Atlantic Ocean --
U.S. Marines and Sailors of the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (26 MEU), embarked aboard the three ships of the Bataan Amphibious Ready Group (BAT ARG), successfully completed ARG/MEU exercise (AMX). During AMX, the 26th MEU successfully achieved C5ISR capabilities, capacities, and battlestaff competencies across MEU Mission Essential Tasks (METs), to include the ability to integrate with elements of Naval Special Warfare and NATO partners, from distributed locations within the littorals of eastern North Carolina, Virginia, South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida, April 13 to May 3, 2023.
Assessors and evaluators from Carrier Strike Group Four (CSG 4) and II Marine Expeditionary Force Expeditionary Operations Training Group (II MEF, EOTG), responsible for exercise design and control, established a realistic threat-based scenario reflective of the Sixth Fleet and Fifth Fleet areas of operations enabling the BAT ARG / 26 MEU the ability to hone warfighting readiness and increase lethality. AMX is the sixth of seven large scale pre-deployment events within the 26 MEU pre-deployment training continuum that ensures the 26th MEU properly task-organized and capable of executing all MEU Marine Air-Ground Task Force (MAGTF) METs prior to the final Composite Unit pre-deployment training exercise (COMPTUEX).
Within a realistic threat-based scenario, AMX provided an opportunity for the 26th MEU to replicate MAGTF operations on-land and from-the-sea including Maritime Interdiction Operations (MIO), Defense of the Amphibious Task Force (DATF), Expeditionary Advanced Based Operations (EABO), Visit Board Search and Seizure (VBSS), multiple live-fire raids, information operations (IO), strikes, long-range reconnaissance, focused collection operations and operational preparation of the environment, an Embassy/Consulate reinforcement with a security force (SECFOR), to the rapid deployment of the 26th MEU Forward Command Element (FCE) led by the 26 MEU Executive Officer, Lt. Col. Josef Wiese in order to liaise with several Department of State representatives, a non-combatant evacuation operation (NEO), and culminating with a dynamic amphibious assault to seize key terrain in preparation for follow-on operations associated with the scenario. In addition to these core MAGTF mission sets, the 26th MEU demonstrated the ability to conduct rapid planning and contingency operations by serving as the “Treasure Coast” theater TRAP (Tactical Recovery of Aircraft and Personnel) force and standing missions requiring a Quick Reaction Force (QRF) supporting other forces within the scenario. More so, this exercise provided another opportunity for the 26th MEU to codify common tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs) and standard operating procedures (SOP) with the BAT ARG and SOF elements supporting the exercise.
AMX provided another opportunity for the 26th MEU to exercise enhanced interoperability with East-coast-based Naval Special Warfare units strengthening the habitual relationship between the 26th MEU and Naval and Marine Corps Special Operations Forces and building upon the MEU/SOF integrated lessons learned throughout the entire MEU pre-deployment training program. Elements of the 26th MEU’s Maritime Special Purpose Force completed an advanced MEU/SOF integrated raid course during the first week of AMX, enhancing MEU/SOF-I3 and serving as a culminating event to finalize MEU/SOF tactics, techniques, and procedures and standard operating procedures. The MEU/SOF integrated training continued throughout AMX and provided a more realistic training environment. More so, the integration and partnership between the 26th MEU and SOF throughout the pre-deployment training “work-ups” has enhanced the overall training for small unit training across each element of the MAGTF.
“We have a habitual relationship with East-coast-based Naval Special Warfare units. They truly have integrated into the 26th MEU and are a part of the Team. The MEU is a natural partner for NSW and MARSOC units. During AMX, we were fully integrated and operating as one force on the objective.” added Maj. Michael Lowery, Commanding Officer of 26th MEU MSPF. “We have ability to integrate with, complement, and set conditions for SOF and our partners and allies in the region. We used AMX as another opportunity to strengthen our robust SOF-I3 design through the execution of multiple direct actions during advanced MEU/SOF advanced raid training in Fort Story, followed by two full-mission profile MEU/SOF direct action raids against a live aggressor force during AMX,” Lowery concluded.
“A forward-deployed Marine Expeditionary Unit is [truly] the natural partner for Naval Special Warfare, Marine Special Operations Teams, and other [U.S. or Allied] Special Operations Forces,” added Col. Dennis Sampson, Commanding Officer of the 26th MEU. “AMX provided the 26th MEU with a great opportunity to showcase the relevance, flexibility, and all-domain operational capability the ARG/MEU Team provides a Geographic Combatant Commander, Fleet Commander, or Joint Special Operations Task Force Commander. AMX also highlighted the importance of having a forward-deployed MEU, embarked aboard Navy amphibious ships. The MEU MAGTF, when combined with the Amphibious Ready Group, is the nation’s premier crisis response force capable of responding across the full spectrum of military operations and capable of exploiting the asymmetric advantages the sea provides as maneuver space over our potential adversaries” Sampson concluded.
During AMX, the Navy-Marine Corps team successfully completed their first integrated live-fire exercise (ILFE), demonstrating the firepower and flexible response options the ARG/MEU team has for offensive and defensive operations within the littorals. Lt. Cdr. Jesse Packard, Operations Officer, Amphibious Squadron 8 stated, “The live-fire event demonstrates the Navy and Marine Corps team’s ability to defend the amphibious task force and engage the adversary using combined arms fires. During ILFE, the BAT ARG / 26 MEU integrated all three ships, UH-1Ys, AH-1s, MH-60s from Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 26, and other ground elements of the 26th MEU. Moreover, the ship’s force enhanced the capabilities of the BAT ARG to defend themselves against an asymmetrical threat,” Packard said.
Lastly, AMX culminated with an amphibious assault under the direction of STRIKFORNATO to strengthen relationships prior to the BAT ARG / 26 MEU’s deployment to the Tri-COCOM area of operations – EUCOM, AFRICOM, and CENTCOM. “We’re certainly looking for opportunities to integrate and work with our allies and partners, here at home but more importantly when we are forward-deployed,” said Sampson, “AMX provided our Team with an opportunity to work with STRIKFORNATO, ultimately setting conditions for our success during our upcoming deployment.”
The 26th MEU serves as one of the Nation’s premier rapid response forces capable of conducting amphibious operations, crisis response, and limited contingency operations, to include enabling the introduction of follow-on forces and designated special operations, in support of theater requirements of the Geographic Combatant Commander. Coupled with the BAT ARG, the 26th MEU serves as a premier stand-in force with a breadth of all domain capabilities to operate persistently within the littorals or within the weapons engagement zone of an adversary.
For more than 50 years, the 26th MEU has provided Geographic Combatant Commanders with a highly adaptive, potent, rapid response force capable of conducting missions across the full spectrum of military operations – its performance over the years has marked the 26th MEU as “A Certain Force in an Uncertain World.”