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Marines lock-in new satellite system for quicker communication

By Mathuel Browne, MCSC Office of Public Affairs & Communication | Marine Corps Systems Command | September 19, 2016

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Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va. -- style="margin: 0in 0in 10pt;">Public Affairs Marines now have a new media system that allows them to tell the Marine Corps story as it’s happening, anywhere in the world.

Developed by PA Marines for Marines, the Public Affairs Live Media Engagement System, or PALMES, is a lightweight, deployable capability to stream live video, conduct interviews with media, and upload content via internet. Fielded less than a year ago, the system consists of a wireless microphone, video camcorder, video encoder and a ground satellite terminal. PALMES replaces the previous Public Affairs News Link System, or PANLS, with more portable system components.

“When we started to develop PALMES, we wanted a system that could do more, but weigh less,” said Capt. Kenneth Kunze, a project officer at Marine Corps System Command. “PALMES fits in a backpack, and connects to the internet via satellite. Running off longer lasting batteries, which will last up to six hours, PA Marines can interview and upload media coverage without being tied to one location.”

The PALMES satellite is man portable, weighing only 45 pounds compared to the more than 250-pound PANLS satellite. PALMES can also be completely assembled, used and disassembled by one person in less than 10 minutes, whereas the previous system required three to four Marines and averaged an hour of set up time. The new internet connection feature allows users to access the web via the satellite to upload videos, photos and stories with a simple Ethernet cable connected from a laptop computer to the dish.

Staff Sgt. Charles McKelvey, a program analyst and integral member of the team that developed PALMES, can attest to the improvements.

“I first used the PANLS system in 2007 while deployed to Iraq.” said McKelvey. “Back then the use of the internet in broadcasting was quite different. With PANLS we had to send our video stories via satellite back to United States, where someone would re-record the footage, digitize it and then upload the video online. With the internet capabilities inherent with PALMES we provide stories almost instantly from any location.”

McKelvey also emphasized the improved maintenance capabilities. Because the system’s satellite is more closely aligned with other Marine Corps satellite systems there is a reduced need for outside technical support.

“If you are in a Marine Expeditionary Unit in the middle of nowhere, you may not have the ability to call back to the States for technical support,” he said. “If you have a Marine that knows how to fix the equipment, they can come out and help you onsite. Why use a satellite system that is foreign to the Marine Corps, when you can use technology and software already utilized for organic support?”

Marine Staff Sgt. Scott Schmidt, the staff non-commissioned officer in charge at the Defense Video Imagery Distribution System Hub works daily with Public Affairs Marines to ensure their PALMES system delivers live coverage and can attest to its value. 

“What I enjoy most about the PALMES is that it is a system made up of parts which can be used independently of one another,” said Schmidt. “This allows Public Affairs Marines to operate freely in an ever-changing news environment, so that they can conduct crisis communication and issue management, content development and distribution and other tasks within public affairs to support their commander.”

In the year since it was fielded, PALMES has been used to live stream a number of high profile events, said Schmidt.

“The PALMES system has been used to live stream many large events, such as the recent 2016 Marine Week in Nashville, so that online viewers can see live what Marines are doing,” said Schmidt. “Back in May, for example, over 37,000 online viewers were able to watch President Barack Obama speak to service members at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan.”

The Public Affairs Systems program fields, refreshes and sustains all materiel requirements for the public affairs occupational field across the range of military operations. PAS supports the PA mission in current conflicts, exercises and humanitarian response operations by enabling commanders at all levels to engage key publics whose trust, confidence and understanding are critical to the Corps.

By telling the Marine Corps story whenever and wherever it happens, Public Affairs Marines create a higher level of understanding and confidence in the unique capabilities of the Marine Air Ground Task Force and its Marines.

“Our focus at PAS is providing the Corps with improved capabilities like PALMES so that America can see what our Marines are doing around the world, as it happens,” said Kunze. 


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