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JTFE provides communication and morale in Iraq

17 Apr 2003 | Cpl. Jeff Sisto 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit

"I hope you guys aren't leaving anytime soon," said Cpl. Maurice Yazzie, heavy equipment operator, from Marine Wing Support Squadron (MWSS) 371, Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Az., who had just made a phone call home using the morale phone line from Camp Fenway - the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) command base in Iraq.

"Our unit doesn't have anything like this, so it was great to be able to call my wife for the first time in over a month," said Yazzie.

The morale line is just one of the capabilities provided by the Joint Task Force Enabler for the 24th MEU (SOC), and has become a favorite stop for members of other units passing through the MEU's position.

The 14-man detachment that comprises the JTFE originates from 8th Communication Battalion, at Camp Lejeune, N.C. and has been with the 24th MEU since it stood up in January of 2002.

Their primary mission is to provide command and control capabilities that would normally be available in a garrison-type environment and bring them out to the field.  In short, they provide a higher level of communicative capabilities for the command element of the 24th MEU.

"We set up in the field so that every possible service given to our commander is utilized in a field environment," said 1st Lt. Griff Marshall, JTFE officer-in-charge.

The JTFE allows the MEU to perform important operational and communication procedures such as sending and receiving Department of Defense message traffic, allowing phone connectivity to the Defense Switch Network (DSN), providing access to Joint Wide Intelligence Communication System (JWICS), video teleconferencing, and secure and non-secure internet connectivity.

"We have provided these services throughout all of our pre-deployment workups and for each training exercise the MEU performed while on float," said Marshall. "The set up has been the same in Iraq - except for the fighting holes. But for us, it's like going to war every time we go out to the field."

While in Iraq, the JTFE has specialized Marines who coordinate all satellite operations and monitor the generator support for all communication and information passing. The JTFE uses an AN/TSC-93C Satellite Van to shoot information to a satellite system, which is then received by a Naval Computer and Telecommunications System in Bahrain.

"With the exception of food, water, and fuel, we are self sustained for all technical requirements," said Marshall.

It is a service that most other Marine units in Iraq do not have at their
disposal and continues to be one of the MEU's more marketable qualities of self-reliance.

However, it is the existence of the morale lines that most Marines are aware of and thankful for. The majority of the Marines out of the Camp Lejeune area are able to call (DSN) back to a base operator and then get connected to their loved ones back home.

"Since we set this up, we have been able to send out 4,000 calls, averaging 400 a day - 80 to 90 percent of those have been morale calls," said Staff Sgt. Marcus Cox, JTFE switchboard operator, from West Point, Miss. "After eight months deployed, we need it."

This is another capability that most other Marine units in Iraq do not have and the MEU is happy to share the wealth. The tent holding the table and phones blew away in a dust storm, but the Marines don't mind. The line for the phones is an indicator of that.

Sitting in the sand under a hot sun, Lance Cpl. Lynsey Devane, a bulk fueler with MWSS-371 claims, "There is a delay, but hey, this is Iraq - I'll take what I can get."

With the help of the 24th MEU (SOC)'s JTFE detachment, Marines have got more than they expected.