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NEWS | Dec. 10, 2021

Marines with 9th, 7th Engineer Support Battalion Complete Interoperability Exercise

By U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Hailey Clay/Released

CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. --Marines from both I and III Marine Expeditionary Force conducted a littoral mobility exercise to test new technology and tactics with a focus on mine countermeasure and engineer reconnaissance from shallow water to the objective, November 1-19, 2021.

During the exercise, unique elements from both 9th Engineer Support Battalion, 3d Marine Logistics Group, and 7th ESB, 1st MLG, refined their tactics to support naval persistence from very shallow water to the objective ashore.

9th ESB’s Littoral Engineer Reconnaissance Team, recently formed in August 2021, is trained to employ personnel and unmanned systems to identify, update, and confirm or deny suitable beach landing sites for follow-on forces ashore. However, once man-made or natural obstacles are identified, the LERT turns the fight over to the Littoral Explosive Ordnance Neutralization platoon or Naval Mine Countermeasures Company to render that threat safe, according to the LERT officer in charge, 1st Lt. Brandon Cavil.

“This exercise was all about honing the Marine Corps’ interoperability with the Navy, specifically addressing where we can provide redundant and complementary capabilities. When we look at the emerging capability and relationship between the LERT and LEON, this interoperability field exercise provided the groundwork for what we can provide the Navy in terms of littoral mobility,” explained Cavil.

The three-week exercise featured experimentation on new technologies such as the Vapor 55 unmanned aerial system, the Fusion Strategic Robotics System, and the REMUS unmanned underwater vehicle, as well as cross-training with U.S. Navy Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit 1, underscoring the importance of integrating new capabilities in support of naval maneuver, a key tenet of the 38th Commandant of the Marine Corps’ 2019 Planning Guidance.

“This exercise has put our unit at the forefront of force design and helped us understand our role as a stand-in force by giving us the opportunity to develop tactics, techniques, and procedures that help us work more seamlessly with our Navy counterparts. These new capabilities enhance commanders’ real-time situational awareness in an amphibious environment, which changes the game when it comes to shortening the decision-making process,” said Master Sgt. Matthew T. Jackson, with 1st Explosive Ordnance Disposal Company

The exercise culminated with a full mission profile utilizing LEON and LERT to set conditions for surface connectors heading ashore. LERT Marines used civilian vehicles to gain access to a semi-permissive beach and reconnoitered multiple objectives with the Vapor-55 UAS and small reconnaissance elements to locate, identify, and observe potential landing zones. Simultaneously, the LEON team inserted Marines and UUVs via combat rubber raid craft to identify underwater mines and explosive hazards.

During this culminating evolution and throughout the training, the Marines from I and III MEF demonstrated their ability to seamlessly integrate in order to detect and neutralize threats in shallow water, supporting U.S. Navy maneuver, according to Lt. Col. Marcus Gillett, commanding officer of 9th ESB.

“This operation validated assumptions and concepts regarding the employment of multiple capabilities like the Vapor-55, LEON, and other reconnaissance technology in the tactical collection of geospatial intelligence, enhancing the supported units’ mobility through standoff detection of natural and manmade obstacles, and the ability to integrate the information into the command and control network in a way that is actionable at multiple levels of the chain of command,” said Gillett.

3d MLG, based out of Okinawa, Japan, is a forward-deployed combat unit that serves as III Marine Expeditionary Force’s comprehensive logistics and combat service support backbone for operations throughout the Indo-Pacific area of responsibility.

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