SOUTH CHINA SEA -- Leaders and staff from U.S. 7th Fleet and III Marine Expeditionary Force (MEF) met at sea to discuss naval integration aboard 7th Fleet flagship USS Blue Ridge (LCC 19).
The focus of naval integration is to ensure the Navy and Marine Corps are aligned with the National Defense Strategy, which requires shifting from traditional power projection to meeting the new challenges associated with maintaining a persistent naval forward presence.
This was the second time the Marines and Sailors have met since the Commandant of the Marine Corps published his planning guidance and the Chief of Naval Operations published FRAGO 01/2019 – both documents seek to bring the two Services closer together. The forum on USS Blue Ridge allowed 7th Fleet and III MEF staff principles to receive guidance from the commander and commanding general and participate in a series of working groups to think through the practical aspects of integration.
“We can’t integrate for the sake of integrating. Whatever we do has to makes sense and has to make us better,” said Lt. Gen. Stacy Clardy, III MEF Commanding General.
Through the working groups and the culminating staff exercise, the two staffs identified many ways the Force and the Fleet can be better aligned from concepts and exercises to processes and systems.
“We have shown throughout history that the sum is greater than our individual parts. The Navy team is at its best when integrated with the Marine Corps Team,” said U.S. 7th Fleet Commander, Vice Adm. Bill Merz.
7th Fleet serves with III MEF to execute missions that enable maritime superiority through effective command and control, prosecution of naval fires, operational maneuvers, and maintaining relationships with allies and partners in the region.
“Everything we do in the Indo-Pacific area of operations supports the singular goal of promoting security and stability across a free and open Indo-Pacific,” said Merz and Clardy.
III MEF is a forward-deployed, expeditionary air-ground-logistics team of approximately 27,000 Marines, capable of military operations ranging from major combat operations to humanitarian aid and crisis response.
U.S. 7th Fleet provides security alongside allies and partners throughout a free and open Indo-Pacific. As the U.S. Navy's largest forward-deployed fleet, 7th Fleet operates roughly 50-70 ships and submarines and 140 aircraft with approximately 20,000 Sailors.