Marines from Okinawa-based 1st Marine Air Wing got connected quickly with other services participating in this year’s Northern Edge exercise in Alaska.

One of the first things the Marines did after arriving at Elmendorf Air Force Base last week was to take part in a communications exercise to enhance the wing’s connectivity in a joint services environment, according to a 1st MAW news release.

“We had to ensure we had good connectivity between our aircraft and the different control headquarters we have located in Alaska,” said Maj. Gerald Graham, operations officer for the wing’s operations center. The purpose of the center is to integrate command and control with the Air Force and Navy command-and-control systems.

Graham praised the Air Force personnel at Elmendorf for helping to get them off to a good start.

“The Alaska command has been very helpful,” he said. “They’ve been very proactive instead of reactive, taking care of problems before they exist.”

About 9,000 men and women from all the services are participating in Northern Edge 2004, which continues through Wednesday. Graham said being a part of the exercise has helped him see the importance of joint operations and working with other air units.

About 600 Marines from the 1st MAW are taking part in the exercise. It is the first time a Marine air wing has been deployed to Alaska to take part in the annual exercise.

“We have Marines who are out in the ranges who are actually controlling aircraft from both the Navy and Air Force,” he said. “We are all integrated. When we have one aircraft go over our space, we have all services involved.”

For Lance Cpl. Melanie Foster, assigned to the 1st MAW’s Deep Air Coordination Center, working in the joint environment is nothing new. “We deploy month on and month off,” she said. “We’re always going to see how we work with the Army, the Air Force and the Navy. We deal with the Navy a lot, but this is the first time I’ve been on an Air Force base.”

The Deep Air Coordination Center plays a vital role in the success of the exercise, said Maj. Jonathan Sabado, the senior AIR director.

“In a battle space, we divide it into deep, close and rear areas,” Sabado said, according to reports from Northern Edge public affairs. “Our agency is primarily concerned with fighting the deep fight. It’s very rare that we will fight anywhere alone as a single service. It’s extremely important that we train in any environment with the other services and to hone our skills together.

“We don’t usually get to interact at this level with other services,” he said.

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