OKINAWA, Japan -- Marines across III Marine Expeditionary Force rehearsed and refined operating as a Stand-in Force while working alongside joint partners at Jungle Warfare Exercise (JWX) 23 across the island of Okinawa, Feb. 12-17, 2023.
JWX 23 is large-scale field training exercise focused on leveraging the integrated capabilities of joint and allied partners to strengthen all-domain awareness, maneuver, and fires across a distributed maritime environment. The exercise serves as a rehearsal to rapidly project combat power in defense of allies and partners in the region.
“We are taking facets of Stand-in Forces and Expeditionary Advanced Base Operations (EABO) concepts and are putting that to the test in this exercise,” said Maj. Charlie Richardson, future operations officer for 4th Marine Regiment. “We are specifically focused on the dispersal of our forces, contesting an enemy in a littoral and jungle environment, and bringing together the strengths of the joint force.”
More than 4,000 Marines and Sailors from across III Marine Expeditionary Force, teamed up with elements of the 353rd Special Operations Wing, 1st Special Forces Group, and Commander Task Force 72.
“JWX begins with a short-notice execution order to disperse to an objective area by unit, integrate with partner nations, defend key maritime terrain, and, if necessary, conduct counter-assault operations,” said Capt. Nicholas Sutton, a company commander with 1st Battalion, 7th Marines.
The initial dispersal included reconnaissance and sensors teams inserting into two of the primary training areas, simulating separate islands, to gather intelligence. 1st Battalion, 7th Marines and 3rd Battalion, 4th Marines then simultaneously deployed to establish defensive positions on those islands.
At the same time, Marines with 1st Marine Aircraft Wing conducted assault support missions with CH-53E Super Stallions, enabling the rapid dispersal and sustainment of forces. Attack helicopters also provided close air support and supported simulated maritime strike missions – incorporating both live fire and simulated fires.
Meanwhile, a portion of the regimental headquarters of 4th Marines deployed via a U.S. Air Force MC-130J out of Kadena Air Base where it established a small outpost on an additional simulated island, providing the overall command and control for the exercise and coordinating simulated maritime strikes in coordination with U.S. Navy assets.
“We can be fast, we can be mobile, but still be effective,” said Maj. Brett Erquitt, assistant fire support coordinator for 4th Marine Regiment, explaining how this small headquarters element was tailored to rapidly deploy on a single aircraft, command and control a regiment across a distributed environment, and coordinate maritime fires and maneuver with joint forces.
Sustainment was an additional focus area during the exercise, featuring the inclusion of a Forward Arming and Refueling Point as well as a logistics expeditionary advanced base (EAB). Combat Logistics Battalion 4 established the logistics EAB and facilitated amphibious, aerial, and ground resupplies while also purifying ocean water for drinking.
“Logistics is different in the EABO environment based off past conflicts. You think Iraq and Afghanistan: large footprints, large warehouses, large amounts of supplies … now we have smaller footprints and more deliberate movement and concealment.” said Lt. Col. Nicholas Martinez, commanding officer of CLB-4. “EABO is presenting new challenges, but new solutions as well.”