OKINAWA, JAPAN --
U.S. Marines with 7th Communication Battalion conducted a Distributed Command and Control Exercise (DC2EX) July 10-23, 2019, spanning more than 3,700 miles across multiple locations in the Indo-Pacific region. The exercise integrated communication nodes for command and control (C2) between a High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) live-fire exercise at the Shoalwater Bay Training Area in Queensland, Australia, a command element on Camp Courtney in Okinawa, Japan, a forward-deployed node in Camp Zama, Kanagawa Prefecture, Japan, as well as two ships, the USS Green Bay (LPD-20) and USS Wasp (LHD-1).
“What we are doing is changing the paradigm,” said Maj. Brian M. Chamberlain, the operations officer for 7th Comm. Bn. “We’ve reduced our numbers to small teams with numerous capabilities being sent to several different locations and then connecting them to one command element. With smaller numbers, they are able to move and establish lines of communication very quickly. It enables a commander who is several thousands of miles away to prosecute targets through C2. It isn’t something we’ve traditionally done, and that’s what makes it so impressive. We are creating a highly lethal capability.”
Operations during wartime or humanitarian disasters require split-second decisions and decisive actions from a distance. This is difficult to accomplish without Marines who can set up communication in situations like the one present during this exercise.
“The purpose of DC2EX was to demonstrate communication operations with multilateral interoperability and to test our communication assets,” said Staff Sgt. Michael A. Rivera, a network administrator for 7th Comm. Bn. “The importance of the exercise was not only the C2 element, but also the proficiency of data communications. The strategic aspect, geographically, was to demonstrate a situation of needing to complete an operation quickly involving bilateral allies. It was a stepping stone for future operations.”
During the weeks of planning beforehand, Rivera’s Camp Zama team expected issues to come up due to anticipated weather conditions and the distance between their node and Australia. Once the radio operators arrived, they were able to establish lines of communication faster than expected and without any significant issues.
“DC2EX provided us the opportunity to work on the communication architecture required to coordinate targeting, fires and information operations across multiple fronts,” said Col. Mark Coppess, III Marine Expeditionary Force Fires and Effects Coordination Center director. “As the Marine Corps seeks innovative solutions that support a persistent presence well within the range of adversary’s weapon systems, it is increasingly becoming more important that we be able to command and control over greater distances, both at sea and on land.”
The Marines sent to Camp Zama set up the communication node using satellite tactical entry points to distribute internet services to the other nodes in less than 6 hours.
Chamberlain stated, it’s remarkable he can put together a series of forces, launch them anywhere on short order and they will enable C2 in less than 24 hours.
Complex operations on the battlefield require precision down to the second. The successful coordination between air, ground and sea-based forces can be achieved at a faster rate with the advancements being made in the communication field. Through future exercises like DC2EX, timeliness, in all aspects of the mission, will continue to improve.