OKINAWA, Japan -- Marine Aircraft Group 36 demonstrated its capability to support Expeditionary Advanced Bases in a distributed maritime environment across Okinawa, Japan from Oct. 4, to Oct. 8, 2021, during Kamandag 5 North (KD5N). This served as the culminating event of the III Marine Expeditionary Force, Unit Deployment Program squadron exercise continuum, which integrates various elements of III MEF and conducts experimentation of emerging concepts while enabling III MEF to train together for standing operational requirements.
KD5N was supported by over 1,500 personnel from 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, 3d Marine Logistics Group, 3d Marine Division, the U.S. Air Force 18th Wing, and Amphibious Squadron (PHIBRON) 11. The event also sponsored site visits from both the Japanese Air Self Defense Force’s Southwestern Air Defense Force HQs Defense Division and the Japanese Ground Self Defense Force’s 15th Brigade’s 15th Helicopter Unit.
“KD5N was extremely valuable because it allowed the MEF to further refine Expeditionary Advanced Base TTPs [tactics, techniques and procedures] established in the previous IWX [Indo-Pacific Warfighting Exercise], and it provided the opportunity to experiment with and provide feedback to MLR [Marine Littoral Regiment] C2 [Command and Control] structure and task organization,” said Maj. Gil McMillan, a UH-1Y Venom pilot and the lead planner for this exercise. “This training offered a vital opportunity to practice and develop EAB concepts across the MEF with elements of the Division, the Wing, and MLG operating against a peer adversary. We were able to establish a repeatable training assessment framework that can be applied across III MEF in the future.”
KD5N featured the seizure and defense of a contested EAB by a Ground Combat Element via insertion of 3d Marine Division personnel. Once the GCE’s actions on the objective were complete, an intermediate H-1 fires EAB was established by Marine Wing Support Squadron 172 who set up a Forward Arming and Refueling Point from an airstrip on Ie Shima Island while simultaneously training Airmen from the 18th Wing on FARP operations. This EAB acted as a recovery and replenishment location as well as a launch point for long-range missions and a notional node for the “leap-frogging EABs” concept.
Once the FARP was established and operational, Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 169 (HMLA-169) conducted Close Air Support and Maritime Interdiction Operations for multiple days utilizing the EAB as the main rearming and refueling location.
“One of the most important aspects of this exercise was signature management in an austere environment,” added McMillan. “All elements of the exercise focused on the ability to provide the MWSS and ground combat element the ability to mask their locations and practice mobile, low signature, command and control capabilities.”
To provide immediate and conflicting tasking during the exercise, Combat Logistics Regiment 3, Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 262, and PHIBRON 11 conducted a large-scale simulated casualty movement to test their proficiency at treating and evacuating wounded personnel.
“Integration with our Japanese Self Defense Force partners and the joint force was also a vital component to this exercise,” said Col. Christopher Murray, Commanding Officer of MAG-36. “We invited our JSDF counterparts to observe the exercise and were able to continue building a great relationship with the Japanese. The exercise also featured all the squadrons of MAG-36, elements of 3d Marine Division, a Combat Logistics Regiment from 3d Marine Logistics Group, and elements from the Navy. We were even able to teach U.S. Air Force Airmen how to fuel our aircraft utilizing expeditionary systems.”
KD5N showcased the ability of the entire MEF to operate together while highlighting the EAB operational capabilities provided by Air Combat Element assets in the Indo-Pacific theatre; demonstrating 1st MAW and III MEF commitment to maintaining a high state of readiness in order to “Fight Now” in support of a free and open Indo-Pacific.