15th MEU News
Photo Information

U.S. Marine Lance Cpl. Carlos Vassallo, field radio operator, 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, conducts radio checks with soldiers from the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force during Exercise Iron Fist 2014 aboard Camp Pendleton, Calif., Feb. 4, 2014. Iron Fist 2014 is an amphibious exercise that brings together Marines and sailors from the 15th MEU, other I Marine Expeditionary Force units, and soldiers from the JGSDF, to promote military interoperability and hone individual and small-unit skills through challenging, complex and realistic training. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Anna K. Albrecht/Released)

Photo by Lance Cpl. Anna K. Albrecht

Marines, JGSDF discover a new way to communicate

10 Feb 2014 | Lance Cpl. Anna Albrecht

U.S. Marines with the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit discovered a new way to speak through encrypted communications with soldiers from the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force during Exercise Iron Fist 2014 aboard Camp Pendleton, Calif.

Iron Fist 2014 is an amphibious exercise that brings together Marines and sailors from the 15th MEU, other I Marine Expeditionary Force units, and soldiers from the JGSDF, to promote military interoperability and hone individual and small-unit skills through challenging, complex and realistic training. 

Sergeant Chris Golden, radio chief, 15th MEU, said that during previous exercises, Marines and soldiers from the JGSDF were not able to speak to each other through encrypted radio networks.

This year, soldiers from the JGSDF brought an Interoperability and Collaboration System for exercise Iron Fist.

The system allows Americans to talk on U.S. encryption to a Japanese soldier using Japanese encryption without security spillage, said U.S. Marine Capt. Michael Ginn, assistant communications officer, 15th MEU.

Previously, the two countries could not speak encrypted using their own hardware. Ginn explained that both ends would have American radio operators and American equipment. One American operator would be embedded with the Japanese.

“What [the Interoperability and Collaboration System] does is it takes away that distant end American radio and you can replace it with a Japanese one,” said Ginn. “The system alleviates the need to have either both American radios on both ends with radio operators, or foreign nation radios with foreign nation operators on both ends.”

This is the first time they’ve been able to speak to each other secretly on their own organic radio systems.

Golden said their technicians fabricated a cable that connects their radio to the Interoperability and Collaboration System. From there, they adjusted certain settings on the radios to program the system and make it possible to talk to the Japanese radios.

Now, no one on their frequency can hear them unless they connect to the Interoperability and Collaboration System.

Marines with the 15th MEU and soldiers with the JGSDF successfully tested talking to each other using different frequencies, such as very-high frequency to ultra-high frequency and high frequency to very-high frequency.

The most surprising connection they were able to make was connecting VHF to satellite communication, which requires the radio to connect to a satellite. Golden said that was the first time he had ever heard of connecting the two.

“It’s a pretty big deal because we are able to communicate with our allied, or our partner nations, without having to rely on providing the hardware or personnel in support of it,” Ginn said.

Later in the exercise, Ginn said the Japanese will assault a beach located north of the beach Marines will be assaulting. They will be able to communicate from the different beaches using their own equipment, so there won’t need to be any American radio operators with the Japanese, or any Japanese radio operators with the Americans.


15th Marine Expeditionary Unit