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Cpl. Robert Silva, 24, a wireman with 3rd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 5, from Los Angeles, transfers a phone call using a switchboard at Combat Outpost Haditha, Iraq, May 9. Data Marines have been doing everything they can to keep the lines of communication up and running for their battalion. Data Marines are responsible for ensuring that internet connections and phone connections are always working.

Photo by Cpl. Erik Villagran

Data Marines keep battalion connected

12 May 2008 | Cpl. Erik Villagran

Communication is one of the most important assets in a time of war.

Data Marines with 3rd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 5, are doing their best to ensure that their battalion’s communication systems are always up.

Marines aboard Combat Outpost Haditha depend on data Marines to keep them in contact with over 20 subordinate unit positions, as well as adjacent units.

“We’re responsible for the maintenance of transmission equipment, as well as network connectivity for users’ computers and phones,” said Sgt. Michael D. DeFreeze,  26, a tactical network specialist with 3rd Bn., 4th Marines, from Batavia, N.Y. “We also provide wireless communication for the (Civil Affairs Group), the (Police Transition Team) and the Haditha Iraqi Police Station.”

On a daily basis, the data Marines travel from one shop to another assisting Marines with anything from software problems to getting an internet connection to work. Noncommissioned officers like DeFreeze and his team work long, busy days ensuring the battalion can communicate.

“There’s a lot of troubleshooting every day,” said Cpl. Timothy M. Coate, 32, a tactical network specialist with 3rd Bn., 4th Marines, from Decatur, Ill. “A lot of issues come up for data.”

Data Marines make themselves available at all times. They understand when things are running smoothly, they receive little attention. Additionally, when connections fail, Marines look to them to correct the problem immediately. For some people, that would be a tough pill to swallow, but for the data Marines of the battalion, it’s rewarding to have the enormous responsibility that is the cornerstone of command and control.

“The best part of the job is knowing that we’re supporting the main fighting force of the battalion,” DeFreeze said. “We help make sure they accomplish the mission.”

Although they stay humble about how hard their work is, they do acknowledge the importance of their job.

“We support the command element, so as far as (the battalion) goes, we are the most important communication element,” DeFreeze said.

One thing is certain, as long as these data Marines are on the job, the battalion will be able to continue to exercise its command and control through their area of operations.

“Maintaining communication is a twenty-four-hour a day process,” DeFreeze said. “Things may slow down a bit, but the job is never done. We’re always on call and ready to fix a problem.”


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