FORT HUNTER LIGGETT, Calif. --
U.S. Marines with 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, conducted a readiness exercise in alongside the U.S. Air Force to practice rapid deployment capabilities and enhance Infantry Battalion Experiment 2030 concepts in a crisis response scenario.
"Our ability to be prepared, pack our kit, receive the information, receive the order, and execute, is a hallmark (and) the bread and butter of what the Marine Corps should be for the force." Master Gunnery Sgt. Paul O’Donnell, operations chief with 2nd Bn., 7th Marines
The REDEX was the latest in a long line of 1st MARDIV exercises to demonstrate and improve crisis response expertise and the ability to provide immediate combat power across a large geographic area.
The battalion conducted the exercise in conjunction with the U.S. Air Force’s Exercise Golden Phoenix, a power projection event for the 60th Air Mobility Wing. As part of the exercise, the battalion deployed from Twentynine Palms to Fort Hunter Liggett, California, under a simulated, short-notice scenario and seized key maritime terrain. The intent was to replicate a crisis response action in the Indo-Pacific and provide the battalion a realistic opportunity to test their readiness, logistics planning, and expeditionary capabilities.
“Crisis response is extremely important,” said Master Gunnery Sgt. Paul O’Donnell, the operations chief for 2nd Bn., 7th Marines. “The Marine Corps is the most agile force in the Department of Defense. Our ability to be prepared, pack our kit, receive the information, receive the order, and execute, is a hallmark (and) the bread and butter of what the Marine Corps should be for the force. This exercise is so important because our Marines got put through the wringer of what that actually feels like.”
2nd Bn., 7th Marines trains with U.S. Air Force during a readiness exercise
Photo by Cpl. Earik Barton
U.S. Marines with Echo Company, 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, disembark from a U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III during a readiness exercise at Fort Hunter Liggett, California, May 5, 2023. The exercise was designed to enhance the combat and deployment readiness of the battalion, and prepare them to deploy as part of a crisis response force. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Earik Barton)
After brief stops in March Air Reserve Base and Travis Air Force Base, where the Marines established hasty command centers for rapid planning and battlefield analysis, the battalion maneuvered into various locations across Fort Hunter Liggett to simulate distributed operations. Multiple rifle companies, reinforced with 60 mm and 81 mm mortar sections, along with scout sections and anti-armor sections, seized key terrain as part of the broader maritime simulation.
“With the considerations for conflict across the globe right now, especially with the rise in the advent of our peer adversaries gaining more and more capabilities, I think it’s prudent that we train with the joint force as much as possible,” said O’Donnell. “Because wherever we end up, more than likely nine out of 10 times, it’s not solely going to be a Marine operation. We will work with our brothers and sisters in the Navy, Air Force, and Army.”
Another key component of the exercise is 2nd Bn., 7th Marines’ status as the IBX-30 experimentation battalion for 1st MARDIV and the Marine Corps. The use of a scout platoon and designated marksmen, using FGM-148 Javelin missiles and M3E1 multipurpose anti-armor anti-personnel weapons, and other developing concepts played major roles in how the battalion accomplished its training and scenario mission. The faster and more lethal construct of 2nd Bn., 7th Marines will pave the way for future infantry battalions to better provide combat power across the wide range of crisis response opportunities in the world.
“The commandant’s vision for Force Design 2030 is nested in a more lethal, agile, more quickly deployable force that not only can get on the ‘X’ but can persist near where the conflict will be with the stand-in force concept,” explained O’Donnell. “For us, as the IBX-30 battalion, I think this is a good demonstration that yes, we are geared and we are task organized to meet the commandant’s intent. But in regards to responding to crisis response – which hasn’t changed over the past 20 or 30 years – we still maintain that capability, that flexibility, that lethality to respond to traditional operations while having those increased capabilities leaning into the IBX-30/FD2030 model.”
Crisis response and rapid deployment exercises are nothing new for the joint force, and certainly are not groundbreaking to 1st MARDIV, however, division exercises in recent years have taken this theme to a new level.
In 2021, the division supervised a major strategic mobility exercise with a regiment-sized unit called Ready Diamond. Ready Diamond resulted in thousands of Marines physically and administratively postured to support crisis response or contingency operations within 48 hours of notification.
Last year, Marines with 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st MARDIV, participated in a readiness exercise alongside Marine Rotational Force - Darwin in Australia to realistically practice the logistics required to move units into position to support a wide range of operations. The Marines of 3rd Bn., 5th Marines will take the lessons learned from both iterations of REDEX with them when they deploy across the Indo-Pacific in the near future as part of the Unit Deployment Program.
"We wanted to prove we can deploy multiple company task forces on short notice to seize key terrain rapidly, and we did just that,” explained Lt. Col. Jerome Greco, the commanding officer of 3rd Bn., 5th Marines, after last year’s REDEX. “Spread across thousands of miles in three different locations, our Marines and Sailors fought through friction, solved problems, and accomplished the mission. I am especially happy our Marines got to experience such a unique training event."
This year’s exercise provided an outstanding opportunity for 1st MARDIV to work and plan for immediate crisis response situations, especially alongside Air Force teammates. Quick reaction and providing globally effective combat power remain critical capabilities of 1st MARDIV and the Marine Corps.