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7th Comm. sustains capabilities with state-of-the-art equipment

Marine Corps News

Release Date: 1/21/2004

Story by Cpl. Ryan D. Libbert

CAMP COURTNEY - -- Over our heads in the invisible wind resides the voices of millions. It is not the voice of angels, prophets or our own conscience, but rather the frequencies of various communication tools such as the Lightweight Multiband Satellite Terminal.

Marines from Company B, 7th Communications Battalion, III Marine Expeditionary Force Headquarters Group operate this new piece of gear during contingency operations and training exercises such as Terminal Fury, a recent command post exercise III MEF conducted.

The LMST was added to the 7th Comm. arsenal in 2003 and has become a great asset, explains Cpl. Taylor M. Machnick, LMST operator.

"The LMST is a communications pipeline that passes all signals from telephones, video-teleconferencing, Internet, and e-mail access to where they need to go via satellite access," the McLean, Va. native said. "All that is pushed through the LMST is shot back down to the gateway in Hawaii, which provides us the Internet service and connectivity to the outside world."

Standing at over eight feet tall and weighing more than a ton, the LMST is capable of sending messages over great distances.

"The foot print, or range of reception, of the satellite is approximately one-third of the Earth's surface," Machnick said. "The signal travels 22,300 miles above the Earth's surface after it is launched from here."

Even though the LMST has a hefty price tag, it's worth a lot to unit commanders since keeping Marine units in contact with essential personnel is one of the key components of battlefield strategy.

"The system costs the Marine Corps around $1.6 million each," Machnick continued. "As of now 7th Comm. has the most experience with the terminal than any other unit in the Marine Corps. Our battalion has six total, four in Bravo Co. and two in Alpha Co. It takes a minimum of two Marines to operate it but our normal crew stands at three or four and power is provided by a generator."

Marines from 7th Comm., in particular the various LMST teams, have now become even more important in their role to serve the III MEF commander with communication assets since acquiring the LMST.

"Our responsibilities are to get the terminal on a transport and set it up immediately after our initial arrival," Machnick described. "What we do with the terminal is the command's number one priority because every piece of communication to the rear goes through us which is why it is not only important to set it up fast but to keep it running through an entire operation."

Still in its breakthrough stages, the LMST is growing stronger with each exercise as communication Marines work to sustain and improve the on-site assembly and operations of the terminal.

"This has been the most successful training operation for 7th Comm.'s LMST team in terms of up-times and how long it took to assemble it once we arrived on-site," said 1st Lt. Terry R. Evans, operations officer for Company B when speaking of his team's effort during Terminal Fury. "These Marines were able to cut 50 minutes off their setup times which normally takes about three hours."

With increased range of reception and reduction in the time required to push messages to the receiver, the LMST is slowly replacing its predecessors in the communications field. While operating the terminal is a challenge, the outcome is worth the patience.

"It requires us to be a bit more careful and have a bit more training," Machnick concluded. "But it provides us greater capabilities so we can handle a greater mission load in the future."

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