POHANG, South Korea --
Approximately 130 Marines and Sailors of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit’s Command Element established a command operations center ashore in support of their role for Exercise Ssang Yong here, April 2.
The 31st MEU’s CE took command of the 13th MEUs Battalion Landing Team and numerous other ground combat elements on March 31 to form Regimental Landing Team 31, the ground combat element of the 3d Marine Expeditionary Brigade. Taking command of all MEB grounds forces made disembarking the ships of the Bonhomme Richard Ready Group necessary.
“We are the landing force for the MEB in this scenario, so we have to be ashore,” said Col. John E. Merna, commanding officer of RLT-31, 3d MEB, and a native of Prince Georges County, Md. “It’s important for us to quickly and efficiently integrate these additional units so that we can accomplish the tasks and purpose of the 3d MEB.”
Moving the command and control from ship to shore helps the landing team continue forward momentum, introduce follow-on forces, and allows the RLT-31 commander to make decisions closer to the fight. Control from the ships is ideal for raids with planned withdrawals, but prolonged engagements on land call for a land-based command.
“It’s better to be at the point of friction and see the battlefield develop,” said Master Gunnery Sgt. William W. Harris, the operations chief for RLT-31 and a native of Stratford, Conn. “You can see how the equipment, logistics and everything else come together.”
The land-based command operations center also provides advantages in communication for RLT-31. The unit provides high-speed internet access, tactical chat, long and short distance radio, and satellite communication to all of its subordinate commands.
All of these communication assets are available aboard ship, but are limited by space and shared requirements with their Navy brethren. With open terrain on the shore, the Marines gain valued flexibility in building multiple networks.
“Our Navy brothers can provide the same quality communication, but on the shore we can set up more of our equipment,” said 1st Lt. Richard G. Sykes, communications platoon commander for the CE, RLT-31, and a native of St. Louis, Mo. “We are only limited by the amount of equipment we have.”
The RLT-31 command operations center uses its capabilities and proximity to coordinate the actions of several subordinate combat units during the week-long bilateral training exercise. The subordinate units are: Battalion Landing Teams 2nd Battalion, 5th Marines; 1st Battalion, 4th Marines; 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marines; as well as elements of 1st Tank Battalion, 4th Tank Battalion, 3rd Law Enforcement Battalion and 3rd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion.
Ssang Yong 2014 demonstrates the Navy and Marine Corps’ responsive amphibious and expeditionary capabilities from the sea. Forward-deployed Marine forces, in conjunction with allies, have the unique ability to provide rapid force deployment for the full range of military operations, specifically in the Pacific region.