Marines have lots of high-tech gadgets, but not all are useful.

Author:Jean, Grace

Many of the high-tech devices that Marines use in combat are not as reliable or as user-friendly as they should be, says the commander of the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Force.

"The worst thing we can do is send something out to the battlefield that either doesn't work reliably, or is too hard for a young Marine or young soldier to use," says Lt. Gen. Keith Stalder, who spoke at a conference sponsored by the U.S. Naval Institute.

Gadgets have proliferated into Iraq, offering more ways to communicate, share information and fight. But many of the systems need improvement, he adds.

In particular, language translation devices are not user-friendly enough for corporals and squad leaders who employ them out on the streets in Iraq, he says.

Biometric systems that record fingerprints and irises need to be networked and put onto handheld devices so that Marines at command posts can share the information with those out in the field.

"You need them out there on patrol, with those intelligence Marines and with those squad leaders, so that when they get somebody, they can type a name in, or take a fingerprint, and they know who they've got and whether he's telling them the truth. It'll be a powerful tool in a counterinsurgency environment," says Stalder.

Communications technology is sorely needed, especially at lower echelons of command, he says. The growing availability of wideband satellite and non-line-of-sight radios has helped bridge the digital divide in the Marine Corps, but Stalder pressed for the extension of digital coverage down to the company level.

"We need top secret level information down to battalion and company level as well. The people who need it aren't at the regimental or divisional level. It's the staff sergeant at...

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