YOKOSUKA, Japan -- For decades, the U.S. Navy and U.S. Marine Corps have worked to integrate, operate, and synchronize their efforts in the Indo-Pacific region. U.S. 7th Fleet and III Marine Expeditionary Force (III MEF) have joined forces in execution of numerous operations, focused on enhancing the capabilities of the Blue/Green Team.
“The relationship with the Marine Corps has been our number one priority over the last two years,” said Commander, U.S. 7th Fleet, Vice Adm. Bill Merz. “Lt. Gen. Clardy and I have achieved the needed level of integration to force-multiply our effectiveness going forward. It feels very good to once again be an operational ‘Naval’ team.”
7th Fleet Staff has met with III MEF leadership aboard the 7th Fleet flagship, USS Blue Ridge (LCC 19), and at Camp Courtney, Okinawa, on four occasions since 2020 – with more forums slated for the future – to discuss interoperability and cohesiveness between the Navy and Marine Corps. USS Blue Ridge (LCC 19) has also hosted Marines from III MEF to participate in staff functions, such as the liaison exchange program, judge advocate meetings, and dynamic training evolutions.
“This has been exciting to watch over the last two years,” said Col. John Lehane, Fleet Marine officer for the 7th Fleet Staff. “I can’t think of a more important team than the Navy and Marine Corps; naval forces that are uniquely capable of operating from highly-mobile expeditionary bases and at sea, and are capable of projecting power in a manner that is absolutely unique within the joint force. The 7th Fleet and III MEF operate across all the joint domains by our very nature, and can rapidly bring to bear and sustain credible combat power throughout those domains.”
In 2021, 7th Fleet and III MEF forces operated together in III MEF Exercise 21, Noble Fury 21, 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit and Makin Island Amphibious Readiness Group flight-training operations, combat rudder raiding craft embarkation aboard USS Ohio (SSGN 726), Expeditionary Advanced Base Operations during Poseidon’s Watchtower 21, and more.
“The objective and benefit of III MEF’s ongoing efforts to more effectively integrate with 7th Fleet is the creation of more options for INDOPACOM and dilemmas for potential adversaries,” said Lt. Gen. H. Stacy Clardy, III MEF commanding general. “Integrated operating concepts, capabilities, doctrine, personnel assignments, education and training will ensure the III MEF/7th Fleet team is prepared to respond or fight anywhere in the region—whether contested or not. ”
In-line with the Tri-Service Maritime Strategy, the 7th Fleet and III MEF efforts are ongoing to provide flexible, forward-postured and quick response options to regional commanders, and the National Defense Strategy, which requires shifting from traditional power projection to meeting the new challenges associated with maintaining a persistent forward presence.
III MEF is a forward-deployed, expeditionary air-ground logistics team of approximately 27,000 Marines, capable of military operations ranging from sea denial and maritime operations in support of the fleet, major combat operations to humanitarian aid, and crisis response.
Under Commander, U. S. Pacific Fleet, 7th Fleet is the U.S. Navy's largest forward-deployed numbered fleet, and routinely interacts and operates with 35 maritime nations in preserving a free and open Indo-Pacific region.