August 19, 2015 – MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. — Marines with 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade alongside service members with the British 3rd Commando Brigade and 1 Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group executed Large Scale Exercise 15 at Marine Corps Air-Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, California, Aug. 14-20.
The exercise is a service-level assessment at the brigade-level, composed of all four elements of the Marine Air-Ground Task Force with live maneuver elements. It is designed to enable live, virtual and constructive training for the MEB command element as the primary training audience.
“The 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade provides a unique capability for the Marine Corps and its operating area,” said Capt. Benjamin Zumstein, a current operations planner with 2nd MEB. “The challenge with most crises response units is a great deal of experience and knowledge goes away. 2nd MEB, being a standing command element, provides continuity and relevance throughout the crisis response planning process because of its experience.”
The exercise drew personnel from the U.K., Canada and across the Marine Corps. The exercise design promoted interoperability between partner nation military forces to enhance each nation’s military response capabilities.
“This is all about interoperability and pre-integration,” said Brigadier Charlie Stickland, Royal Marines, Commander 3 Commando Brigade. “I think it’s quite important that even as close partners and close friends who have operated in the past together, there’s a common understanding of what you’re trying to achieve.”
Preparation for the exercise began nearly one year before units deployed to the Mojave Desert. A multi-week crisis planning event in April and a multi-week “warm start” in July called Atlantic Response 15.4 prepared 2nd MEB and coalition forces for staff functionality and interoperability at Camp Lejeune, N.C.
In addition to the 2nd MEB planning staff permanently assigned to the unit, augmented personnel are often attached to assist during missions and are trained internally by 2nd MEB staff.
“This exercise allowed 2nd MEB to cultivate, nurture, and maintain relationships,” said Zumstein. “Having trained like we’ll fight, I know that if we need to accomplish a mission, the person we call, having worked with them previously, knows how we can work together.”
The lead up to the exercise allowed Marines with 2nd MEB to identify gaps and holes in plans to refine the operations they would conduct during LSE-15, as well as train personnel to understand brigade and higher-level operations.
“It’s important because it allowed us to rehearse for what we consider our most dangerous course of action: regional conflict, actual standup of the MAGTF and major combat operations,” Zumstein said. “It developed habitual and well-developed relationships with our allies, partners and combatant commands. This means 2nd MEB is a place to train, plan and conduct real-world missions.”
At Twentynine Palms, 2nd MEB and its coalition partners put their planning and training into action. LSE-15 provided all three partner nations a realistic training environment, sharpening skills required for a real crisis.
“We have established relationships in the crucible of operations alongside the United States forces and British forces,” said Col. Trevor Cadieu, the commander of 1 Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group, “LSE-15 gives us an unparalleled opportunity to reinvigorate some of those relationships in our conflict period. It allows us to get a better understanding of how we operate.”
The MAGTF Staff Training Program oversaw the exercise and provided training guidance throughout the exercise. The MSTP staff, composed of senior officers and subject matter experts, taught lessons learned from previous crises and combat operations in order to prepare the training audience for future operations.
“We’re all crises response forces,” said Brig. Gen. Robert Castellvi, the 2nd MEB Commanding General. “This is a mission rehearsal for us being able to come together for crisis response in support of an event where we’re called to as a coalition or partners. We get to learn the lessons here in training before we actually have to execute them, forward deployed. The opportunity is just incredible for us.”