MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. (June 24, 2009) -- class=MsoNormal>The tactical arena is an ever-changing environment which often adds to the chaos and confusion of combat. Within this atmosphere, Marine leaders must be able to understand the tactical situation and develop a clear picture of what is happening, as well as the best actions to take. This is why battlefield communication is such a vital element to situational awareness, and the field radio operator is such a vital element to modern battlefield communication.
Each year, the Marine Corps recognizes two of its best enlisted operational communicators as well as one communications electronics maintainer with the PFC Herbert A. Littleton Communications Award. Submissions are sent from every corner of the Marine Corps. After careful consideration, two Marines – a staff noncommissioned officer and a noncommissioned officer - from the communications field, along with another Marine of any rank from the data/communications maintenance field are presented with the award. This year, Gunnery Sgt. Eric C. Hernandez of the 2d Marine Special Operations Battalion, U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Special Operations Command, did the special operations community proud by bringing home the award for his communications excellence in 2008.
Hernandez served as communications chief for a Marine Special Operations Company, 2d MSOB, from January 2008 to December 2008. During this time, he supervised the operation of all organic Marine Corps communications equipment, as well as the newest cutting-edge communications equipment that was fielded in support of United States Special Operations Command. Hernandez integrated previous communications systems with newly-appropriated technology, forming a highly-capable MSOC tactical and mobile operations center. This allowed for worldwide voice and data communications in one of the world’s most isolated and austere environments.
“When setting up communications capabilities within austere places, you always feel like you don't want to let anyone down,” said Hernandez. “Everyone relies on you to hold up your end of the deal. It is a very satisfying feeling when you accomplish your tasks and see it all unfold during an operation.”
Not only did Hernandez ensure the communications ability of MARSOC units within his area of operation during that time, he also participated in numerous combat reconnaissance patrols, humanitarian aid drops and various other operations, to include Operation Aram Tander II, a significant operation against a Taliban stronghold in Afghanistan.
Hernandez, a native New Yorker, joined the Marine Corps in 1993 in order to gain new experiences and personal growth.
“I wanted to challenge myself after high school and I thought that the Marine
Corps was the right call,” said Hernandez. “I joined the Marines because I wanted to be involved with the service that was going to be the most challenging.”
Shortly after joining the Corps he found himself in the Field Radio Operators Course, followed by the Amphibious Reconnaissance School, Basic Airborne School, Dive School and a whole host of other military courses. Then, in 2007, he joined MARSOC.
“I was happy to be a part of the special operations community,” said Hernandez. “I knew that it would bring better training and equipment. I also knew we would be able to work with other SOCOM units, which is a good chance to see how the other SOF units do business.”
Some may consider the commitment to excellence demonstrated by Hernandez to be above and beyond the call of duty, but to Hernandez, its just a part of the job.
“Reliable communications and information flow are the keys to mission success on the battle field,” said Hernandez. “We are responsible for ensuring that the command
has constant and effective communications at all levels, from the top to bottom. In order to succeed in this line of work, you must have good initiative. You can’t wait around for people to do things for you.
“Responsibility is another invaluable characteristic that is necessary for effectiveness in this field,” Hernandez continues. “We’re also responsible for millions of dollars worth of sensitive equipment.”
Though the battlefield is ever-changing, with Marines like Hernandez orchestrating the flow of communications, the leaders of 2d MSOB can count on timely information as they develop a clear picture of the tactical situation.
"Gunnery Sgt. Hernandez is a phenomenal leader who brings a combination of
professional competence, initiative and resourcefulness to the job," said Captain Brian Heslin, 2d MSOB Communications Officer. "It's always easy to write up citations about Marines like Gunny Hernandez because you're never at a loss for words when describing the contribution they make to the unit. He's definitely a valuable asset to this team."