FORWARD OPERATING BASE MARJAH, Afghanistan --
Explosive ordnance disposal teams play a vital role in International Security Assistance Force operations due to the number of improvised explosive devices the insurgency planted across Afghanistan.
For them to properly do their job they have to communicate with other units and combat operation centers about the detonation of the IEDs and, in a worse-case scenario, medical evacuation.
“Radios are how we communicate within the convoy,” explained Sgt. Christopher T. Wehunt, a multi-channel equipment operator with 2nd Marine Logistics Group (Forward). “Without working communication devices, you’re left without situational awareness of what’s going on outside your vehicle.”
Communication specialists from the 2nd MLG (Fwd.) are responsible for keeping the EOD teams’ radios and other communication devices up and running. To keep up with the demand they travel around Helmand province to upgrade and perform operation checks on the equipment.
“We ensure the EOD teams are able to continue operations by going to them,” said Wehunt. “If the teams had to bring their trucks to a major hub, it would reduce their mission capabilities and pose more of a threat for the troops working in the area left behind.”
The three-man communication team travels to the different forward operating bases to perform maintenance checks on the devices.
“If communication systems aren’t maintained, then communication goes down,” said Cpl. Andrew S. Black, a ground radio intermediate repairer with 2nd MLG (Fwd.). “Electronics are tricky. The smallest thing can hinder their performance.”
After ensuring the equipment works properly, the team begins installing upgrades.
“We upgraded the vehicle adapter units and radios,” explained Black, a Mount Pleasant, Mich., native. “The VAU upgrade increased its power output, and the software for the radios allows new options to be run. It also took care of any bugs in the previous software.”
The software upgrades increase efficiency once installed.
“The radios still worked without the upgrades, but they had issues talking to other types of radios,” explained Wehunt. “This latest upgrade is supposed to fix that problem.
“Every piece of gear issued has small problems that can be upgraded to make it better or to fix small problems that couldn’t be handled due to the need of that specific piece of gear,” added Wehunt.
The communication Marines will continue to travel to forward operating bases throughout Helmand province to ensure Marines and sailors have the equipment required to accomplish the mission.
“Bottom line, you can’t conduct an operation without the ability to communicate with everyone around you,” concluded Wehunt. “You have to keep situational awareness of your Marines and any possible threats to the mission.”