CAMP COURTNEY, OKINAWA, JAPAN -- III Marine Expeditionary Force (MEF) combat casualty operations are adapting to today’s operational environment. The III MEF G-1, along with its Major Subordinate Commands, came together from Aug 29 to 31, 2022, to increase casualty response preparedness in the Indo-Pacific region.
The Command Combat Casualty Operations Center, or C3OC, hosted a proof-of-concept drill to validate key information and set the common operational understanding required to sustain uninterrupted operations. The Marines addressed modern and projected problems when casualties occur in hostile and non-hostile environments.
During multiple training evolutions and exercises over the last year, III MEF identified a shortfall in the casualty operations procedures for scenarios with higher casualty estimates. In the event of a peer or near-peer conflict, it is imperative that Marines are capable of implementing procedures that are supportable and “keep the faith” of its service members.
“What we’re doing is testing a C3OC that can operate within a communications and infrastructure degraded environment. Our current practices are heavily dependent on current phone and network lines of communication, but we need to be able to fully operate without those capabilities.”
As part of the drill, III MEF G-1 co-located representatives from all MSCs into one centralized area for 24 hours to establish a MEF level casualty center, something that had never been done before.
“This drill is twenty-four hours in length. We're running through everything from casualty administration when casualties occur, how [the C3OC] ties into other command and control and medical nodes, and how MSCs talk with our center desk,” said Miller. “We [conducted] leveling briefs throughout the day to ensure that everyone has a common understanding of the operation.”
III MEF G-1 led the C3OC drill with representatives from 3rd Marine Division, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, 3rd Marine Logistics Group, 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade and III MEF Information Group. The goal of the III MEF-wide C3OC drill was to validate procedures and identify potential issues and capability shortfalls.
“This is not an individual event, all Marines junior or senior from the MSC’s have shown up ready to work and are actively engaged in making things better,” Miller said. “This drill is showing us the areas that we need to improve, such as troop-to-task requirements, organization and augmentation of the C3OC, theater specific casualty operations, and the battle rhythm of the command center itself. We’re all learning together.”
With this, III MEF can better align Marine Corps administrative processes with operational requirements in garrison and operational environments.
In 2023, III MEF will be evaluated on their current casualty response preparedness during MEFEX. Prior to the evaluation, they will participate in two more large-scale exercises that include the MSCs co-locating into a single MEF level casualty center again to continue iterating and improving C3O3 processes and workflow.
“We want to show [the evaluators], that the C3OC is fully operationally capable in hopes that we can change the current service-level directives,” Miller said.