Photo Information

Soldiers with the 1st Amphibious Rapid Deployment Regiment, Japanese Ground Self-Defense Force, create field expedient antennas at Combined Arms Training Center Camp Fuji, Japan, March 19, 2022. 1ARDR soldiers were taught when a field expedient antenna could be used as well as how to build one. Maritime Defense Exercise Amphibious Rapid Deployment Brigade is a bilateral exercise meant to increase interoperability and strengthen ties between U.S. and Japanese forces for the defense of Japan.

Photo by Lance Cpl. Malik Lewis

Communications: A Shared Language

4 May 2022 | 2nd Lt. Alana Stern 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit

Communications Marines supported a bilateral assault of an objective during a phase called Combined Arms Live-Fire Exercise during exercise Maritime Defense Exercise Amphibious Rapid Deployment Brigade. This exercise, hosted by Combined Arms Training Center Camp Fuji, was held between U.S. Marines from the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit and soldiers from the 1st Amphibious Rapid Deployment Regiment.

Communications Marines with the 31st MEU played an integral part within MDX-ARDB and were responsible for the design, installation, connection, operation, and upkeep of key communication networks.

However, during MDX-ARDB, 31st MEU Marines were able to do something spectacular: they were able to bilaterally command and control a tactical scenario in a very innovative way.

“Although we do not share the same language, communication assets are able to fill that gap.” 1st Lt. Jonathan Morales, 31st MEU’s Naval Integration Communications Officer

“Normally, communications Marines are used to support unilateral communication networks, which are inherently complex,” said 1st Lt. Jonathan Morales, the Naval Integration Communications Officer for the 31st MEU’s communications section. “However, the ability to integrate bilaterally into an exercise like this is a testament to the interoperability between the U.S. and our Japanese allies.”

Through the use of a device called the Mini Secure Communications Controller, 31st MEU Marines were able to successfully command and control alongside their counterparts from the 1st ARDR. This system, specifically designed to provide an encrypted audio bridge between U.S. Marine Corps radio systems and partnered nation’s radio systems, is a key asset that is lightweight and portable.

"Due to lack of similar radio systems, the Mini - SCC allows us to bridge that gap by linking our radios together to share a voice communications capability. In doing so, we can enable bilateral command and control for US and Japanese commanders to synchronize maneuver units taking an objective,” stated Morales. “The procedures and the standards we operate by are still being developed, but by laying the groundwork, we've put ourselves in a good place to start codifying bilateral techniques for control of units in the field."

Taking A Call Photo by Lance Cpl. Malik Lewis
A soldier with the 1st Amphibious Rapid Deployment Regiment, Japanese Ground Self-Defense Force, performs a radio check at Combined Arms Training Center Camp Fuji, Japan, March 19, 2022. 1ARDR soldiers were taught when a field expedient antenna could be used as well as how to build one. Maritime Defense Exercise Amphibious Rapid Deployment Brigade is a bilateral exercise meant to increase interoperability and strengthen ties between U.S. and Japanese forces for the defense of Japan.

Marines within the communications field play an essential role in modern day Marine Corps operations and are the pinnacle of the command and control concept. They serve as conduits to passing critical information and key components in synchronizing accurate and timely information.

Morales played a key role in the relationship between the two organizations. The Naval Integration Communications Officer is responsible for integration of Marine Corps communications systems aboard Navy amphibious ships, and serves as the lead communications planner for 31st MEU for exercises and operations. In early November 2021, he facilitated a ship-to-shore communication exercise via high frequency between the MEU and the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force.

“We are able to allow for distributed operations of forces across long distances. This adds a capability to our toolbox and gives us the opportunity to build understanding and synergy,” said Morales.

Communication networks are the cornerstone in the shared foundation that the US and Japan has thrived on.

“Although we do not share the same language, communication assets are able to fill that gap,” said Morales. “Our mutual efforts have led our militaries to not only grow together in friendship, but as a cohesive team that can respond to crisis when called upon.”

Although MDX-ARDB has come to an end, the 31st MEU looks forward to future training iterations with its Japanese counterparts to promote peace, stability, and a free and open Indo-Pacific region.

The 31st MEU, the Marine Corps’ only continuously forward-deployed MEU, provides a flexible and lethal force ready to perform a wide range of military operations as the premier crisis response force in the Indo-Pacific region. The 31st MEU has implemented strict health protection measures and will continue to conduct essential training in support of regional security and stability.