Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Ariz. -- A detachment of 16 Marines from 1st Radio Battalion, Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif., is here supporting Weapons and Tactics Instructor Course 2-05 and getting practical application training on their equipment and role in the aviation side of the Marine Corps war-fighting machine.
"Not many people know much about us," said 2nd Lt. Devin Phillabaum, the officer in charge of the detachment.
When people hear 'radio,' they often think 'communications,' Phillabaum said.
"There's a difference between a communications battalion and a radio battalion," he said. "At Camp Pendleton, we have the 9th Communication Battalion. They're the ones who provide all the communications links for the 1st (Marine Expeditionary Force) over in Iraq. As a radio battalion, we do anti-communications."
1st Radio Battalion Marines provide communications support to Marine Corps intelligence operations and conduct electronic warfare, such as signal jamming and tracing to discover enemy locations. These intelligence functions are especially important considering the type of war the U.S. is currently fighting, said Phillabaum.
The battalion recently reactivated in late July, after splitting from 3rd Radio Battalion at Marine Corps Base Hawaii and moving to Camp Pendleton. 1st Radio Battalion was formerly located in Hawaii.
"They actually deactivated 1st Radio Battalion for quite some time, made Hawaii 3rd Radio Battalion and then, once the bodies, money and facilities became available, they reactivated 1st Radio Battalion in Camp Pendleton," said Sgt. Jed Tuttle
This WTI is the first exercise the battalion has been tasked to support since being reactivated, said Phillabaum.
In addition to the training, the Marines hope WTI will help the air wing better understand radio battalion's role and what they can offer.
"The more aware they are of our capabilities, the more jobs they'll give us and the better tasking we'll get," said Tuttle. "We can do just about anything. Our teams are very versatile, but it's no good if you're on a (Marine Expeditionary Unit) and the MEU commander doesn't have confidence in you doesn't know what you can do. He won't task you properly and there's nothing you can do about it. So it's good for the officers as well as the enlisted guys."
Chief Warrant Officer-3 Sailor Hasting, Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron-1 signal /intelligence officer, teaches airwing intelligence students about radio battalion during the course.
"They get classes on radio battalion capabilities and how to task intel assets radio battalion being one of those assets. So that feeds back to the squadrons, wings and (Marine Air Groups) and later, when they deploy, they have a working knowledge of what (radio battalion's) capabilities are."
The Marines are broken into two teams and perform communications security monitoring during WTI exercises.
"Most of the Marines out here on this detachment are young right out of school so this will provide them with their first operational-type training in the signal/intelligence community," said Phillabaum.
Training in Yuma's desert environment helps prepare the Marines for deployments to the Middle East, said Tuttle.
"Hot places are terrible for (communications), and that's really good practice for these guys practice getting (communications) in places that have bad earth conductivity," Tuttle said. "Our gear is very expensive and sensitive electronic equipment that's been ruggedized, but nothing's Marine proof. Getting a chance to see how it reacts when it gets hot and dirty is very good."
Cpl. Marcus Barahona, a Farsi linguist a language spoken in Iran and parts of Afghanistan and Pakistan trained here during Exercise Desert Talon in June.
"The intense heat here in Yuma the dry heat especially tends to shutdown our equipment," said Barahona. "So we have to find creative ways to make sure everything works. I feel that this is an excellent training opportunity, especially for Marines who have just come out of school."
Because school for these Marines can be very long even two years they don't get much field experience. That makes this training more valuable, Barahona said.
"This exercise is helping us not only to refine our skills, but also to familiarize exactly what we're doing with the units we're working with, and how to work with them properly."