Team Of Three Keeps Desolate Base In Touch With The World
(March 26, 2009)
Lance Cpl. Ryan D. Leftwich, a data network specialist, with Data Platoon, Communication Company,
2nd Marine Logistics Group (Forward), assists Lance Cpl. Eric C. Armstrong, a
mobile multi-channel equipment operator, with Radio Platoon, Communication
Company, with adjusting a Multi-Service Support Wide Area Network Satellite, at
Sahl Sinjar Airfield, Iraq, Mar. 7, 2009. The Marines are part of a three-man
detachment that provides all 2nd MLG (Forward) assets on the base with phone and
SAHL SINJAR AIRFIELD, Iraq (March 19, 2009) — When Cpl. Christapher M. Bess and
Lance Cpls. Ryan D. Leftwich and Eric C. Armstrong deployed to Iraq with the 2nd
Marine Logistics Group (Forward) in January 2009, they never thought they would
find themselves fixing phone lines and computer networks in the mountainous
region of the country known for its harsh living conditions.
The three Marines from Data and Radio Platoons, Communication Company, thought
they would join the rest of their company at Camp Al Taqaddum, but shortly
before their departure from the states, the trio found out that they would be
sent to a place few Marines from 2nd MLG will ever see - Sahl Sinjar Airfield.
Located in the northwestern Iraqi province of Ninewa, Sahl Sinjar Airfield is
used by Marines as a base for interdiction operations around the Syrian border that are designed to
deter the trafficking of arms. The MLG contingent at Sahl
Sinjar is far removed from 2nd MLG's normal area of operations in the Al Anbar
The three Marines are in charge of running the Multi-Service Support Wide Area
Network Detachment that provides all MLG assets on the base with phone and
internet capabilities. |
“We built up to the deployment with months of training,” said Leftwich, a data
network specialist. “They knew someone would be going to a detachment like this,
but didn't know who.”
He said that being at the remote detachment has been far different from the
working environment he experienced during his short time while stationed at Camp
“We have a much smaller team,” he said. “We have three people instead of being
in a shop with 20 other data Marines.”
“There's a lot of self-reliance,” he continued. “A lot of this falls on me, not
anyone above me.”
The rougher than usual conditions on the base, reminiscent of the tent-ridden
camps that dotted Iraq during the early years of the war, and the increase in
responsibility has been no problem for Leftwich who has enjoyed his experience.
“I have learned a lot about my military occupational specialty, lots of valuable
information and a lot more about being a deployed Marine,” he concluded.
Without the services that Leftwich and his companions provide to Combat
Logistics Battalion 7's supply, maintenance and command sections, as well as the
base exchange, Shock Trauma Platoon and Arrival / Departure Air Control Group,
they would have no access to unclassified or classified phone and computer
networks, which are essential to mission accomplishment.
“We wouldn't be able to function as an STP without them,” said Lt. j.g. Jannifer
L. Wick, the assistant officer-in-charge of Sahl Sinjar's STP.
“We wouldn't be able to call for medical evacuations or consult with medical
providers outside of Sahl Sinjar,” she continued. “We think the world of them ...
I don't know what we would do without them.”
Armstrong, a mobile multi-channel equipment operator from Radio Platoon, who
cross-trained in the SWAN system that the detachment uses, didn't know what to
expect when he found out he would be sent to the outlying base upon his arrival
“I didn't know what to think and I didn't have too many expectations either,” he
Armstrong also said that he has now gained a sense of accomplishment for what he
and his fellow Marines have done for the expeditionary base.
“I think this is a side that a lot of Communication Marines don't get to see,”
he said. “I think communication is one of the most important things ... I am happy
to be one of those that are responsible for this, it gives me a sense of pride
for what I do here.”
The time spent on Sahl Sinjar has been a change in scenery for Bess, the
detachment chief, who is on his second deployment to Iraq.
He explained that the location of the base makes the detachment's job a lot
harder compared to when they're on a larger base such as Camp Al Taqaddum.
“It takes days to get things fixed,” he said. “I have to wait until [the next
group of Comm. Company Marines who replace us] come in order to receive any new
Bess added that the environment has allowed him to get to know his Marines
better; with the isolation from the company, he and his junior Marines have
formed a tighter bond.
“They've both had to learn a lot in a little amount of time,” he stated. “One of
them is right out of boot camp and the other isn't even in data. Given their
limited knowledge on the SWAN system, they have done a stellar job.”
The detachment's Marines have been in Sinjar since late January and are set to
be replaced by a new group of Marines some time in the near future. The
responsibility for the detachment will be split between three teams who will
continue to rotate throughout the deployment.
Article and photo by Cpl. Bobbie A. Curtis
2nd Marine Logistics Group
Marine Corps News
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