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NEWS | Aug. 29, 2023

III MEF and Republic of Korea Marines operate from USS Blue Ridge during Ulchi Freedom Shield 23

By 2nd Lt. Keyon Whyte, III Marine Expeditionary Force

The command element of III Marine Expeditionary Force, with key leaders and planners from the Republic of Korea Marine Corps, embarked on the USS Blue Ridge for the final phase of Exercise Ulchi Freedom Shield 23.

The Korean and U.S. Marine forces are participating as the Combined Marine Component Command in Ulchi Freedom Shield, an annual joint, combined, and inter-agency exercise. The CMCC is the Combined Forces Command's Marine warfighting component which would be established during conflict in Korea. Unique this year, the USS Blue Ridge, the U.S. Navy Seventh Fleet’s flagship, serves as the command-and-control vessel for the CMCC, simulating operations at sea in support of the U.S.-Korean Alliance.

Ulchi Freedom Shield is designed to strengthen the combined defense posture and Alliance response capabilities based on scenarios that reflect diverse threats within the security environment. This creates an opportunity for ROK and III MEF Marines to train together aboard the USS Blue Ridge while conducting the live, virtual, and constructive exercise, reaffirming the U.S.’s ironclad commitment to the defense of the ROK.

"It is a great experience being able to improve our combined operations in a new environment like the Blue Ridge. With this exercise, ROK and U.S. Marines will enhance their interoperability with each other and U.S. Navy systems," said Republic of Korea Marine Corps Lt. Col. Jaemyoung Lee, an exercise planning officer with ROK Marine Corps Headquarters.

“Working aboard the USS Blue Ridge provides Marines from both nations the opportunity to familiarize themselves with U.S Navy ships and systems,” said U.S. Marine Corps Col. Andrew Gourgoumis, current operations officer with III Marine Expeditionary Force. “The ability for us to smoothly operate with our Navy counterparts is vitally important to our mission of maintaining regional stability.”

The amphibious command ship is specifically designed for command and control with enhanced communication and intelligence capabilities. The CMCC integrate with these U.S naval systems to rehearse distributed operations in real time, further strengthening the cohesion of the alliance.

"It is a great experience being able to improve our combined operations in a new environment like the Blue Ridge," said Republic of Korea Marine Corps Lt. Col. Jaemyoung Lee, an exercise planning officer with ROK Marine Corps Headquarters. "With this exercise, ROK and U.S. Marines will enhance their interoperability with each other and U.S. Navy systems."

Integrating CMCC operations with the U.S Navy allows the CMCC to extend their command-and-control capabilities and enables combined forces to train in a rigorous environment, enhance interoperability, and build readiness through realistic training. Naval integration during the exercise ensures that the CMCC can still communicate and coordinate in a dynamic security environment and work together with military forces from all services to solve complex problems.

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