CAMP COURTNEY, Okinawa, Japan – Marines with 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade conducted an exercise that tested their ability to rapidly mobilize and validate command and control techniques during a crisis scenario in the Indo-Pacific region, June 30, 2021.
The exercise, known as an Alert Contingency Marine Air-Ground Task Force Exercise (ACMEX), consisted of rapidly mobilizing a Forward Command Element which was supplemented by scalable follow-on forces from across III MEF in a simulated mission.
The ACM drill prepared the MEB personnel to better understand actions required to move quickly to save lives, mitigate suffering and counter potential threats to the U.S. national interests. 3rd MEB conducted the exercise as a no-notice, integrated, rapid-response event to demonstrate ability to respond to crisis, to assist in maintaining regional stability as required and to assure allies and partners of U.S. resolve. 3rd MEB is postured advantageously within the region to provide an agile, standing headquarters or Joint Task Force that can support operations that span the competition continuum from cooperation, to contingency and armed conflict.
The MEB staff and augments received briefs and participated in command and control, integrated logistics, synchronization of fires and effects, and battle rhythm working groups and discussions to enhance their warfighting mindset and preparedness. They also integrated critical advanced warfighting technologies and capabilities in order to enhance response command and control.
“As III Marine Expeditionary Force’s “fire brigade,” 3rd MEB prepares to rapidly deploy anywhere in the Indo-Pacific region to support allies and partners,” said Lt. Col. Tavis McNair, fires and effects coordinator, 3rd MEB.
While there are many other organizations that could respond to humanitarian or international crises, U.S. military forces are called to support the U.S. Agency for International Development when unique capabilities are needed to cover a gap in host nation response efforts, such as aviation assets or logistics expertise.
“The U.S. military and the Marine Corps are postured to perform well within the USINDOPACOM AOR and have specific skill sets, such as rapidly responding and coordinating unique movement capabilities within a disaster response situation,” stated Maj. Alex Butta, 3rd MEB future operations planner. “It’s important to be ready constantly. We are holding this ACM exercise to bring our team together and facilitate a discussion about the situations faced in a response, discuss what the ACM is all about and how each team member plays an intricate role in its employment. Crisis could come in multiple forms; some have indications and warnings, and some do not. That is why it is critical each team member maintain a constant state of readiness and level of resiliency.”
“During the drill, Marines validated the ability to physically contact and recall assigned personnel. There are different levels to each drill, and some include the Marines rehearsing ground movements and embarking on an aircraft. The program is intended as a building block approach to ensure personnel are prepared to respond effectively, while continuously refining capability and capacity as we gain and lose teammates due to personnel turnover,” said Butta.
In addition to preparing as a cohesive unit for deployment, the Marines also worked with the U.S. Army’s 5th Security Force Assistance Brigade during the drill, connecting with them virtually from Okinawa to their home base in Washington State. The unit provides specialized personnel to assist with advisory missions in overseas environments. The SFAB could deploy with the MEB depending on the assigned mission.
“The SFAB is a modular force comprised of functional teams designed to strengthen strategic relationships through partnered training while maintaining a consistent presence forward in the Indo-Pacific,” explained U.S. Army Maj. William Leasure, the public affairs officer with 5th SFAB.
“We must ensure that we are moving the right people and the right things to the right place for the right purpose,” said Butta. “The ACM is designed to be tailored to the situation based on a number of factors. Crisis action planning occurs simultaneously with rapidly deploying, and to ensure mission success we incorporate the most up-to-date information received from our FCE.”
Many Marines with 3rd MEB expressed excitement about the mission of the 3rd MEB, and say they are ready to train and respond to events in the Indo-Pacific region.
“There’s always a reason to support, train or prepare for this, because it is real,” said Mr. Gonzalo Vasquez, 3rd MEB mission assurance analyst and retired Sgt. Major, who briefed the team about experiences in crisis situations. “The call will come and at the end you are not just serving 3rd MEB, III MEF or even USINDOPACOM. You are serving the United States of America and her allies and partners in the region, including Japan, the Philippines, South Korea, Australia, and many others. What you do matters on the global stage.”
3rd MEB remains a resilient, ready and relevant warfighting organization to enable joint operational success, support strategic power projection, and deliver decisive combat power across all domains and warfighting functions to increase the III MEF and Joint Force commander’s advantage. 3rd MEB is a “fight now” force, forward-deployed and forward-postured, always ready to rapidly deploy throughout the region.