Technicians provide critical communication
DVIDS | Oct 25 2012
OKINAWA, Japan (October 4, 2012) — Attaching antennas to communication interface systems, plugging in cables and configuring systems may not make it into the movies, but military units working behind the scenes play just as big a role in operations as those fighting on the front lines.
Marine Tactical Air Command Squadron 18 fills a critical supporting role by providing communications to fellow service members engaged on the battlefield and in the skies above.
MTACS-18, which is a part of Marine Air Control Group 18, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, III Marine Expeditionary Force, is the tactical air command center for the commanding general of 1st MAW, according to SSgt Raynaldo Villarreal Jr., the information management chief with the squadron.
"We are in charge of approving and, if necessary, denying very important air support requests, such as receiving calls for medical evacuations," said Villarreal.
The squadron, which celebrated its 45th birthday Sept. 1, plays a very important role in communication between ground and air units, according to SSgt Arthur A. Schneider, a tactical air command data systems technician with the squadron.
"We provide the infrastructure necessary for the commanding general to maintain the situational awareness on the ground and in the air needed to take the fight to the enemy," said Schneider.
The squadron spends a lot of time training in various locations to hone its skills in preparation for real emergencies.
"Being in Okinawa is unique because we have the opportunity to participate in exercises throughout the year," said Villarreal.
The squadron participates in numerous exercises, including Key Resolve, Ulchi Freedom Guardian, Marine Air Command and Control System Integrated Simulated Training Exercise and Ryukyu Warrior, according to Sgt Victor M. Garcia, an aviation communication systems technician with the squadron.
Key Resolve is its biggest exercise, according to Garcia. It is important because the unit temporarily moves to the Korean peninsula and shows it not only can do its job here on island, but can also move its equipment safely and operate away from the air station.
When the squadron is not participating in an exercise, it uses its time in garrison to prepare for the next exercise, according to LCpl Tony J. Keys-Fairclough, an aviation communications system technician with the squadron.
"Our job has recently gone through a transformation," said Keys-Fairclough. "We have a lot of new data-associated equipment, and we are learning new and improved ways to use our radios. We have to ensure everyone is trained properly so when we do get deployed, we are all prepared."
The Marines of MTACS-18 work hard year-round during exercises and in garrison to ensure they are ready to provide critical communications in the event of a real crisis on short notice, regardless of location, according to Schneider.
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