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Marines at Iwakuni Marine Corps Air Station, Japan, said they enhanced their skills and learned new ones during the 16-day field communications exercise Capstone ’05.

Held at the Penny Lake Field on base, the exercise ran from Nov. 29 through Tuesday. It involved 57 Marines from 7th Communications Battalion and Marine Wing Communication Squadron 18 based out of Okinawa and Marines from communication sections within with Marine Aircraft Group 12, Marine Wing Support Squadron 171 and Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 12.

Lt. Louis Mejia, Marine Wing Support Squadron 171 communications officer, said the field exercise simulated an environment away from military installations, where units must set up communication links independent of base networks.

“This was a great training opportunity in the MOS (military operations specialty) of these Marines,” he said Wednesday.

The Marines ate meals at a nearby mess hall and slept in the barracks each evening but otherwise worked outdoors throughout, as did another group of Marines participating at the same time on Okinawa.

“We trained in establishing network connections to Okinawa via satellite and the Okinawa site connected to the outside world,” said Master Sgt. John M. Nightingale, MWSS-171 communications chief. “We all used tactical equipment that would be used in a real operations environment.”

He said a complete telephone network and computer networks were created at the Penny Lake site. Communication was established with the Okinawa site via secure satellite connection.

“The training opportunity was so valuable because many of these Marines are young, and this may have been the first time in field training at this level for many of them," Nightingale said Thursday.

Lance Cpl. Gregory Jeter is a field wireman with MWSS-171. His job was to hook up a telephone network on the site by running wiring from switchboards to each communications point.

“This was the first time I had done this in such an environment,” Jeter said. “I got a lot of training related to my MOS specifically, and the MOS of the people who work the switchboards.

“In the cross-training sense I learned a lot, including how to program the numbers for the individual phones and setting up loops.”

Capstone ’05 was designed for such hands-on training and to ensure that equipment used in such instances is functional, officials said.

At both the Iwakuni and Okinawa sites, a satellite van was used for the computer connections on the networks.

“We set up a server that is rebuilt to withstand the atmosphere in the field and set those up so you could do pretty much anything there you could in the garrison … e-mail, surf the Net. … We took care of things like that,” said Lance Cpl. Joshua McElroy of MWSS-171.

“We built a network wired here on the ground and were on another network to communicate with Okinawa by satellite. They did the same thing down there that we did here,” McElroy said.

It was the first time McElroy set up a communication link with a remote site using a satellite.

“For the most part, the stuff I learned was outside my MOS. I learned a pretty good bit about how we communicate with satellites,” he said.

“It also gave me an opportunity to teach what I know to some new guys,” he added, “which gave me the chance to reinforce what I know by teaching them.”

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