Hardened Facility streamlined by MAG-31

3 May 2012 | Cpl. Josh Pettway

Marine Aircraft Group 31 adopted the use of hardened facilities as a combat operations cen­ter during their deploy­ment to Naval Air Fa­cility El Centro, Calif, which began April 5.

Marines typically would set up temporary structures to house their command and communication equip­ment. For the exercise, Marines trained to use a preexisting structure to accomplish this mis­sion.

The group’s efforts were in support Weapons and Tactics In­structors Course held aboard Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Ariz. The structure and equipment it housed allowed MAG- 31 to command an Air Combat Element.

At the start of the ex­ercise, communication and intelligence Marines had to learn to use their equipment while in a hardened facility.

“Because this is the first time MAG-31 has deployed as an (Air Com­bat Element command) there is no standard op­erational procedure for a hardened facility, which is why we are evaluating ourselves constantly to maximize our effective­ness throughout this exercise,” said 1st Lt. Carrie McAtee, MAG-31 data and communica­tions officer-in-charge. “As a part of MAG-31 headquarters, we rarely see deployments, so it’s imperative we have this opportunity to train to effectively use our gear, so we’re prepared and have the training to per­form well when lives are on the line.”

 Together, eight Ma­rines established Com­bat Operation Center for MAG-31. Four of which, fall under MAG-31 and maintain equipment. Ad­ditionally, seven Marines from Marine Air Control Group 28 provided sub­ject matter experts to ad­vise MAG-31 on the use and set-up of their equip­ment.

 “As soon as we arrived on sight, we established radio because it func­tions as our first form and backup line of com­munication,” said Cpl. Aaron Stephens, Marine Wing Communication Squadron 38 site non­commissioned officer-in-charge. “Then, we set up our Support Wide Area Network, or SWAN, a field expedient antenna with wireless connective­ly across the globe.”

 The network employed uses resources from Ma­rine Corps Air Station Miramar, Calif., which is maintained by four non­commissioned officers from Marine Wing Com­munications Squadron 38.

 “Currently, we are all working together to smooth out developmen­tal kinks as we run into them,” said 1st Lt. Ste­ven Morris, tactical air command center officer-in-charge.

 Hardened facilities have the potential to minimize COC setup in contrast to older methods.

 “It took us less than 30 minutes to properly place our equipment once we started,” McAtee said.

“Also, having the flex­ibility to arrange a com­bat operations center however we need allows us to use our space more effectively.

 “Our work won’t con­clude here,” said McA­tee. “Once we finish with WTI we will apply what we learn to future op­erations. We will have a standard of operations for subsequent Marines to use in the future.”