A team of U.S. Marines with 3rd Marine Logistics Group conducted a Maritime Prepositioning Force exercise in Apra Port to improve their readiness, test operational concepts and prepare for upcoming exercises. Marines executed MPF offload and onload training from Feb. 24 to 29, 2020.
“MPF operations allow the Marine Corps to preposition assets for U.S. Marine Corps units anywhere in the world,” said Sgt. Jacob Thomas, a Marine Air-Ground Task Force Offload Liaison Team member based out of Okinawa, Japan. The MPF allows us to quickly support units such as III Marine Expeditionary Force, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit and 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade in times of crisis.
The MPF is forward deployed to certain parts of the world, depending on the Military Intervention by Powerful States. Their strategic locations ensure they are ready to respond at a moment’s notice, Thomas went on to say.
Guam presented the Marines many challenges like the port’s size, amount of time allowed in port and weather. During the exercise, it was sunny one moment and a few minutes later it was downpouring. The weather the Marines experienced during the exercise is consistent with tropical islands in the Indo-Pacific and conditions the Marines to operate ‘in any clime and place’.
“The partial offload of the Dahl at Naval Base Guam’s Apra Port allowed both the Navy and Marine Corps to register shortfalls for future utilization of the port for Large, Medium-Speed Roll-on/Roll-off MPF ships.” Col. Travis Gaines, CLR-3 Commander
“Guam is very close to Okinawa,” said Thomas. “The USNS Dahl is the largest MPF ship in the fleet. No one knew if the ports here could support an MPF offload and establish the necessary capabilities and requirements. Being able to offload troops and equipment here validates that we are able to resupply our troops in the Indo-Pacific with equipment and supplies if a contingency happens in any of the contested areas in this geographical location.”
For most of the Marines, the Guam exercise was their first experience with an MPF operation. Since the exercise was designed for training, the Marines had more time to stop and ask questions, process thoughts and practice their problem solving. The learning environment created confidence by increasing job familiarity and technical efficiency.
“My Marines are learning how their role plays into accomplishing a successful MPF offload, they quickly learn where most of the friction points are. For example, the Marines are taught where to efficiently place ground guides, learn how to lash all sorts of vehicles and gain confidence in their driving skills in very tight spaces,” said Sgt. Moises Labra, a Platoon Sgt. with Combat Logistics Regiment 3.
The knowledge and experience gained by the Marines during the MPF exercise will further increase the efficiency and effectiveness needed to support the III MEF in the Indo-Pacific region. The improved understanding and skill level also allow Marines to advance MPF concepts and capabilities.
In addition to personnel training, the exercise validated CLR-3’s ability to offload equipment in Guam. It also prepared the Marines for future exercises where they will be practicing their ability to mobilize communication, equipment and weaponry in order to support small, distributed units that are able operate in austere, forward locations.
“The partial offload of the Dahl at Naval Base Guam’s Apra Port allowed both the Navy and Marine Corps to register shortfalls for future utilization of the port for Large, Medium-Speed Roll-on/Roll-off MPF ships,” said Col. Travis Gaines, CLR-3 Commander. “This was the first time the Dahl has been pier side at Apra Port.”
Through expert planning, organization and execution, Marines can quickly offload necessary equipment, such as an expeditionary airfield, to establish small, temporary bases for the Marines to operate out of.
The impact of MPF extends further than the military and goes vastly unnoticed. The capability and protection that forward deployment provides is crucial for staying ahead of our adversaries.
“MPF, this capability is one of the most important in the United States,” said Thomas. “Very few other countries have this capability, a lot of people talk about America being one of the few countries having aircraft carriers, well no one ever talks about having an MPF. No one ever talks about what this capability brings to the United States. This capability is so large and so robust that one MIPS run can support 15,000 Marines for 30 days of sustained combat operations. It is one of the only, if not the only, kind in the world.”