“The Marine Corps will be trained and equipped as a naval expeditionary force-in-readiness and prepared to operate inside actively contested maritime spaces in support of fleet operations. In crisis prevention and crisis response, the Fleet Marine Force – acting as an extension of the Fleet – will be first on the scene, first to help, first to contain a brewing crisis, and first to fight if required to do so.”
This excerpt from the 38th Commandant’s Planning Guidance underpins the importance of 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade, II Marine Expeditionary Force’s, participation in Exercise Trident Jupiter in Bodø, Norway, from Nov. 5-14, 2019.
During the training, 2nd MEB Marines integrated U.S. Sailors from Expeditionary Strike Group 2 to deploy, employ, and redeploy a small command and control element to support Naval Striking and Support Forces NATO. The exercise assessed STRIKEFORNATO’s ability to conduct high-end, NATO-level mission planning and execution in a simulated scenario against a peer adversary.
II MEF’s increased focus on naval integration and support to the European theater began before the release of the most recent Commandant’s Planning Guidance; however, the directive added new urgency and more clearly aligned the efforts of the U.S. Marine Corps’ East Coast Marine expeditionary force.
“Refocusing on our mission as the Fleet Marine Force in support of Fleet operations ensures that the Navy-Marine Corps team remains the most lethal and effective force in a contested maritime environment across all domains.” Maj. Gen. Stephen M. Neary, commanding general, 2nd MEB, and deputy commanding general, II MEF
“II MEF must continue to pursue every opportunity to travel and train with our allies and partners in Europe, work with and increase integration with the Sailors of 2nd and 6th Fleet, and deter adversarial aggression in the region and High North.” said Maj. Gen. Neary
Exercise Trident Juncture in 2018 served as a significant example of II MEF’s renewed commitment to allies and partners in Europe, integrating with the U.S. Navy’s 2nd and 6th Fleets, and posturing to support the European combatant commander. The exercise brought together approximately 7,500 U.S. Marines and Sailors from II MEF and more than 50,000 service members from over 30 NATO allies and partners to participate in one of NATO’s largest exercises since the Cold War.
Moving forward to 2019, the Baltic Operations 19 exercise in June brought 2nd MEB and ESG 2 back to Europe in cooperation with 17 NATO allies and partners. The exercise strengthened interoperability while the MEB-ESG team commanded and controlled a multinational amphibious force. This furthered Navy-Marine Corps integration and reinforced II MEF’s European focus.
“Through Exercises Trident Juncture, to BALTOPS, and now Trident Jupiter, the MEB codified the MEB-MEF training continuum which positions II MEF to support the Marine Corps’ renewed focus on fighting as a naval expeditionary force,” said Col. Garrett L. Benson, operations officer, 2nd MEB, II MEF. “These opportunities to integrate with Expeditionary Strike Group 2 and 2nd and 6th Fleets are invaluable and will pay dividends in the future. Moving forward toward our next exercise, Maritime Prepositioning Force Exercise, we will incorporate lessons learned from our time in Norway, refine our internal processes, and reinforce our relationship with our Navy counterparts and allies.”
The upcoming Maritime Prepositioning Force Exercise serves as another opportunity for II MEF to train a rapidly deployable command element. This fly-in MEB-ESG team possesses the ability to command and control geographically disparate forces and facilitate follow-on Navy and Marine Corps deployments from across the Atlantic. As part of MPFEX, a maritime offload in Florida will again test the Navy-Marine Corps team’s ability to command and control forces from a location in the European theater.
Building on the lessons of MPFEX, and serving as an upcoming benchmark in the increased integration of Navy and Marine Corps forces, Naval Large Scale Exercise 20 will bring II MEF together with the U.S. Navy’s 2nd and 6th Fleets in May 2020. The exercise will center on improving the Navy and Marine Corps’ ability to fight as an integrated naval expeditionary force against a peer adversary. It will also explore and refine emerging naval concepts including Littoral Operations in a Contested Environment, Expeditionary Advanced Base Operations, and Distributed Maritime Operations.
“Integrating with 2nd MEB during every available training opportunity allows our Navy-Marine Corps team to share knowledge, familiarize ourselves with differing processes and procedures, and increase our ability to effectively fight together as a naval expeditionary force,” said Capt. Ethan M. Rule, operations officer, ESG 2. “As the future security environment in the High North changes and 2nd Fleet continues to expand its operational relevance, providing the most capable force in support of our allies and partners reassures and strengthens enduring regional bonds.”
As stated in the Commandant’s Planning Guidance, “II MEF will undergo substantial changes to better align with the needs of Commanders of 2nd and 6th Fleets,” and it continues to posture to achieve success. Whether realigning to its role in Europe, preparing for major combat operations as an integrated naval force, or building on relationships with regional allies and partners, II MEF embraces the challenge.
“The Marine Corps of the future must evolve to operate inside the weapon engagement zone as a distributed maritime force partnered with the Navy and capable of presenting our adversaries with numerous operational dilemmas,” said Neary. “During our upcoming training events such as MPFEX and NLSE, II MEF will shape the lethality of our force, improve our integration with 2nd and 6th Fleets, and demonstrate to our European partners and allies that the Navy-Marine Corps team remains prepared to support and defend our mutual values.”