MARINE CORPS AIR STATION BEAUFORT, S.C. -- During their time at Al Asad Air Base, Iraq, and while in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom from 2005 to 2007, the Communications Platoon with Marine Wing Support Squadron 273 supported thousands of users involved in direct combat missions through the maintenance of the largest data and phone network in Marine Corps history.
The continuous involvement of the Sweathogs’ Communications Platoon earned them the inaugural Lt. Col. Kevin M. Shea Memorial Unit Communications Award for 2006. This award recognizes the communications or information technology unit that has distinguished itself by making the most outstanding contributions to the Marine Corps C4 field.
On behalf of the platoon, Lt. Col. Jeffery Hooks, the commanding officer of MWSS-273, and 1st Lt. Vail Raymer, the officer-in-charge of the Sweathogs’ Communication Platoon, traveled to Arlington, Va., to accept the award Tuesday.
“(The Sweathogs’) Communications Platoon deserves the inaugural Lieutenant Colonel Kevin M. Shea Award due to their highly successful contribution to tactical communications support provided at a high operational tempo, while maintaining superb equipment, personnel and combat readiness both aboard the Air Station and abroad in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom,” said Maj. James Stone, the executive officer of MWSS-273.
Not only did they deploy to a combat zone, but the Communications Platoon participated in several exercises prior to deployment that helped the Sweathogs’ success, which included Carolina K-Bar at Townsend Bombing Range, Ga., Battle Hog at Camp Lejeune, N.C., and Desert Talon at MCAS Yuma, Ariz.
“The Communications Platoon really came together and ‘fine-tuned’ itself during all the work ups,” said Gunnery Sgt. Adam Endsley, a communications security specialist with the Sweathogs’ Communication Platoon. “We supported localized training, individualized training, and range support. We also had the opportunity to hone in on our skills and expand to cross training.”
Although Endsley was detached from his platoon during his time in Iraq, he is still proud of the accomplishments his Marines made.
“I’m proud of these Marines,” Endsley said. “To see them go from not knowing the basics of their own job to being masters of the jobs and while some have excelled in just being a Marine. Each one of them has come a long way in that aspect. It’s a good feeling knowing that all the prior training helped prepare them for what had to be done in Iraq.”
While the Communications Platoon consists of approximately 60 Marines, only 42 were taken to Iraq for operations, while the rest stayed at the Air Station to aid in support of MAG-31.
“We had Marines working hard in both Iraq and the Air Station,” Raymer said. “With the number of Marines we had in each area (the Marines) used their initiative and worked really hard.”
According to Raymer, the Communications Platoon that stayed aboard Fightertown provided radio communications for Marine Aircraft Group 31 for fly-over’s of professional sporting events, numerous other air exercises, as well as phone and computer services for their parent command.
While serving at Al Asad Air Base, the same group of Marines supported the Marine Corps’ busiest operational airfield, supporting 13 resident squadrons and numerous joint and coalition aircraft assigned to 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward).
“The Marines of MWSS-273 Communication Platoon’s dedication and outstanding customer service has established them as one of the premier tactical communications units in the Marine Corps,” Hooks said.
According to Raymer, it’s a compliment to be acknowledged for the C4 award.
“They have been working hard and I’m glad that these Marines get the recognition they deserve,” Raymer said. “All the Marines know what they are doing and it shows from their efforts. It’s also great to be the inaugural recipient because these Marines set the bar for the standards, and it’s pretty high. Hopefully these Marines will get the chance to win the award next year.”