AL ASAD, Iraq -- The Merriam-Webster Online dictionary defines the word Spartan as “a person of great courage and self-discipline.” The Marines of Marine Wing Communications Squadron 28 couldn’t have picked a better nickname.
Since their arrival here two months ago, the “Spartans” have been working nonstop to set up and maintain one of the largest and most modern communications networks ever used in a tactical environment.
“Every service you may need we can provide it; whether it’s Internet, secure Internet, voice, voice over [Internet Protocol], anything,” said Chief Warrant Officer Tom Isaacs, MWCS-28 future operations officer and Jacksonville, N.C., native. “We want to make it as easy as if you were back home at the desk in your office.”
Working 12-hour shifts seven days a week, some have spent countless hours running tactical fiber optics cable and programming servers and modems to upgrade bandwidth and telephone services. Others have transitioned all computer users here and in the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward) units who operate out of Forward Operating Bases Al Taqaddum, Korean Village, Al Qaim and Kalsu to a state-of-the-art network.
“I’m amazed of what these Marines do every day,” said Master Sgt. Keith L. Dubay, staff noncommissioned officer-in-charge of the Data Communications Platoon.
Dubay, from Spokane, Wash., said the biggest issues for his Marines, who deal with networking systems such as e-mail, file sharing and Internet connectivity, were transitioning networks and rewiring buildings.
“When we arrived here there were lots of cables on the ground and lots of radios shooting frequencies everywhere, and to grasp the complexity of it in a couple of weeks was a great endeavor,” said Gunnery Sgt. Joey D. Dillard, MWCS-28 technical control chief and Corral, Idaho, native. “We worked very hard to be where we are right now.”
Anyone here who wants to make a call picks up the phone and gets a dial tone. Anyone who needs the Internet to send an e-mail logs on to a network just like in the United States. Having these services here has become something everyone takes for granted, but it’s MWCS-28 Marines who sometimes burn the midnight oil making it happen.
“Everybody comes in to work and expects to have their phone and Internet running,” said 1st Lt. LeRon E. Lane, MWCS-28 Alpha Company executive officer. “But while they were sleeping, one Marine probably spent all night working so they could come in and check their e-mail or make a call.”
According to Lane, any of the Marines in the squadron could leave the Corps and use their knowledge to get a job that would pay five times or more what they currently make, but they stay Marines because of their dedication to make a difference.
“These Marines haven’t stopped training or working since the war started,” said Lane, who claims Marine Corps Air Station, Cherry Point, N.C., as home.
Whether it is answering trouble calls, prioritizing what needs to be fixed, fixing network and computer problems, installing software, running wires, programming modems and servers, doing hourly radio and data checks, or rerouting telephone switches, the “Spartans” take pride in providing continuous communications throughout Al Asad and beyond and overcome great challenges to accomplish this.
“These Marines take a big stride because they think ‘There’s somebody out there who has it worse than me,’” said Lane. “We’re who allows the commanding general to make the call and get an aircraft into the battle zone to get a wounded Marine out. We’re who allows that ‘grunt’ with his finger on the trigger to call for air support when he needs it. Every second of every day can be life or death for a Marine in Fallujah, Ramadi or anywhere.”