas M. Farnesworth, from St. George, Utah, sat in the class to strengthen their skills. Graves, an Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran with two-and-a-half years of communications experience under his belt, was also there to assist Schoonover and to coach the less-experienced students during the practical application portion of the class. Graves previously served in a technical control center in Fallujah, Iraq, where he helped provide phone communication capabilities to Iraqi civilians filing claims with the I Marine Expeditionary Force Headquarters. He also helped to build and maintain unclassified and classified voice and data communication networks.
Farnesworth, who has been in the Corps for more than a year, is taking part in his first deployment with a MEU. He said he attended the radio class to prepare himself as much as possible for the unexpected. Although the class was basic, Farnesworth said he did learn something new.
Basic classes like these and all training in general, benefit Marines because they instill confidence and reduce anxiety by transforming some of that apprehension into enthusiasm, said Staff Sgt. Michael L. Webb, the command element radio chief.
After the class, Farnesworth agreed and was philosophical about the MEU's upcoming deployment and eagerly embraced the unknown. "There's something exciting about being deployed and not knowing what to expect. Of things being up in the air," he said.
Farnesworth said he does not know what the future holds in store, if he will ever use his skills in combat or find himself in a crisis situation. What he does know, is that the skills he learned in this class have helped prepare him for whatever lay ahead.