SPMAGTF 3 leads RIMPAC from the sea
By Sgt. Sarah Dietz
| U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Pacific | July 23, 2014
POHAKULOA TRAINING AREA, Hawaii --
Rim of the Pacific 2014
POHAKULOA TRAINING AREA (July 18, 2014) Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) Exercise 2014 is the largest maritime exercise in the Pacific region. It includes 22 partner nations, 25,000 people and is headed up by Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force 3.
Sea-basing operations, which is a theme in this year’s RIMPAC, is the deployment, assembly, command projection, reconstitution and reemployment of joint power from the sea without reliance on land bases within the operational area. It nurtures the amphibious capability that is the bedrock of the United States Marine Corps.
SPMAGTF-3 is located on a naval vessel circling the Hawaiian Islands. The SPMAGTF-3 involves multiple III Marine Expeditionary Force units, including 3rd Marine Regiment; 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, as the main ground element; Combat Logistics Battalion 3; HMLA-367 and six other squadrons from 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing.
“In the big picture of naval operations, there’s a lot of sea-basing going on between ships of different nations,” said Col. Timothy E. Winand, commanding officer of 3rd Marine Regiment and for the SPMAGTF-3 for RIMPAC. “But we are doing that equally at the tactical level by training alongside marines, sailors, and soldiers from multiple different nations. It’s a pretty impressive array of forces around the world.”
The sea-base concept allows the Corps to return to its amphibious roots, by integrating with the Navy. The “blue-green” partnership is being revisited after the Corps has spent more than a decade on the ground in the Middle East.
“It’s undeniable that 3rd Marines as an infantry regiment, we are not necessarily where we want to be in terms of our amphibious know-how,” Winand said. “Certainly 12 years of Iraq and Afghanistan have taken a toll on our amphibious (perspective). There are some key linkages between the Marine Corps and the Navy. We have come to learn again what those blue-green touch points are, we have made mistakes doing it, but certainly out of those mistakes we are more aware from an amphibious perspective than when we came on the boat. That is value added to us. We are all working fine, we all believe in the mission and are working together to accomplish it.
“We don’t get a chance to get on ships nearly as much as we should,” Winand added. “Having this opportunity, there is natural learning occurring as the Navy and the Marine Corps get together and work through the friction, work through the issues and get stuff going where it needs to go.”
On the Navy side, working together with the Corps again is a learning curve as well as an opportunity to build a relationship as sea services.
“You can’t surge trust, you can surge capability but you can’t surge trust, that’s what this exercise is about, that partnership,” said U.S. Navy Capt. Clinton A. Carroll, U.S. Navy Commodore, Amphibious Squadron 4. “They are beside me, they are my brothers and sisters. Myself and Col. Winand have a very similar leadership style and values. That relationship, brotherhood is incredibly important. It’s good for his young Marines and my sailors to get use to that working relationship.”
Integration of the Navy and Marine Corps makes RIMPAC ideal for the Corps to test a company landing team concept as opposed to the battalion landing team operations currently implemented. The CLTs are resupplied every 24 hours from the sea base.
“It’s great to be able to put practice into play from theory,” Carroll said. “It has been a long time since we have done tactical employment from sea as we are here during RIMPAC.”
Combined forces and 3rd Bn., 3rd Marines, are split up into five company-sized teams to operate across the Hawaiian Islands, commanded by the SPMAGTF-3.
“What I’m trying to do is lend some awareness (of the CLTs), provide some lessons learned from Marines in the operating forces,” Winand said. “We’ve learned a lot, like how to do the things we need to do to support the CLTs on the ground working hand and glove with the Navy. If the sea base gets to the point where it can’t keep up with the 24/7 operations (of units on the ground), somebody is going to be left high and dry.”
Training with RIMPAC has given leadership within 3rd Marine Regiment the experience of building a SPMAGTF, allowing the opportunity for the Marine Corps to utilize the unit should a SPMAGTF be needed in future operations.
“We have learned a lot during RIMPAC,” Winand said. “We are going to come out of RIMPAC 2014 pretty savvy on the forming, employment and execution of SPMAGTF operations. Should any of my higher headquarters come calling for a SPMAGTF of our (area of operations), I’d like to think they would come to 3rd Marines. I think we are ready.