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Pfc. Garry L. Lawrance connects a coaxial cable to a radio antenna at Al Asad, Iraq, April 3. Lawrance is a multi-channel equipment operator with Marine Wing Communications Squadron 38, Marine Air Control Group 38 (Reinforced), 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing. He is a Forest City, N.C., native.

Photo by Lance Cpl. James B. Hoke

MWCS-38 fights Al Asad communications battle

14 Apr 2006 | Lance Cpl. James B. Hoke

From fixing wires to maintaining the power, the Marines with Marine Wing Communications Squadron 38 provide the base with both, telephone and data communications.

"We plan, operate, install and maintain the tactical communications for the (Air Combat Element) and forward operating bases," said Master Gunnery Sgt. Roberto S. Pinedo, acting sergeant major, MWCS-38, Marine Air Control Group 38 (Reinforced), 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing. "That includes your telephone, radio and, of course, data services."

However, MWCS-38 is not in charge of communicating to the aircraft on the flight line.

"One thing we don't do for the wing is airfield communications," said Pinedo, a Dineuba, Calif., native. "We don't communicate with the pilots or the tower."

Although the squadron does not participate in the communications with the flight line or the aircraft, they do provide a great deal of maintenance support to the wing.

"Basically, we provide maintenance support to the entire air wing, as well as outside the wing," said Gunnery Sgt. Louis R. Gonzalez, maintenance chief, MWCS-38. "Our primary mission is to the wing, but we go above and beyond."

According to 2nd Lt. Michael R. Phillips, wire platoon commander, MWCS-38, the environment of a combat zone does affect how the Marines are able to accomplish their mission.

"The rain has a tremendous effect on the wire," said Phillips, a Renton, Wash., native. "Some of the wire we have out here also runs over the old Iraqi copper wire. The way the Iraqis had it set up out here wasn't good and creates a lot of static on the phone.

"We do pretty well considering the amount of users on this base," added Phillips, a Central Washington University graduate. "There is a lot of foot and road traffic on this base. We work 24-hour shifts here, but there are always phones to be fixed, wires damaged from rain, and other problems that we deal with."

Although there are some shortages and problems that are constant nuisances for MWCS-38, they stay ahead in mission progress.

"The wing is able to communicate with all the units it needs to," said Pinedo. "We are doing our job. It is working, but we are having our problems. We are somewhere where we have to bring out these communications and make them work.

"We have our hiccups," he added. "It's not a garrison environment, so things happen due to weather, things moving around and facility conditions. We are doing a good job. We are providing the servers that the commander needs to communicate with his forces and higher up."

Even with the small problems the squadron has had, the Marines within MWCS-38 are technically proficient, tactful and professional.

"In the (United States), Marines work from (7 a.m.) to (4:30 p.m.)," said Staff Sgt. Bolivar E. Vilchez, wire platoon staff noncommissioned officer-in-charge, MWCS-38. "Here, there are stress-filled environments with 12-hour shifts, which sometimes carry on to 20 hours straight. The hours are there. The stress is there.

"The Marines in wire platoon know their job though," the New York City native added. "Dealing with gunnery sergeants and above, professionalism has to be on a high standing."

According to Pinedo, the air wing wouldn't be able to do their job without communications.

"It just wouldn't be possible," Pinedo concluded. "It is said that communications is the voice of command and it really is. Without communications, there is no way the commander can get down to his intent without a Marine being an actual messenger who carries it and that is time consuming. We give the commander the ability to communicate quickly so that his actions will be more effective."
3rd Marine Aircraft Wing