A Marine with 12th Marines, 3rd Marine Division, calls for close air support during the 2021 large-scale exercise at Marine Corps Base Hawaii, Aug. 11, 2021. (Josue Marquez / US Marine Corps)
MARINE CORPS BASE HAWAII – During World War II, the Navy and Marine Corps linked arms during the long-standing strategy of island hopping towards Japan.
Naval ships would bring an invading force of Marines to an island and support their advance with naval artillery.
Now the Marine Corps is experimenting with an expedition model that will reverse that paradigm, with Marines assisting naval vessels at sea.
The Navy’s 2021 large-scale exercise in the Hawaiian Islands was the Corps’ first chance to test its advanced base operations concept for expeditions with a joint force of Navy and Coast Guard vessels, according to Lt. Col. Rollin A. Steele, executive officer of the 3rd Marine Regiment based on Marine Corps Base Hawaii.
The large-scale exercise 2021, which began earlier this month and ends Monday, includes training five numbered fleets within the US Fleet Forces Command, US Pacific Fleet, and US Naval Forces Europe and runs across 17 time zones.
About 3,000 Marines are taking part in the exercise in the Hawaiian Islands, whose naval contingent includes the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson and parts of its attack group.
The Marine Corps’ experiments with advanced expedition bases during the exercise come from Force Design 2030, which includes the conversion of Steele’s Regiment into the 3rd Marine Littoral Regiment within the next few years.
The new force design focuses on small maneuvering units rather than large attack forces, a change that is geared towards what US forces might need in a future conflict with China in the remote areas of the Indo-Pacific.
“The whole point of [the Marine Littoral Regiment] reads: How can the Marine Corps assist the Navy in maritime control and denial at sea? ”Steele told Stars and Stripes during an interview Thursday at Marine Corps Base Hawaii.
They are testing approaches to this support during the exercise by providing infantry groups of 1. Once the units were in place, the units secretly set up expeditions to advanced base operations, he said.
Under the coastal structure, the 1st Battalion is referred to as Littoral Combat Team 3, he said.
A group loaded backpacks with supplies, weapons and necessary surveillance equipment and marched through Oahu.
The second was transported to an Oahu coast in an amphibious hovercraft.
The third unit, flown to Kauai, experimented with an information-gathering system called Network on the Move-Airborne, which provides real-time data gathered from the entire joint force.
Steele compared an off-network flight while in motion to a passenger stepping off a 10-hour commercial flight, turning on a cell phone, and being overwhelmed by hours of missed calls, messages, and messages.
“So when we get to that destination, we will [already] have the most modern real-time information and intelligence, ”he said. “If we need to adjust our plan, or adjust our plan, or confirm our plan, we can do that in-flight. We are not blind at some point. ”
The dual purpose of the advanced expedition bases is to provide naval vessels with surveillance information and to provide precision fire.
A number of advanced bases “can free the ships to be in more important places,” Steele said.
“We want to avoid gaps, blind corners,” he said. “As the old saying goes, if you defend anywhere, you will not defend anywhere. If I spread my defense so thin that I can cover it everywhere, then I don’t really have a lot of defense because they are no longer capable. ”
Marines at the advanced bases use various sensors – mostly drones – to convey maritime awareness to ships and aircraft in the arena.
Part of the learning curve during this exercise is assessing how much of this surveillance equipment – along with all of the other necessary supplies – Marines can feasibly carry.
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