CAMP COURTNEY, Okinawa, Japan -- It is 3:00am on a Sunday morning. III Marine Expeditionary Force receives indications and warnings that a crisis is brewing. The order is given without hesitation, and the Marines and Sailors of the Alert Contingency Marine Air-Ground Task Force (ACM) are geared up and ready to deploy with a full combat load within just a couple hours.
As a scalable unit, the ACM is always on standby to respond to a variety of mission sets – from humanitarian and disaster relief operations to full-scale combat operations. It is not a conceptual idea or something people just talk about, the ACM is employed routinely through a rigorous training schedule involving no-notice drills and even operational deployments within the region.
“Our ACM force is our most ready force,” said Col. Eric Clark, 4th Marine Regiment Commanding Officer, “and as you talk about the Marine Corps being a force in readiness, those Marines that are rehearsed, that are sourced, and that have mobility on standby to get them out quickly on that key maritime terrain; that's our bid for success within the region, whether you're talking about a humanitarian crisis or you are talking about actions by an adversary.”
Unique to III MEF, Marines across the force are sourced to provide a range of capabilities that can be coordinated and deployed within hours. The ACM allows the MEF to rapidly deploy a mission-specific force throughout the Indo-Pacific region that is responsive to the needs of a given crisis. Some of the capabilities within the ACM can include water purification, shock trauma care, emergency evacuation control, general engineering, airfield/port force protection, and embassy reinforcement.
Most recently, ACM dispersal, or “fly-away,” drills have been incorporated into exercises such as KAMANDAG 7 from Okinawa to the Philippines, Jungle Warfare Exercise 23 on Okinawa, and in the deployment of the exercise forces participating in Shinka 23 from Okinawa to mainland Japan. These drills have demonstrated and validated the versatility and capability of the Marine Corps to rapidly respond to crises and contingencies across the region.
“History has shown that Marines are always capable, always willing. These kinds of drills, having these Marine units that are available and on alert, demonstrates Marines who are always ready to go in and get the job done.” said 1st. Lt. Cole Patton, a platoon commander with 3d Battalion, 3d Marines.
Routine rehearsals are used to validate the requirements of the ACM and are executed across all components of III MEF, which requires close coordination and habitual practice. For example, an ACM forward command element can come together at a designated location, embark on a KC-130J Super Hercules, deploy to a designated location and establish command and control capabilities all before the sun comes up. Realistic rehearsals enable the units and personnel making up the ACM to perfect standard operating procedures and improve critical skills.
“The ACM provides our regional partners and allies with the reassurance that the Marine Corps, America’s crisis response force, is always preparing to rapidly respond to natural and manmade disasters,” said Lt. Col. Douglas Verblaauw, current operations officer for 3d Marine Division.