Photo Information

(ABOARD USS NASSAU)- Gunnery Sgt. Angel Cruz, data chief, Command Element, 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, troubleshoots a connectivity issue here Sept. 27, 2007. The data Marines are resposible for all communication off the ship and are vital to a MEU accomplishing their mission.

Photo by Lance Cpl. Alex C. Guerra

Data Marines ensure the 'surf's up'

27 Sep 2007 | Lance Cpl. Alex C. Guerra

Since the first brigade of Marines was formed to protect naval vessels, the Marine Corps and Navy have employed fully integrated working relationships.

To help this process and form strong bonds before deploying in real world operations, the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit and the Nassau Expeditionary Strike Group participate in the Expeditionary Strike Group Integration Exercise, an eight-day familiarization evolution.

Long before the MEU ever arrives, Marines from the data operations section of the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit are already aboard, having already integrated with Navy counterparts to establish and maintain a vital asset to every unit’s mission success: communication. Not just the communication required to complete tasks, but relating interdepartmentally, laying the foundation for all communication in the Marine Corps-Navy team.

“We are the ships’ voices,” said Gunnery Sgt. Angel M. Cruz, command element data chief, 24th MEU command element. “Our mission is to keep an open line of communication to allow the units meet their mission requirements.”

Nearly everyone aboard ship relies on computers to do their job said, Cruz a Brooklyn, N.Y. native.

“Operation sections wouldn’t be able to delegate tasks to and make plans (without us),” said Cpl. Brett M. Widner, data network administrator, Command Element, 24th MEU. “Using the internet makes everything much faster than using a radio; it’s more convenient and saves time.”

A large part of what the data section handles are various issues that occur while deployed, ensuring communication systems remain viable.

“We are constantly troubleshooting,” said Winder. “During training we learn basic networking, but end up learning more as you go. When someone in our shop learns how to fix a problem, they’ll share it with everyone. So everyone is trained on everything and we don’t have to rely on one person.”

The data section never closes, leaving Marines for responses to email and phone requests known as trouble tickets.

“The data section responds to about 60 trouble tickets a day, assisting users with day to day tasks,” said Widner. “Problems can happen at any time. As long as someone is up working, we’re working too.”

The data Marines don’t do it all on their own as tenants and receive support from the landlord Navy equivalents.

“We are here to support the Marines to help them get where they need to become fully integrated and connected,” said the lead information technician chief, USS Nassau Expeditionary Strike Group. “It’s been great seeing the Blue and the Green work hand-in-hand to accomplish their goals.”

The Nassau’s hardware provides access to an open line of communication to the world.

“We are able to setup email and internet access so Marines can talk to loved ones at home,” said Cruz. “Helping them ensure things at home are good allows them to focus on their mission here, and that’s the whole point of what we do, allow the MEU to accomplish all its missions.”

ESGINT is one of several ship board training exercises the 24th MEU will participate in as part of pre-deployment training in preparation for a 2008 deployment.

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