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Marine Corps Strengthens Its Sea Legs

May 2, 2012
By Beverly Schaeffer

Marine Corps leadership is seeking to apply lessons learned from fighting two ground wars in the last 10 years and return to its core competencies: amphibious ops, sea-based forward presence and crisis response. In his article, "Marines Go Back to the Amphibious Future," Defense Editor Max Cacas outlines the Corps' goals in this issue of SIGNAL Magazine. Col. Vincent Goulding, USMC (Ret.), director, experiment division, Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory, leads the program to modernize Marine Air-Ground Task Force (MAGTF) operations. In the 1970s, MAGTF outlined goals for future amphibious forces. The mission changed in 2001 when Marines went to the Middle East and were, for the most part, removed from sea-based military. In 2010, a naval exercise in Oahu, Hawaii, tested Marine amphibious capabilities to identify gaps. Following Oahu exercises, the Warfighting Lab and the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade tested new equipment/capabilities during joint multinational amphibious exercise Bold Alligator 2012 (BA12). Col. Goulding says the lab's testing-Limited Objective Exercise 1 (LOE-1)-embedded mainly with the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, aimed to identify weaknesses during BA12. One obstacle in both Oahu and LOE-1 was water resupply to Marines ashore, according to Col. Goulding:

We wore out the Marines' aviation combat element during the experiment in 2010 moving bottled water around the battlefield to keep those Marines hydrated.

During BA12, however, Marines were equipped with tactical water purification systems to produce their own water onshore. This freed up aircraft for other duties. To improve command and control (C2), the lab tested communications gear during LOE-1. Part of that suite included the Distributed Tactical Communications System. Integrating with other special operations forces also would enable Marines to support them and other conventional forces. Solar panels developed for use in the Middle East also could eliminate the need to carry heavy batteries and other backup energy sources. LOE-2 is planned to include cyber operations, and LOE-3 is on the drawing board to include experimental joint tactical communications equipment. In 2014, MAGTF will "invade the entire Hawaiian Island chain," Col. Goulding says. This exercise will take place in conjunction with the joint Rim of the Pacific Exercise 2014. The Corps has made great strides to regain its sea legs. But is the time frame reasonable, and will current and future capabilities enable it to reach its goals successfully? Share your opinions here. We look forward to your input.

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