CENTRAL COMMAND THEATER OF OPERATION -- Communication is essential in a combat environment. It connects the leaders on the battlefield to each other and to their commander. It also helps with morale when Marines can call back to the States and talk to loved ones while they are deployed.
Marines of the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit’s Joint Task Force Enabler detachment are currently deployed to the Central Command theater of operation, participating in a bilateral training exercise, and communication is the JTFE’s business.
“We are the front-line communications group. We pretty much set up the email for the [commanding officer], give him access to secure and un-secure lines,” said Cpl. Ryan Tobey, a 23-year-old Kansas City, Mo., native. “We deal with phone lines within the forward operating base or morale lines for calls back home for the Marines.”
It is nearly impossible to coordinate 3,000 personnel during combat or an exercise without the 17 Marines who make up the JTFE. Those 17 Marines have perfected their craft and can have the MEU commander in communication with his Marines in a matter of hours by being the first boots on the ground and typically the last boots out of the field.
Without the JTFE, the 24th MEU would have a hard time communicating with its ground combat element, currently working with coalition forces here.
“Our priority is to support the Battalion Landing Team; they’re the focus of effort for all of this, and their main priority is their bilateral training,” said Gunnery Sgt. Brent Cheek, 35, staff noncommissioned officer in charge of the JTFE.
Throughout the Marine Corps, accountability is preached from boot camp to combat. Good communications is essential for the 24th MEU to keep tabs on all of their Marines and their gear.
“So far it’s been good. I’ve got good radio, and my internet is up, and I’ve got great ‘comm,’” said Gunnery Sgt. Douglas Mrusek, 28, the command element Ground Watch Chief, and a Cincinnati, Ohio, native. “Comm is a huge part of my job. I have to track all of the units from the BLT, the [MEU Service Support Group], the [Aviation Combat Element], the command element. I track where they are going, what they’re doing, what type of training they’re doing, the personnel conducting that training. I’m responsible for knowing what vehicles they have, when they leave their forward operating base and when they get back. Good comm makes my job very easy, but bad comm makes it very hard to keep tabs on all of the units,” said Mrusek.
The JTFE is a small but integral part of the 24th MEU. The 24th MEU is also composed of BLT 1st Battalion, 8th Marines; MSSG-24, and Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 365 (Reinforced). The 24th MEU is currently in the midst of a scheduled six-month deployment.