By Sgt. Booker Thomas, Marine Corps Forces South
SANTO CANO AIR BASE, Honduras --
Marines with Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force - Southern Command’s communications section met up with their counterparts in Joint Task Force Bravo's 1st Battalion, 228th Aviation Regiment communications section to sync their equipment in preparation for future joint-level operations in Latin America and the Caribbean, June 19.
The communications exercise aboard Soto Cano Air Base, Honduras, helped build interoperability between SPMAGTF-SC and JTF-Bravo to ensure optimal utilization of the diverse capabilities offered by both commands. This allows them to contribute to U.S. Southern Command’s mission of working transnationally with partner nations and to build stronger partnerships that improve regional stability.
The CH-47 Chinook and UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters flown by 1-228 Aviation Regiment's soldiers provide additional capabilities such as medical evacuation and general aviation support to JTF-Bravo's training exercises and civil-military engagements across Central America. The aircraft can offer those same capabilities to aid SPMAGTF-SC’s operations, if called upon.
“Each service component has different communications systems,” said U.S. Marine Maj. Ben C. Benoy, SPMAGTF-SC’s communications officer in charge. “In order to collaborate with the other sections, there’s a lot of configuration that must be done with our equipment.”
The Marines of SPMAGTF-SC and soldiers of JTF-Bravo dedicated five days to this exercise to give the communications sections ample time to correspond, make necessary configurations and conduct radio checks ensuring clear communication could be made.
“We came together to load (cryptographic material that secures transmissions) into our equipment, conduct joint training and learn new ways to communicate with each other to equip us with the ability to work around any issues that may arise,” said Army Capt. Christopher A. Cioppa, the 1-228 Aviation Regiment communications officer in charge.
According to Benoy and Cioppa, the task involved much more than just the exchange of frequencies and keys. In addition to the diverse communications systems the U.S. Marine Corps and U.S. Army operate on, the services also have differing concepts of operations.
“We take for granted the ease of picking up a cellphone and calling someone else,” said Benoy. “In our line of work, it’s not quite as simple. We won’t be able to rely upon data networks such as email and internet throughout the entirety of the deployment. This exercise has given us the opportunity to establish secure voice communications between the aviation element and command element of SPMAGTF-SC, as well as our partners at the Joint Operations Center on (Soto Cano Air Base) and (1-228 Aviation Regiment).”
The Marines of SPMAGTF-SC are now ready to face the ever-changing environment of Latin America and the Caribbean with the ability to securely communicate with their partners.