KALSU, Iraq -- In this remote base occupied mostly by U.S. Army personnel, the Marines’ presence is minimal. As inconspicuous as it may be, the contributions they make to accomplish the mission of the American forces in Iraq are enormous.
Comprised of a communications officer and representatives from the data, radio, wire, utilities and multi-channel ultra high frequency transmission platoons, Marine Wing Communications Squadron 38, Alpha Company, Detachment Kalsu, provides all other 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward) units here with radio networks and telephone and data services.
“Our main mission is to support the air boss,” said Pfc. Eric R. Evans, a switchboard operator and Syracuse, N.Y., native. “The communication capabilities we give to the air boss are critical to support the Marines, whether it’s a scheduled flight or a casualty evacuation.”
Keeping up with new technology that helps them provide better services, the Marines recently installed a new telephone switchboard. Evans alone programmed the switchboard and he and other Marines in the detachment ran the telephone lines to all the users.
“It’s pretty cool to be able to come out here in the middle of the desert and have the Internet and phones,” said Cpl. Curtis M. Fike, a refrigeration mechanic in the detachment. “It’s actually pretty amazing.”
Fike, originally from Cincinnati, Ohio, is one of the few mechanics in the squadron. Because of this, he has deployed to the region three times since the beginning of the war and not only is he repairing and maintaining air conditioners, but he also works on generators.
“Without the generators nothing would work,” he said. “If the generators go down communications go down. If the air conditioners go down the gear overheats and breaks and it’s hard to get parts here to fix the equipment.”
Taking advantage of being in a small base where the detachment focuses mostly on keeping communications up, the Marines learn from each other to ease the workloads whenever it’s time for repairs.
In the multi-channel ultra high frequency transmission site, away from the detachment’s main compound, Sgt. James Smith, a multi-channel radio operator from Polk County, N.C., also passes on his knowledge acquired during his two deployments to Iraq and his time in the Corps.
“If I kept what I know to myself and not pass it on to the junior Marines I wouldn’t do any good to the Marine Corps,” he said.
Smith and the rest of the multi-channel ultra high frequency transmission platoon Marines are considered the backbone of the detachment. It is their work that enables the Marines here to communicate with those outside the base.
“Without our multi-channel radios the Marines here would just be communicating internally,” said Smith. “These radios allow everyone here to communicate with other bases without having to run wires throughout the desert.”
Proud of their individual work sections, but keeping in mind that they’re all part of a team whose mission is invaluable to the success of Operation Iraqi Freedom, the Marines consider their detachment one of the closest Marine units in Iraq.
“Since we’re such a small group we’re pretty good friends and we depend on each other,” said Evans. “At a time like this there’s no other place I’d rather be.”
- For more information about the Marines reported on in this story, please contact Sgt. Juan Vara by e-mail at email@example.com -