BASE CAMP WARRIOR, ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. -- One of the major requirements placed on Marine Expeditionary Units is to become Special Operations Capable (SOC) qualified before embarking on regularly scheduled six-month deployments.
For most of the elements of the MEU this doesn't occur until late in training, specifically during the Special Operations Capable Exercise (SOCEX). But one element of the 24th MEU has set a new standard accomplishing this task a full month prior to SOCEX.
In an unprecedented accomplishment, Marines from the 24th MEU's Joint Task Force Enabler (JTFE) obtained their Special Operations Capable qualification prior to kicking off the MEU's Training in an Urban Environment Exercise (TRUEX) in Macon, Ga.
They obtained the qualification after evaluators from the Special Operations Training Group (SOTG) and II Marine Expeditionary Force Communications Section (G6) observed them setting up their site and getting all their equipment operational.
"We were able to set up and get our services running in about three and half hours," said 1st Lt. Griff Marshall, Joint Task Force Enabler officer-in-charge. "That is much quicker than the 12 hours required."
The JTFE is responsible for setting up and maintaining communications for a joint task force for as long as deemed necessary to get the mission accomplished, said Marshall.
A recent example of JTFE employment occurred during the 26th MEU's recent deployment to Kandahar, Afghanistan. There, they set up and provided communications for Combined Task Force 58.
The JTFE's services include establishing and maintaining the Internet (NIPR) and Secure Internet (SIPR), DSN dialing capabilities, tactical phone operations and the receiving and sending of command messages. They also offer special services for the MEU's Radio Battalion and Video Tele-Conferencing (VTC) capabilities.
The process to getting the site up and running involves many steps. The first thing the Marines did was conduct a site survey of the area and coordinate the location of the Landing Force Operations Center (LFOC).
Once the site was chosen, they found the proper satellite signals with antennas located in vehicles known as "93 Vans." Next, they went to work putting up their tent, which took them about 6 minutes.
With the tent set up, the Marines hooked up their circuits and began to run cable to all the sites on camp.
"I have a team of 13 Marines with a few augments from the S-6 section," said Marshall. "They are a very efficient crew and have had a lot of practice doing this, so I have a lot confidence in them."
Although the JTFE is now SOC qualified there is no let up in operations. "It is always nice to do well on a test, and on this one I think we hit a home run," said Marshall. "But we can never get rusty doing this, because we'll be supporting the MEU during all the upcoming field exercises, and we have to be ready to set up in a real-world situation 24 hours a day 7 days a week."