MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. --
Marines with the 15th Marines Expeditionary Unit began a communications exercise on Jan. 6 in preparation for the start of Exercise Iron Fist 2014 on Jan. 23.
During the two weeklong communications exercise, the 15th MEU, Combat Logistics Battalion 15 and 9th Communication Battalion, established the services essential for successful command and control of future MEU operations. This includes a command operation center with classified and unclassified networks, as well as radio and satellite communications that give the commander the ability to direct and oversee troops in the field.
“This exercise increases our ability to work with coalition forces. In this case, preparation for working with Japanese forces,” said Maj. Charles Buckley, communications officer, 15th MEU. “They learn our tactics, techniques and procedures and we learn theirs.”
Learning these procedures is crucial to ensuring safety and communication in any exercise.
“This training is important because when we deploy we’re constantly working with other nations to accomplish our mission,” said Staff Sgt. Christopher M. Phibbs, cyber network chief, 15th MEU. “Here we can identify what we need to work on and fix that so we don’t have the problems when it counts.”
The 15th MEU has not conducted these types of operations since returning from their Western Pacific deployment in May 2013. Since their return, 15th MEU Marines have been focused on military occupational specialty maintenance training.
“We use our down time to keep our skill sets where they need to be, so when it comes time to start our pre-deployment training, we’re ready to go,” Buckly said.
Marines are using this exercise as a refresher, as well as an opportunity to apply new skills learned during their MOS maintenance training.
“It’s amazing how quickly you forget some of this stuff,” said Lance Cpl. Carlos D. Vassallo, field radio operator, 15th MEU. “There’s a lot of pressure. You don’t want to be the guy responsible for communications going down because you missed a step, or training has to stop because you forgot how to do something.”
Marines involved in the exercise understand what is at stake when it comes to successfully completing their job.
“If the commander doesn’t have the ability to relay information, you’re going to fail your mission and the likelihood of injury increases,” Phibbs said. “Marines rely on their radios to communicate. If a change is made in training, and we can’t relay that information to the Marines, there’s a good chance someone’s going to get hurt.”