Communications Operations unit fixes disconnect in Haiti
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — No one pays much attention to the “comm” guys — until something goes wrong.
And Friday, it did. The Internet system that supports the 3rd Battalion, 8th Marines crashed, sending the command element into a frenzy to get communications up and running to the outside world.
“In a nutshell, nobody notices what we do until we don’t do it,” Lt. Joseph Benson, 34, the Communications Operations Platoon commander, said.
The 60-man platoon set up all forms of communications for the battalion and links to higher command bases across Haiti.
In all missions, tactical radio communications gets first dibs, letting commanders control the operation from anywhere — either from the back of a Humvee or any rudimentary positions established when arriving.
“Radio is the primary piece (of gear) for infantry, because everyone is always moving about,” said Master Gunnery Sgt. Michael Henson, 40.
“Once we get to being able to talk from the backs of vehicles, we set up a stationary command post,” Benson said. “Then we start working on telephonic connectivity. After all tactical comm is up and running, we can start looking at MWR for the Marines.”
And they have.
Last week, a cyber café went up in one of the stuffy warehouses at the cigarette factory used to house hundreds of battalion Marines.
But the constant log-on time and Marines downloading streaming video, for example, proved too much for the bandwidth provided by the patrons of the cigarette factory, and the system crashed.
Marines such as Sgt. Mickey Fernandez, 23, of Miami, worked hours upon hours to overcome to the shortcoming.
“I’m exhausted,” said Fernandez, who has been in the Corps a little more than three years.
Tensions were high Saturday morning as the Marines worked to fix the problem and negotiate for more bandwidth. “You’re never done,” Benson said. “You’re constantly improving.”