31st Marine Expeditionary Unit Marines practice communication essentials, field new gear

1 Jun 2007 | Lance Cpl. Eric D. Arndt

Whether using basic hand and arm signals or speaking across continents using satellites, Marines continue to rely upon communication methods ranging from the low-tech to high-speed in order to succeed in their day-to-day missions.

During the month of May, Marines from the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit’s Battalion Landing Team 2nd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment practiced field-expedient communications techniques and fielded a new communications asset.

As part of a three-week communications skills course, the Marines reinforced their troubleshooting skills and proficiencies with various communications methods such as creating field-expedient antennae and using computers connected to standard radios to transmit data.

The Marines spent a week going over periods of instruction, followed by two weeks of practical application; sending data and voice communications between Camps Hansen, Schwab and Courtney using rooftop constructed antennae that dramatically increased the normal range of their radios.

Some of the Marines who took part in the training were not necessarily communications Marines, but line company infantrymen who learned techniques in case a designated field radio operator was not available.

“(The infantry Marines) may not get to use the knowledge a lot, but it’s good training for them – in case we get caught up with something, they know how to operate it,” said Lance Cpl. Kyle M. Hunter, a field radio operator with Company E.

The Marines also participated in a weeklong class to learn the ins and outs of the dismounted data automated communications terminal, a newer, smaller version of the rack-mounted terminal that was fielded five years ago.

During the class, the Marines learned about the differences between the mounted and dismounted terminals and how to use them in a field environment.

The D-DACT, a smaller, mobile version of the rack-mounted DACT (fielded in 2002), looks like a tactical personal data assistant, complete with touch-screen and stylus.

The D-DACT connects to the microphone port on a PRC-119 radio, and using internal power, shares data with other terminals in range. This allows commanders and small-unit leaders access to global positioning satellite maps and data messages, according to Jay E. Stabe, the DACT team lead and senior training specialist of Ocean Systems Engineering Corporation.

Stabe explained that messages sent from one terminal to others can be preformatted to fit a certain objective, such as a casualty evacuation or accountability report, or can be open, to allow Marines to type a text message using an on-screen keyboard.

“It’s good because you can see your friendlies, checkpoints, and other paths people have taken before,” said Pfc. Oscar M. Jimenez, a field radio operator with the communications platoon of BLT 2/1. “It’s also better than voice because you don’t have to repeat yourself. You just send (your message), and whenever (the recipients) are ready to open it, they can.”

The 31st MEU is only the 2nd Marine Corps unit to field the D-DACT system, according to Stabe.
With the fielding of the D-DACT, this type of technology enhances the MEU’s communications capabilities ensuring the unit’s readiness in the Asia-Pacific region.
Headquarters Marine Corps