DECEMBER 8, 2022 — Kansas City Marines, active and reserve, competed in Canadian Communications and Electronic Branch-hosted exercise Noble Skywave, a military-led, high-frequency (HF) competition.
“Noble Skywave is a radio hybrid mission competition to determine who can most efficiently use HF radio technology,” said U.S. Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. Michael R. McKenzie, Inspector Instructor Regimental Communications Chief, Combat Logistics Regiment (CLR) 4, 4th Marine Logistics Group, Marine Forces Reserve.
McKenzie is a native of York, Nebraska, and graduated from York High School. He joined the Marine Corps because he “had a calling to serve his country,” he said.
McKenzie was the overall coordinator and planner for his team of communication Marines and ensured their participation in the event. He helped prepare the equipment and supervised all 48 hours of the competition.
Noble Skywave, first initiated in 2013, took place this year from Oct. 24- 28. This year’s exercise hosted the largest number of participants including domestic and international teams spread across the globe.
There were “more than 429 military units from across all branches of militaries, active and reserve units, as well as 13 partner nations including Canada, Peru, the United Kingdom, Poland, Australia, and Latvia,” McKenzie stated.
Four communication Marines from CLR-4 based out of Kansas City, Missouri, participated in the event and were assigned the call sign US-295. Although Canada is the leading nation in planning and developing the exercise, each countries’ team had to work together in order to gather supplies and set up their own radio station in order to connect with other stations.
“Their [CLR-4] station included programming radios, planning their communications shot to include the look-angle of their antenna, building their antenna, the power requirement, environmental factors, and conducting long distance voice communications,” said McKenzie.
The military has employed HF radios as a military capability since the 1930s. According to McKenzie, HF is not relied on as frequently because of other advanced technologies like satellite communications (SATCOM) or computer and data communications.
However, HF technology is still a valuable asset for domestic and international militaries to understand and implement. HF radio frequencies cause energy to reradiate from the atmosphere back down at the same frequency, bouncing the radio waves back towards Earth. This process is what allows connections the ability to travel across the world without the use of satellites, this is important because HF is the only viable replacement of beyond line-of-sight communications to SATCOM.
During the competition, the Marines’ longest shot of communication was made from Kansas City to Peru. They also established clear lines of communication with units in Canada.
“Overall it was a great experience and a great opportunity for the Marines’ growth as they learned skills of long range communication shots and the balance between the science and the art of high frequency radio communications in a dynamic environment,” McKenzie stated.
Although Noble Skywave is a competition, the spirit of the event revolves around fostering camaraderie and, ultimately, understanding how each country can work together to become better when needed.
“In our current world of joint military operations that the U.S. Marine Corps is a part of, the ability to communicate with our partners is a necessity. Communication techniques are different for each country, but coming together and learning and exchanging techniques and tips allows us to stay ready with our partners.”
By Lance Cpl. Jennifer Delacruz
Marine Corps Forces Reserves