Marines receive orders via radio transmission while on patrol in the Marjah district of Afghanistan in 2010. The Marine Corps wants to field new radio whip antennas to reduce the possibility of electrocution from overhanging wires. (LANCE CPL. TOMMY BELLEGARDE / MARINE CORPS)
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The Corps wants to field new radio antennas that will reduce the risk of electrocution for Marines who carry them around low-hanging wires in the war zone.
The 6- to 10-foot whip antennas currently used with many of the Marine Corps' radios provide good performance over long ranges, but their all-metal construction poses a substantial threat to dismounted Marines and those riding in vehicle turrets, officials with Marine Corps Systems Command noted in an Oct. 26 request for information from the defense industry. Any new antenna must be safer but not sacrifice performance, according to MARCORSYSCOM's requirements.
Electrocution is blamed for the deaths of at least five Marines in Afghanistan during fiscal 2011, which ended Sept. 30, according to data published online by the Naval Safety Center. Two were the result of whip antennas making contact with low-hanging power lines during foot patrols. A third involved a turret gunner being hit while in his vehicle. Two other Marines came in contact with live wires near a generator on base.
Deployed units have used nonconductive telescoping poles mounted to the front of their vehicles to help warn turret gunners of power line contact and give them time to react. In some cases, these poles can also raise power lines, allowing Marines to pass safely underneath.
Leaders have devoted greater attention to the hazard during pre-deployment training, and they have required all pre-mission briefings for both mounted and dismounted operations to include discussions on avoiding power lines. Also important, according to senior leadership in theater, is that Marines develop familiarity with their area of operations and share knowledge about risks with other personnel and units.