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Special communications unit provides critical capability

Marine Corps News

Release Date: 3/31/2004

Story by Capt. Chris Perrine

PYONGTAEK NAVAL BASE, Republic of Korea (March 26, 2004) -- Marines pride themselves on being first to the fight, the first to deploy in a crisis. From the halls of Montezuma to Afghanistan and Iraq, Marines have demonstrated their expeditionary capabilities. Most images of these first-response warriors are of ground combat units with machineguns or tanks. However, the true "tip of the spear" is a little-known and unrecognized special communications unit.

The MAGTF-Enabler platoon is an on-call communications element that is literally the first unit to arrive at a location in crisis. This is also true when III Marine Expeditionary Force conducts realistic training in countries such as South Korea.

"We were the first plane into Osan (Korea)," said 1st Lt. David Arjona, officer in charge of MAGTF-E, Company A, 7th Communication Battalion, III MEF.

Arjona and his 21 Marines who form the Marine Air-Ground Task Force-Enabler platoon are currently in South Korea in order to support four major annual exercises: RSO&I 04, Freedom Banner 04, Foal Eagle 04, and KITP 04-2. Arjona's platoon does not just support exercises, though. The unit was formed to respond to crises in the region.

"If anything happened in the Pacific, we would go in first and wait for 7th Comm to fall in on us and take over our infrastructure," said the Weslaco, Texas native.

MAGTF-E maintains a high level of readiness and can deploy within 48 hours. Its mission is to provide initial deployment communications between the U.S. Marine Forces Pacific (MARFORPAC) commander and higher headquarters while supporting regional conflicts and contingency operations. The platoon is designed to provide III MEF and MARFORPAC with an initial entry command and control support system.

When the unit deploys, it provides one of two standard configurations of personnel and equipment, depending on the mission. The platoon can deploy all of its Marines, six humvees, trailors, generators, tents, and communications equipment in one large airplane or in several smaller aircraft.

Upon arrival, the MAGTF-E can set up shop in six hours, access satellites within 30 minutes, and provide a full compliment of secure and non-secure communications within 18 hours. The unit is also completely self-sufficient for three days.

The MAGTF-E can do everything its parent battalion can to, but there is a difference.

"We do everything they can do faster and lighter," explained Arjona.

When his Marines deploy they set up initial communications until a larger unit can come in and take over. Until then, Arjona provides access to the Department of Defense's Secure IP Network, Non-classified IP Network, telephone services, VHF and UHF radio and video teleconferencing. He can also provide access to a special computer network that host-nation and U.S. forces share. MAGTF-E provides a unique capability to U.S. Marine Corps forces forward-deployed in the Pacific.

"I can't think of anyone else in III MEF that can provide that service," said Arjona. There are only two other such units in the Marine Corps, one at each of the other active duty MEFs.

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