USA — Marines Return to Amphibious Roots

CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C., Dec. 15, 2010 — After near­ly a decade of fight­ing in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Marine Corps has been inap­pro­pri­ate­ly brand­ed as a sec­ond land army.

 A landing craft heaves through a near-shore swell on the Red Beach coastline on Camp Pendleton, Calif., during assault training exercise Dawn Blitz, June 3, 2010. The weeklong Navy/Marine exercise involved 4,500 sailors and Marines, seven ships, 60 amphibious assault vehicles, 16 landing craft and numerous fixed-wing and rotary aircraft.
A land­ing craft heaves through a near-shore swell on the Red Beach coast­line on Camp Pendle­ton, Calif., dur­ing assault train­ing exer­cise Dawn Blitz, June 3, 2010. The week­long Navy/Marine exer­cise involved 4,500 sailors and Marines, sev­en ships, 60 amphibi­ous assault vehi­cles, 16 land­ing craft and numer­ous fixed-wing and rotary air­craft.
U.S. Marine Corps pho­to by Don Bartlet­ti
Click to enlarge

In response to this mis­con­cep­tion, the Corps returned to its amphibi­ous roots Dec. 11 with exer­cise Bold Alli­ga­tor 2011, an oper­a­tion with the Navy’s U.S. 2nd Fleet, which re-estab­lish­es Marines in their tra­di­tion­al role as “fight­ers from the sea.”

Ini­ti­at­ed by Navy and Marine Corps lead­er­ship, Bold Alli­ga­tor 2011 is a two-part exer­cise lead­er­ship designed to reac­quaint brigade- and group-lev­el com­mands with their amphibi­ous doc­trine, tac­ti­cal skill sets and logis­ti­cal require­ments.

“Though we have focused [at this lev­el] almost exclu­sive­ly on land war­fare in Iraq and Afghanistan for the last decade, amphibi­ous oper­a­tions con­tin­ue to be the main­stay of our Corps’ mis­sion,” explained Marine Corps Col. Scott D. Aiken, oper­a­tions offi­cer for the 2nd Marine Expe­di­tionary Force. “We have been work­ing toward this for more than two years now, and it’s one of the first of many steps in the direc­tion to revi­tal­ize our core com­pe­ten­cy.”

Dur­ing these two years, plan­ners from the Marine Air-Ground Task Force Staff Train­ing Pro­gram in Quan­ti­co, Va., have been busy engi­neer­ing sce­nario-based envi­ron­ments to test the Navy/Marine Corps team on their amphibi­ous com­pe­tence and the dozens of dif­fer­ent mis­sions that fall under amphibi­ous oper­a­tions.

“Amphibi­ous oper­a­tions are much more than just assaults,” said Marine Corps Lt. Col. Bowen Rich­wine, lead action offi­cer for the expe­di­tionary force’s part in the exer­cise.

In fact, since 1990, the Navy/Marine Corps team has con­duct­ed more than 110 amphibi­ous oper­a­tions through­out the world, includ­ing non­com­bat­ant evac­u­a­tions, dis­as­ter relief or sim­i­lar cri­sis-response oper­a­tions con­duct­ed in aus­tere and uncer­tain envi­ron­ments.

“While assault is one rea­son for main­tain­ing amphibi­ous capa­bil­i­ties, the util­i­ty in con­duct­ing raids, demon­stra­tions and amphibi­ous sup­port to non­com­bat­ant oper­a­tions is immense,” Rich­wine explained. “Amphibi­ous forces also have enor­mous deter­rent val­ue against poten­tial adver­saries.”

Bold Alli­ga­tor 2011 is the first install­ment in what will be reg­u­lar­ly sched­uled large-scale amphibi­ous exer­cis­es involv­ing the 2nd Marine Expe­di­tionary Brigade and the Navy’s Expe­di­tionary Strike Group 2. Marines and sailors are con­duct­ing the exer­cise from two Navy land­ing heli­copter assault amphibi­ous ships, the USS Iwo Jima and USS Bataan, and mul­ti­ple sim­u­la­tion cen­ters that will pro­vide in-depth analy­sis of land­ing timeta­bles, weath­er con­di­tions and fires effects. The next sched­uled event for the train­ing cycle is a live exer­cise sched­uled for Feb­ru­ary.

The sce­nario for the exer­cise includes the con­duct of a forcible entry oper­a­tion to enable a non­com­bat­ant evac­u­a­tion in the midst of a vio­lent sec­tar­i­an con­flict. This com­plex, but real­is­tic, mis­sion requires the abil­i­ty to respond rapid­ly, project a cred­i­ble secu­ri­ty force ashore, and orga­nize the evac­u­a­tion of thou­sands of non­com­bat­ants.

In many cas­es, these capa­bil­i­ties can be pro­vid­ed only by amphibi­ous forces. Bold Alli­ga­tor 2011 is designed not only to retain pro­fi­cien­cy in amphibi­ous oper­a­tions for the Navy/Marine team, but also to update con­cepts, pro­ce­dures and tech­niques, and to incor­po­rate the new enablers devel­oped since the units last focused on amphibi­ous oper­a­tions at the this lev­el in 2001, offi­cials said.

“We need to con­tin­u­ous­ly refine our think­ing and our train­ing with amphibi­ous capa­bil­i­ty,” Rich­wine said. “We have the oppor­tu­ni­ty to devel­op new skill sets across the entire range of mil­i­tary oper­a­tions — from human­i­tar­i­an assis­tance to con­test­ed beach assaults, and every­thing in between.”

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)

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