22nd MEU Command Element Completes First Exercise of New Work-Up Schedule

13 Dec 2002 | Gunnery Sgt. Keith A. Milks

During sustained combat operations and training exercises, few locations, if any, are as important as a unit's combat operations center (COC).  As the nucleus of a commander's command and control facilities, the COC is the point from which all orders originate and terminate and is generally considered the 'brain' of operations.

To that end, the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit's Command Element recently completed a field training exercise aboard Camp Lejeune designed to hone its ability to rapidly set up and get its COC into action.

"The command post exercise is where we practice our individual functions and get our new people up to speed on our procedures for setting up," said Staff Sgt. Eugene V. O'Dea, of Middletown, New York.

As the MEU's Marine Air-Ground Task Force (MAGTF) Plans Chief, O'Dea is primarily responsible for ensuring the smooth operation of the COC, including its set up and tear down.

"We do this exercise annually, usually at the beginning of the work-up," said O'Dea.  "This particular exercise let us work out the kinks with our new net system."

Shrouding the COC's small collection of tents is extensive camouflage netting that also covers the radio network needed to operate the COC.

The hub of the COC's ability to operate is the Joint Task Force (JTF) Enabler, an integrated communications package that provides the MEU Command Element with such capabilities as classified and unclassified e-mail, telephone service, and internet connectivity.

During the COC FTX, the Marines of JTF Enabler, under the leadership of 1st Lt. Atiim O. Phillips, of Chesapeake, Virginia, set up the complete JTF Enabler package.

"This portion of the exercise called for a heavy command post configuration, simulating services for a full operation," said Phillips.  "The purpose of setting up is to obtain an accurate account of what equipment and personnel are going to be needed to operate ashore."

According to Phillips, the package can be configured to meet the communications needs of the forces ashore.  The Radio Marines can set up a 'light' package that requires less time and personnel to operate.

Fourteen Marines man the JTF Enabler from a wide range of highly specialized communications fields, and the Marines constantly practice setting up and tearing down the system to ensure they are capable of providing the best possible support.

"The Enabler is set up every month [in addition to the COC FTX] to familiarize the Marines with the procedure on getting operational," said Phillips.  "That way when the time comes to do it for real we can set up as quickly and efficiently as possible."

When the 22nd MEU begins its pre-deployment training next month, the COC, along with JTF Enabler, will play a key role in the training exercises the unit will be required to complete.

For more information, on the 22nd MEU, visit the unit's website at www.22meu.usmc.mil.
22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit