Photo Information

Matt Macon, a satellite communications operator contractor, shows field radio operators with the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit how to use a satellite communications dish during a communications exercise (COMMEX) aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif., March 23, 2016. The COMMEX familiarizes Marines with the 11th MEU’s standing operating procedures regarding communications as they prepare to begin training or “work-ups” leading to the upcoming deployment.

Photo by Lance Cpl. Devan Gowans

Wired Up; 11th MEU Marines Hone their Networking Skills

24 Mar 2016 | Lance Cpl. Devan K. Gowans 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit

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.

Marine Corps News

Colonel Thomas M. Siverts
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Colonel Tom Siverts is a native of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He enlisted in the Marine Corps in August 1989. He achieved a commission as a Second Lieutenant through the Marine Corps Enlisted Commissioning Education Program following his graduation from the University of Virginia in May 1999. Colonel Siverts has deployed in support of Operations DESERT SHIELD, DESERT STORM, IRAQI FREEDOM, and ENDURING FREEDOM. His other operational deployments include serving with Battalion Landing Team (BLT) 2/8, 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU); BLT 3/8, 22d MEU; BLT 2/8, 26th MEU, and Task Force 61/2.

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Lieutenant Col. Steven M. Sprigg
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LtCol Sprigg was born in Parkersburg, WV. LtCol Sprigg enlisted in the United States Marine Corps in September 2004 and recruit training at Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island, SC. LtCol Sprigg was selected for the Enlisted Commissioning Program and commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in March 2008. He was designated a Naval Aviator in February 2011 and reported to HMLAT-303 for training as an AH-1W pilot. LtCol Sprigg is currently serving as the Executive Officer for the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit in Camp Pendleton, California.

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Sergeant Major Travis L. DeBarr
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Sergeant Major DeBarr enlisted in the Marine Corps and reported to MCRD San Diego, CA, for recruit training in October 1994.Staff Sergeant DeBarr completed two combat tours in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom from September 2005 to April 2006 and again form March 2007 to September 2007. While serving with 3rd Battalion, 9th Marines, First Sergeant DeBarr completed one combat deployment in support of Operation Enduring Freedom to Helmand Province, Afghanistan, from October 2012 to May 2013. Sergeant Major DeBarr currently serves as the Sergeant Major for the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit.

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