PACIFIC OCEAN --
Marines serving with the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit launched a communications balloon Sept. 4 from the amphibious assault ship Makin Island off Southern California’s coast.
The balloon is designed to carry a radio relay up to 80,000 feet above Earth, extending communications to an area 600 miles in diameter, regardless of terrain.
“The Marines are improving a lot,” said Staff Sgt. Tatum M. Kaneta, MEU radio chief and Honolulu native. “We are getting our operating procedures down and becoming more proficient in the steps we need to take for a successful balloon launch.”
The unit embarked the amphibious assault ship Makin Island and the amphibious transport dock New Orleans in San Diego Sept. 1 to begin a second seagoing exercise since becoming a complete Marine air-ground task force in May.
The balloon provided instant communication with a long-range raid force in Twentynine Palms, Calif., allowing more stable, clear and understandable communication between ship and shore parties, said Kaneta.
Marines with Company I, Battalion Landing Team 3/1, were the raiders inserted by the unit’s aviation combat element, Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 268 (Reinforced).
The Marine air-ground task force is scheduled to deploy this fall.