FORWARD OPERATING BASE HIT, Iraq -- Perched high atop one of the buildings that is currently home to the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable), a small satellite transmitter dish is the first step in a process used to keep the American public informed of the unit’s role in Operation Iraqi Freedom.
As part of a network dubbed the Digital Video Imagery Distribution System, or DVIDS, the satellite transmitter enables the MEU to send video footage, photographs, and stories to media outlets in the United States without tying up tactical communications networks.
A small group of MEU Command Element Marines were trained on the system prior to the unit’s deployment in November, and are the first step in getting the MEU’s story told.
“We send the data via the transmitter to a satellite that pipes it to a civilian communications company in Atlanta acting the hub,” said Sgt. Richard D. Stephens, of Martinsburg, W.Va., a combat photographer assigned to the 22nd MEU (SOC) Command Element.
Once there, Stephens says marketing specialists put out feelers to news networks throughout the country to try to get the MEU’s story told, and either distribute the MEU-supplied footage or facilitate live interviews through the system. In those cases, the live feed ‘bounces’ from the company in Atlanta to the news station taking part in the interview.
These interviews are revolutionary in that they provide the MEU the ability to immediately respond to news queries or provide one-on-one interviews with practically any member of the command.
The first live use of the system involved an interview between Col. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr., the MEU’s commanding officer, and Emma Zak, a general assignments reporter with WWAY News Channel 3, an ABC affiliate based in Wilmington, N.C.
“The system [DVIDS] is great,” said Zak, commenting after the interview. “It allowed me to tell your story in a more colorful way. Colonel McKenzie’s interview through DVIDS added a liveliness to our story and for our views.”
“Before DVIDS, our interviews could only be recorded by telephone and we would edit a still picture over the voice,” Zak continued. “DVIDS made everything come alive … the video and audio from your unit allowed us back home to see what goes on in your day.”
Zak went on to say that WWAY News Channel 3 also used stock video footage transmitted through DVIDS by the MEU to better tell the unit’s story to the eastern North Carolina audience.
According to Stephens, the transmission end of DVIDS, which includes the satellite dish and a computer-based control system, can be set up within minutes, and is remarkably easy to use despite its complexity.
“It’s amazing when you think about it,” said Stephens, commenting on the complex, yet easy to operate system. “The signal goes from here to a satellite, down to Atlanta, then back to another satellite, and then down to the receiving station, and back to us here.”
“After all, it’s thousands of miles your signal is going, but there’s only a second or two delay in the audio.”
The 22nd MEU (SOC)’s DVIDS setup is one of more than 50 fielded by the Department of Defense, and the first to be employed exclusively by a unit of its size. More information on the DVIDS, and footage submitted via the system by the MEU, can be found at http://www.dvidshub.net.
In addition to its Command Element, the 22nd MEU (SOC) consists of Battalion Landing Team 1st Bn., 2nd Marines, MEU Service Support Group 22, and Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 261 (Reinforced). The MEU is conducting counterinsurgency operations in Iraq’s Al Anbar province.
For more information on the 22nd MEU (SOC)’s role in Operation Iraqi Freedom, visit the unit’s web site at http://www.22meu.usmc.mil.