NAVAL AIR FACILITY, El Centro, Calif. --
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.”