View Full Version : Marine Support Unit Keeps Convoys Rolling

07-18-03, 09:01 AM
Marine Support Unit
Keeps Convoys Rolling

By U.S. Marine Capt. James D. Jarvis
Public Affairs Officer, 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit

NEAR CAMP LEMONIER, Djibouti One of the most difficult things for a military unit to maintain is tactical communications. In a desert environment, blowing dust and extreme heat can wreak havoc on communications equipment. For the Marines and sailors of the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) who began training in Djibouti, East Africa this week, the challenges of operating in the desert are now very real.

As anyone who has ever trained in 120-degree heat can affirm, one of the most important factors to avoid heat-related injuries is adequate hydration. In order to get water and ice to the disparate training areas, the Marine Expeditionary Unit Service Support Group (MSSG-26) has launched numerous daily vehicle convoys, all of which require good tactical communications with the Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) headquarters here.

"Maintaining communications with our convoys is of critical importance here in the desert, as an unreported broken down vehicle could prove fatal for a young Marine or sailor," said 1st. Lt. Steven P. Rebholz, MSSG-26 Assistant Communications Officer. "We've been launching two convoys daily to bring fresh ice and water to the Marines training on the different ranges here and each convoy has one of my radio operators with extra batteries and other communications gear to ensure that we can communicate," said the 28 year-old Chicago native.

In addition to providing communications to the convoys, MSSG-26 communicators offer the Beach Operating Group of the MSSG-26 near seamless communications with the ships of the USS Iwo Jima Amphibious Ready Group off the coast.

"We have a small communications detachment here, but we have worked hard to combat the effects of the environment and keep our radio networks operational," Rebholz said.

"I'm just happy to be off the ship and doing my job," said Staff Sgt. Sandra D. Magallanes, MSSG-26 Radio Chief. "I'm enjoying the view, the wide-open spaces here and being able to work and interact in smaller groups. On the ship, you can't really take a step without bumping into someone and this is where I belong - training with my Marines," said the Casper, Wyoming native.

Operating in a "Split-ARG" environment without the USS Nashville's communications personnel and equipment, Magallanes and her Marines have worked hard to support all of their communications requirements ashore, though it has been difficult at times, she said. "Yesterday, we had an LVS (Logistics Vehicle System) truck on a convoy get a flat tire - halting the convoy. Ordinarily, we would just launch a recovery convoy with an additional radio operator," she said. But to do so, Magallanes had to send her last backup radio with the convoy as the MSSG Marines recovered the LVS.

To support convoy communications, the MEU established a communications retransmission site on a hilltop between the infantry training areas and the MEU headquarters.

"The retransmission site has been a big benefit for us, because without it, we could not communicate with our convoys using our VHF radios due to the restrictive terrain," Rebholz said.

Despite the intense heat and blowing dust, most of the MSSG communicators echoed Magallanes' excitement at being ashore. "It's hot and I'm dirty, but I would still rather be ashore and doing something because it's something different," said Cpl. Jacqueline A. Bycraft, Wireman, MSSG-26. "Last night, while on a convoy, I saw a herd of camels and felt a nice breeze. I enjoy these exercises and operations - this is the fun part," said the Brighton, Mich. native.


U.S. Marine Cpl. Jacqueline A. Bycraft, 24, a wireman with MEU Service Support Group-26, 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) talks on a radio during a recent training exercise in Djibouti, East Africa. U.S. Army photo by Capt. James D. Jarvis