COMBAT OUTPOST UBAYDI, Iraq --
With Marines deployed in cities located up and down the Euphrates River in western al-Anbar province, communication becomes an important asset in more ways than one.
The communications Marines of Headquarters and Service Company, Task Force 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 5 provide the battalion with an array of tools to keep everyone connected. Their tools and knowledge are required to keep the phones, Internet and cameras up to ensure everyone can do their job.
“We’ve got to support the battalion through providing (secure Internet) and (non-secure Internet) service and radio communications,” said 1st Lt. Matthew E. Wopschall, communications officer, H&S Co. “We’re responsible for providing that link to the outside world.”
From running wires and maintaining internet connectivity to fixing radios, the communications Marines work around the clock. Each Marine has a different job that keeps the battalion talking.
“Everything that moves in and out of here and around the battalion has an element of communications with it,” said Master Sgt. Marvin Barber,34, communications chief, H&S Co. “If we can’t communicate, we just flat out can’t move.”
As Task Force 3rd Bn., 7th Marines moves from one combat outpost to another, making way for other battalions to come in, the communication Marines have had to stay one step ahead. Operations centers and workspaces must be pieced apart and set up again at the next combat outpost every time the company moves. These moves have increased as Coalition forces have moved out of cities and demilitarized the bases.
“It’s like any other move; we’ve kind of become accustomed to it,” said Sgt. Christopher M. Phibbs, 21, data chief, H&S Co., from Spotsylvania, Va. “We know it’s going to happen, so we’ve prepped ourselves.”
To accommodate each company in the battalion, communication Marines are attached to various combat outposts spread throughout the area of operation. This takes away more assets from the communications platoon, which still has to maintain the same amount of equipment. The Marines have learned new skills to assist the battalion. This often puts young noncommissioned officers into billets with great responsibilities.
“Our success as a communications shop has been based on the Marines stepping up into roles in which they weren’t accustomed and typically aren’t expected to step into,” said Wopshall, 27, from La Canada, Calif. “We couldn’t have survived without the cross-training that we’ve done in country. Every single Marine is filling multiple roles, that’s the most important part.”
Each day presents a different task and challenge for the communication Marines. With Marines tasked to numerous combat outposts and sections within the battalion, there’s always work to be done.
“It gets a little overwhelming sometimes; it has its ups and downs,” said Cpl. Jeremy C. Olson, 22, tech shop supervisor for H&S Co., from Sierra Vista, Ariz. “Everyday someone needs something done or I have to go out somewhere and fix a radio. It’s just like any other job I guess. I’m on call 24/7 to fix whatever goes down.”
No matter the mission, the communication Marines have managed to stay one step ahead of the game.
“The beauty of this battalion, this year and this deployment, has simply been the non-stop variety of it,” said Barber, who is from Jackson, Ind. ”We’re constantly executing or planning to do whatever, whether it be moving, improving what we fell in on, supporting every communications (detachment) that we have out with every company position right now.”