CAMP HANSEN, Okinawa --
CAMP HANSEN, Okinawa – Over the course of a recent deployment, the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) and America Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) enhanced interoperability between the Navy-Marine Corps team, challenging old patterns and finding new ways to integrate capabilities.
MEUs regularly embark, train and deploy on Navy vessels in order to be prepared to respond to crisis anywhere in the world. Although Marine Corps Units regularly deploy with the Navy, there are challenges associated with bringing together personnel from multiple units across two military branches. The 31st MEU and America ARG are constantly striving to improve Navy-Marine Corps integration because this teamwork is critical to mission success.
In order to bridge the gap, integration between the Blue and Green teams began at the lowest level, with cross training Marines and Sailors in professional military education. Over the course of the recent deployment, eight Sailors completed Corporal’s Course alongside their Marine Corps counterparts aboard USS America (LHA 6). Concurrently, five Marines from Combat Logistics Battalion (CLB) 31 worked through the process of earning the Enlisted Surface Warfare Specialist (ESWS) qualification aboard USS Germantown (LSD 42), enhancing their understanding of how the surface Navy functions.
Cpl. Samuel Romoquezada, a landing support specialist with CLB-31, completed the ESWS qualification as well as Corporal’s Course with Sailors aboard LSD 42. He remarked, “I respect the Navy's jobs more as a result of the training; each Sailor plays a part on the ship every day, 24/7.” About Blue side participation in Corporal’s Course, he said, "It was great to see how they integrated with us and learned our traditions, such as sword and guidon manual."
Beyond educating junior servicemembers, an equally critical step to building a well-integrated team was bringing the right members into the conversation during day to day operations before entering the mission planning process.
One group that worked particularly closely together was the intelligence section. After working with Navy counterparts over the course of the deployment, Capt. Jesse Schmidt, the 31st MEU collections officer, remarked, “The ability of the USS America’s intelligence team to bring strategic level reporting to us was invaluable. They are a tremendous resource for us as Marines because they provide context to a lot of the situations and events we otherwise wouldn’t fully appreciate. I’m proud to serve alongside them, because I know they make me and the Intel team better every day we work with them.”
By ensuring that Navy and Marine Corps representatives from all levels of leadership were involved in decision-making, the ARG-MEU team was able to identify creative solutions to potential shortfalls as well as source assets that could better achieve mission success. This combined approach to planning paid off early in the deployment, during visit, board, search and seizure rehearsals, where the MEU opted to insert an assault force from Navy MH-60S helicopters with Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 25 instead of relying solely on Marine Corps air assets.
“Throughout the underway period, HSC-25 went above and beyond with their involvement in the MEU’s training missions. Having personally known many of the HSC-25 pilots from flight school, it was nice to catch up and learn a bit more about each other’s platforms,” said Capt. Peter LaMoe, an MV-22B Osprey pilot with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 262 (Reinforced), 31st MEU. “Integrating with the ship’s Air Department and MH-60S detachment is something that is unique to the MEU and serves as a great opportunity to build creative thinking into mission planning,” said LaMoe.
Navy and Marine Corps planners also identified the possibility of inserting reconnaissance and surveillance teams via the ARG’s rigid-hull, inflatable boats (RHIB) instead of relying solely on the combat rubber raiding craft (CRRC). RHIBs provided the Amphibious Reconnaissance Platoon (ARP) with a faster and steadier option for inserting the teams at a lower footprint, allowing them to conduct missions with less risk even in a higher sea state.
“Blue - Green integration is absolutely essential for the future of our joint force," said Capt. Rich LeBron, commander of Amphibious Squadron 11. “We're talking about our future Battle Force bringing a higher concentration of effective firepower to our adversaries' doorsteps, while keeping the team fit to ‘Fight and Deliver’. Anything we can do to improve our mutual capability, capacity, and lethality now will enable us to stay ahead of our adversaries, move forward as we build and galvanize partnerships, deter conflict, and if necessary defeat our foes in the Indo-Pacific region."
Blue-green integration extended beyond mission planning and execution. By bringing Navy and Marine counterparts together to plan early on in the deployment, the ARG-MEU team was able to identify better solutions to problems than they would have been able to as two separate units. While the Navy’s capabilities augmented and improved Marine Corps mission execution, the green side Combat Logistics Battalion (CLB) 31 was able to expedite maintenance for the blue side by utilizing 3D printing technology.
When the MEU embarks with the ARG, the Marines take on the role of the Landing Force, while the Navy fills the role of the Amphibious Task Force. Each are responsible for different portions of mission planning but must be in synch with one another in order to achieve mission success. The Landing Force must rely on the Amphibious Task Force to ensure that they can arrive in the right place, at the right time, with the right assets, in order to execute any tasking. The Amphibious Task Force supports from the sea while relying on the landing force to project power ashore and to seize key maritime terrain in support of fleet maneuver.
“When it comes to naval integration, the Commandant of the Marine Corps has determined that the time for deliberation is over; now is the time for action,” said Col. Michael Nakonieczny, commanding officer of the 31st MEU; “I have been nothing short of impressed by the commitment and dedication displayed by the Sailors of the America ARG and their leadership. As the Landing Force, the MEU is reliant on our relationship with the ARG, and they have continually proven their critical worth to us as well as their willingness to sacrifice for the sake of the mission. The Blue - Green team is one in, all in.”
Integration among the Navy-Marine Corps team is both an art and a science- one that the 31st MEU and America ARG are committed to mastering. In order to remain ready and lethal while operating in a more distributed domain, both commands recognize that fully integrating the Blue - Green team is more than just a good idea; it’s a necessity.
The 31st MEU, the Marine Corps’ only continuously forward-deployed MEU, provides a flexible and lethal force ready to perform a wide range of military operations as the premier crisis response force in the Indo-Pacific region.