CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. -- During the COMMEX, Marines learned to quickly build an operations center, which acts as a link between the command element and subordinate command operations centers, allowing for the passing of information and orders once a communications network is established.
Setting up reliable field communications is vital to the smooth functionality of any forward-deployed unit around the globe, as it ensures Marines will be able maintain radio communications, access to the Internet, and aviation support services such as medical evacuations and fire missions.
“Clear sight and sound over the area of operations is very important to the MEU commander,” said Gunnery Sgt. Kevin B. Chestnut, communications maintenance chief with the 11th MEU. “As the first exercise with the 11th MEU, we are out here testing our capabilities, pairing our more-experienced Marines with the less-experienced Marines to strengthen their bases of knowledge, ensuring that our gear is fully operational to support future operations leading to our upcoming deployment.”
The Marines also familiarized themselves with a piece of equipment revolutionary to the realm of satellite communications: a Ground Antenna Transmit Receive (GATR) Technologies 1.8 meter inflatable satellite communications dish.
The GATR satellite is a lightweight and highly mobile version of the communications dishes that Marines are currently implementing, which provide high-speed voice and data communications to the command operations center network.
“The main advantage of the GATR antenna is portability,” said Ty King, the Marine Corps program manager with GATR technologies. “The Marines become better satellite communications operators by using this dish because it requires them to manually operate the dish, as opposed to the Marine Corps’ rigid dishes, which configures to satellites automatically.”
Along with portability, the GATR satellite operates efficiently in extreme environments, and is more energy efficient.
“The GATR antenna is a lot lighter and easier to implement,” said 1st Lt. Jacob R. Loya, the officer in charge of the communications platoon. “It’s designed to support upward of 150-200 users and could potentially replace the older satellite model, which has to be towed by a vehicle and uses more power than that [GATR antenna].”
The COMMEX also serves as a means of building camaraderie and a strong working relationship between the communications Marines who recently joined the unit and the Marines who have been there for a while.
“We are assessing where the Marines’ expertise level stands as a platoon,” said Chestnut. “The exercise helps us develop our skills and prepares us for any tasks that the 11th MEU would require of us.”
Ultimately, the COMMEX is an abundant source of training for the communications Marines of the 11th MEU. The exercise acquainted them with an innovative tool and refreshed their knowledge regarding the establishment of a reliable command network and operations center, which is essential for successful operations of forward-deployed units.