U.S. Navy delivering humanitarian supplies ashore in Colombia. (Pic: Paul McLeary)
With the Marine Corps leadership itching to get “expeditionary” again and start placing their Marines back on U.S. Naval vessels after a decade fighting in the deserts of Iraq and Afghanistan, the sea services are starting from square one.
On December 11, the Navy and Marine Corps kicked off Bold Alligator, a simulation that marks the largest joint fleet simulated amphibious exercise in the last 10 years. Brig. Gen. Christopher S. Owens of the II Marine Expeditionary Force, the Marine component of Exercise Bold Alligator, said in a conference call last week that while it's the first brigade-level amphibious exercise in quite some time, “it's also a first step in our revitalization of our amphibious proficiency with larger or brigade-size units” after a decade of kicking sand.
The synthetic exercise—a real, physical exercise is planned for 2012—will be run out of Norfolk from two amphibious assault ships, the USS Bataan and USS Iwo Jima, and will simulate a “hybrid threat environment where U.S. forces have been requested by friendly nations to help bring a measure of security and stability to the area,” Owens said. “With one nation, we'll support their fight against an externally-supported insurgency and repel foreign invaders from within their borders; at the same time, in a neighboring country, we will likely conduct a noncombatant evacuation operation of U.S. citizens in the midst of sectarian violence that is related to the more conventional conflict next door.”
It’s a complicated task, and one that Owens says is structured to refine the ability of the Navy and Marines to conduct seabasing operations, forcible-entry operations, and command-and-control, “as well as explore a growing issue of antiaccess/area-denial operations.” Rear Admiral Kevin Scott, who will command Naval forces as commander, Expeditionary Strike Group Two, said that the simulation will have over 29 participating commands with eight ships and fourteen different units operating out of seven training centers.
In calls with journalists neither Owens nor Scott would comment on the specific gear that will be gamed out in the exercise, so we don’t know if the Corps’ V-22 Osprey or the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle are slated to have a role in the game.