New life spawns at the ARG/MEU workshop

16 Mar 2001 | Cpl. Thomas Michael Corcoran

Two different organisms, lichen and algae, often live together in a mutually beneficial relationship when they form moss. This type of symbiotic relationship is what the Navy's Amphibious Squadron 8 (PHIBRON 8) and the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (26 MEU) began at a week-long Amphibious Ready Group/ MEU workshop (ARG/MEU) aboard the Little Creek Amphibious Naval Base March 12-16, 2001. If PHIBRON 8 and 26 MEU hope to be able to form their own kind of moss, an Amphibious Ready Group (ARG), than this kind of intimate working-relationship will be a critical feature of that success. According to Major Larry Clayton, Expeditionary Warfare Training Group Atlantic's ARG/MEU workshop coordinator, teamwork is key. "Marines and Sailors must bring a willingness to learn and endurance for this workshop," said Sgt. Mark R. Elvin, 26th MEU operations' plans chief. "Endurance is just as important as patience in this evolution because of the long hours involved." In addition to developing a cohesive team,"The key focus of the workshop is learning the rapid response planning process (R2P2) and going through various Marine Corps staff planning exercises," said Clayton. Elvin, a workshop veteran, said it is essential that the group fully understand the R2P2 process now so as to afford a smooth transition to detailed planning time when it is used in real-world missions. "There's a ton of information out there and everyone has their own specialty. They need to know what information they'll need and specifically where to get it to save time, " said Elvin. "Time is a critical factor for us in this process." Clayton explained that the six-step process is designed to facilitate a task force being able to launch from the Amphibious Ready Group within six hours after receiving a mission. The PHIBRON must understand the mission of MEU and vice versa if the two are expected to work as a team, said Lt. Cmdr. Michael W. Ahlgrim, Tactical Training Group Atlantic amphibious warfare instructor. He said that one of the Navy's principal concerns is ensuring that Marines get ashore safely. That requires seamless communication between the MEU and the PHIBRON, said Ahlgrim. "This workshop really affords us the opportunity for us on the 'Green side (Marine Corps),' to work with our counterparts to refine our integration," said Maj. Dan D. Yoo, 26th MEU operations officer. "Everything we do (as Marines) requires coordination with our Navy counterparts." Yoo said the workshop is giving each side of the team an understanding of each others' limitations and capabilities. "It gives us level ground to see not only where we are but where everyone else is," said Lt. Col. Kenneth S. Fischler, executive officer of the MEU's aviation arm, Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron- 365 (HMM-365). Fischler said he has seen the workshop evolve from very few classes and a lot of time working situational training exercises to the addition of focus groups and additional training from outside agencies. The workshop now features guest speakers ranging from an Army general to a former United States ambassador. "We have a much better product now," said Fischler. However, many are still new to the workshop and even the R2P2 process. "I'm a newbee," said CWO-3 Phillip W. Horne, 26th MEU nuclear biological chemical officer. "I'm so new to the process that I don't even know what I don't know. But like any new endeavor, you have to start somewhere." "This is the first stage of a long process; we start here by bringing the MEU and the PHIBRON staff together to begin building those relationships that'll carry them out and safely home again," said Clayton. This training lays the foundation for other exercises the MEU and PHIBRON will do together, said Clayton. These exercises will allow Marines and Sailors to address important issues prior to deploying."Basically, they should leave here having enjoyed a spirit of cooperation as well as a working knowledge of the requirements each other is faced with," said Clayton. Much like the natural phenomena that brings two entirely different organisms together to sustain each other in a mutually beneficial habitat, such as the formation of moss, these two teams are rapidly melding together to form a new life form, an Amphibious Ready Group.