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Lance Cpl. Alvin B. Messina extends the leaves of a satellite communication antenna at Al Asad, Iraq, May 30. Messina is an aviation radio technician with Marine Tactical Air Command Squadron 38, Marine Air Control Group 38 (Reinforced), 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing. He is a 25-year-old native of Texas City, Texas.

Photo by Lance Cpl. James B. Hoke

AVRAD keeps communication flowing for 3rd MAW

2 Jun 2006 | Lance Cpl. James B. Hoke

Thousands of invisible waves of communications bounce through the Iraq ionosphere, relaying vital pieces of information to the Marines in the air and on the ground.

The personnel responsible for transmitting the communications are the aviation radio Marines with Marine Tactical Air Command Squadron 38, Marine Air Control Group 38 (Reinforced), 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing.

"Our mission here solely is to provide unsecured and secure communication to the Tactical Air Command Center in order to communicate efficiently and effectively to outlying agencies in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom," said Sgt. Jason B. Morris, aviation radio technician, MTACS-38. "We provide communication to ground units and air traffic to help carry out operational missions affected by the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing."

Upon arriving in the desert, the aviation radio Marines have to decide on an area to place their equipment before proceeding further.

"The most significant thing about our job would be the initial set up of our system," said Morris, a 23-year-old Bandera, Texas, native. "The reason for that is because we are able to determine where certain things will go in order to provide effective communications. After we have everything set up, the rest of our job is simple."

Although the placment of their gear can be tiresome for some of the Marines, it is something that has to be done accurately with no mistakes.

"Once we have set up our communication distribution system and all of its components," said Morris. "We then coordinate connectivity with outlying agencies' communication systems."

The Marines with aviation radio work 12-hour shifts every day. This rotation is to ensure that the mission is accomplished 24 hours a day, according to Staff Sgt. Crystal R. Brooks, aviation radio technician, MTACS-38.

"Communication is a 24-hour job," said Brooks, a 26-year-old Morristown, N.Y., native. "The Marines who do this job are very knowledgeable. I can rely on any one Marine to complete any task that is associated with AVRAD."

There are trying times in the combat environment that can hamper the aviation radio Marines' tasks.

"It does get hard at times," said Morris. "When we receive indirect fire and short notice frequency requests, which is when the Tactical Air Command Center needs a radio changed to a specific frequency or a whole new radio network for raids or medical evacuations, it can get a little chaotic. Once we receive a request for a frequency, we have to respond quickly in order to provide the Tactical Air Command Center with a quick turn around to communicate with the outlying agencies."

According to Morris, each day's occurrences decide whether or not aviation radio's day will become a hectic one.

"When we have things to do and missions to complete, our job is very interesting to do," said Morris. "However, at the same time, when everything is working well and there are no missions for us to help out with, our job can be monotonous."

The Marines with aviation radio set up their systems and continually keep them operational throughout their stay in Iraq.

"Once our gear is in place and completely operational, we remain on call for something to happen, like problems within the system, frequencies to change or the change over for our cryptographic devices," concluded Brooks. "Our job isn't the hardest in the Marine Corps, nor is it the easiest, but our Marines perform, maintain and accomplish it without a second thought. They realize the importance of communications in the air wing and put their best efforts forth to maintain it."
3rd Marine Aircraft Wing