MNOC puts the Comm in combat: Spec Ops forces team up for innovative training

MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. — In combat, as in the civilian world, the methods and tools of communication are constantly changing. But where civilian technology becomes more accessible and intuitive, military communications become increasingly secure and specialized.

That is where the Marine Network Operators Course comes in to play. Twenty-four Marines, Sailors and Airmen came together in a joint environment and graduated the U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Special Operations Command’s communications course here, July 31. This is the second course this year, but the first to include students from Naval Special Warfare Command and Air Force Special Operations Command.

“The big thing we tried to focus on this time around was communications planning,” said Master Sgt. Ronald W. Holmes, staff noncommissioned officer in charge of the course. “We wanted to make the students capable of leading a communications operations center.”

The course instructors train students across several military occupational specialties to become subject matter experts in communications.

“This course should be taught throughout the Marine Corps,” said Lance Cpl. Nicholas R. Hess, field radio operator, Support Company, Marine Special Operations Support Group, and MNOC student. “I am not only learning advanced skills within my MOS, but basic and advanced skills from other communications fields.”

According to Holmes, the Navy and Air Force students provided valuable perspectives that enhanced the quality of the instruction. The different skills and procedures used by the separate branches allowed for students to get the experience of a joint environment that is common when forward deployed.

“The AFSOC and NAVSPECWARCOM guys were great at jumping right in with the Marines,” said Hess. “They knew more than us when it came to certain subjects and equipment in the course, and we were able to teach them some skills specific to the Marine Corps.”

The course, which lasted for 11 weeks and had nearly two dozen students, featured only two instructors who covered a wide array of subjects, ranging from advanced radio theory to satellite communications.

“The course may have been understaffed, but you wouldn’t have guessed it from the way the instructors had control of the course,” explained Hess. “They showed us outstanding leadership and gave us the freedom to grow within our teams and as individual communicators.”

According to Holmes, the MARSOC communications staff who created MNOC and saw it through to what it is today have a lot of personal and professional pride when they see the SOF communicators graduate and go back to their units prepared for their role in the fight.

“I feel like if I were deployed or in combat and I encountered a [communications] problem, I could break the issue down and fix it,’ said Hess. “My confidence and expertise are to the point where I know I can give a distinct advantage to the servicemembers who fight alongside me.”

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