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Lance Cpl. Ryan Williams, a field wireman with Marine Wing Communications Squadron 38, Detachment A and a New Orleans checks a length of wiring for cracks or damage aboard Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Calif., Nov. 14. Field wiremen ensure that messages get to where they are needed quickly and securely.

Photo by Lance Cpl. Christopher Johns

From message runners to wire runners: field wiremen ensure word gets passed

27 Nov 2013 | Lance Cpl. Christopher Johns

In days past, messages got from one portion of the unit to another on foot, usually by a runner half the age of the youngest soldier in the army. With today’s day and age, the Marine Corps’ messages can travel at nearly the speed of light from greater distances than ever before thanks to companies of field wiremen.
 
As a modern-day version of Pheidippides, the Greek messenger who ran to pass the news of his army’s victory in the Battle of Marathon, field wiremen ensure that messages get to where they are needed quickly and securely.
 
“If you don’t have communications [on deployment] you’re basically flying blind,” said Cpl. David Brown, a cryptography noncommissioned officer-in-charge with Marine Wing Communications Squadron 38, Detachment A and a Stephenville, Texas, native. “People on the outside [of the wire] can’t talk to the leadership back in the forward operating base. We aren’t living in the past when we still used messengers to carry orders anymore, we have the ability to get word to each other by phone if need be. That’s where we come in.”
 
Schooling for this occupational specialty lasts about three months with around 60 training days and touches on all of the equipment and skills a field wireman must master, but the course was not easy.
 
“I loved school,” said Lance Cpl. Ryan Williams, one of the detachment’s newest wiremen and a New Orleans native. “I was extremely fortunate to have instructors who would work with me when I didn’t understand something. They understood that in order for me to understand something, I had to see it more than once and try it on my own and that helped me a lot.”
 
Williams and some of his peers joined the squadron only a couple of months before, but are making names for themselves already. Williams won a board for Marine of the Quarter with the detachment while still learning more advanced skills in his job.
 
The courses of study in the school house teach computer networking skills, trouble-shooting skills for technology that passes information from one point to another and programing switchboards properly.

“Back when my corporals and sergeants went through school, their focus was on knowing the wires that needed running from Point A to Point B, because that was how information was passed,” said Williams. “Now, the school house focuses its attention on the switchboards we operate because they are what send the information.”

Williams went on to explain that although they touched on the wires in their lessons, he and his peers receive classes about the nomenclature of the wires and how to properly care for them. Proper care is important, because without any piece of equipment working the way it should, communication could come to a halt and hinder the mission.

“If we don’t properly trouble shoot our equipment to make sure it’s well maintained, communications could go down, and we can’t have that,” said Williams.

Williams explained that his NCOs give the Marines certain problems with the equipment to fix on their own and, if they can’t figure it out by themselves, they step in and show them how to do it.

With crucial missions happening daily throughout the Marine Corps, communication is crucial to seeing the plans come in to fruition. Luckily for 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, MWCS-38, Det. A has wiremen who make communications priority over everything else at all times watching the wires and keeping their brothers and sisters informed.


3rd Marine Aircraft Wing