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Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany

Readiness Enabler for Operational Forces  •
New maintenance shop preserves Marine communication systems

By Marti Gatlin | | December 2, 2010

Considered a vital way of staying in touch during daily work operations for many base and tenant organizations’ staff, a new team is here to help them manage and maintain their radio communication systems.

The Ground Electronics Maintenance shop, recently established by the Communications and Information Systems Division of Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany, is responsible for keeping land mobile radio systems, such as handheld and vehicle radios, repeaters, base stations and antennas serviceable, as well as managing the life cycle of those items.

“We want to get the word out we’re here to provide support,” said Robbin Lamb, manager, Enterprise Land Mobile Radio/LMR, CISD.

Supporting the installation’s first responders — Marine Corps Police Department and MCLB Albany Fire and Emergency Services — is the main priority for the GEM shop’s personnel, she said.

“Making sure that first responders’ LMR system and assets are reliable and in (proper) working order will increase the overall security posture of the base,” Lamb said. “The LMR is first responders’ lifeline to the dispatch center.”

The first responders’ assets also include vehicle light bars, sirens and supporting ground electronics, as well as new, soon-to-be installed vehicles’ heat alert systems for military working dogs.

The heat alert systems monitor patrol cars’ air conditioning, and if the A/C malfunctions, the system causes the cars’ windows to roll down and fans to turn on, Lamb said.

Even though taking care of the first responders is the GEM team’s top task, they are working hard to ensure everyone else’s radios and support apparatus are sustained, the staff said.

Lamb and her staff will maintain the current radio communications system for another three years and continue to support it when MCLB Albany transitions to a new one in roughly 2013, she said. In 2007, the Marine Corps began an initiative called Enterprise Land Mobile Radio to standardize radio communications throughout the service.

“ELMR will require the replacement of all radios and support equipment, such as base stations, repeaters, antennas, consoles, and a new tower with shelter will be built to support the new system,” Lamb said. “In June 2010, the Marine Corps combined the ELMR initiative with a program to standardize emergency dispatch centers.”

Because of the change, CISD’s focus immediately changed from preparing to transition to a new radio system to maintaining the current LMR system, she added. Maintaining the LMR presents many challenges because most of the LMR’s more than 800 pieces of equipment are more than 10 years old. When the ELMR takes effect, the GEM team will be responsible for about 1,500 pieces of equipment.

“Since ELMR is the program of record for the Marine Corps, radios, antennas, batteries, etcetera, cannot be purchased for LMR systems that are being phased out without Information Technology waiver approval,” Lamb said.

This summer, CISD staff came up with a solution to help alleviate the issue of replacing radios that could not be repaired, she noted.

“Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, S.C., and Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C., are in the process of transitioning to ELMR and because their old LMR systems were compatible with Albany’s current LMR, CISD was able to obtain handheld, chargers and mobile radios from them,” Lamb said. “These radios were disbursed to the MCPD and Base Operations, who are responsible for the base Emergency Operations Center.”

To keep the LMR system going, Lamb and GEM technicians, Robert Doerr and Eric Strom, who were hired in August, are conducting an on-going assessment of it to include inventorying items, testing for them for serviceability as well as repairing them.

“The technicians have to be innovative in sustaining current LMR assets because in many cases the radios are obsolete and items such as parts, programming software, etcetera, are no longer available,” she said. “They utilize unserviceable radios and recycle the parts to fix other radios and are checking the Defense Reutilization Marketing Office and other military installations for radios and related equipment to sustain our LMR.”

Along with getting the first responders and other units’ personnel up to speed with their radio communications, Strom and Doerr have been implementing GEM procedures and policies as well as funding, Strom said.

“We’re coming up with funding to support the system and processes to manage the life cycles of radios,” he said.

The GEM team asks the base community to be patient with them as they work to get LMR issues corrected and to contact them for their services.

If there are safety issues, call them right away so they can take care of those immediately.

Comments can also be directed to them via Interactive Customer Evaluations at http://www.marines.mil/unit/mclbalbany/Pages/default.aspx.

“We welcome ICE comments,” Strom said.