NORFOLK, Va. -- Marines and sailors from II Marine Expeditionary Force and Second Fleet successfully completed exercise BOLD ALLIGATOR 2011– the largest joint fleet synthetic amphibious exercise in the last ten years.
The seven-day exercise, designed to reacquaint brigade and group level commands with the various challenges of conducting amphibious operations was the culmination of two years of planning and coordination among dozens of Navy and Marine Corps units.
“This is something we have not done in quite some time,” said Brig. Gen. Christopher S. Owens, II MEF Deputy Commanding General, “and as we strive to meet [the Commandant of the Marine Corps’] intent to regain our amphibious capabilities, this has been a critical first step toward honing our proficiency in this area."
Historically, the blue-green team has worked side by side conducting large-scale amphibious operations, but more than 10 years of land-locked warfare in Iraq and Afghanistan has meant fewer experienced Marines and sailors in an integrated environment.
Lieutenant Gen. Dennis J. Hejlik, commanding general of U.S. Marine Corps Forces Command, put the current amphibious situation into perspective Dec. 10 when he asked warfighters embarked aboard the USS Bataan, “How many of you have been deployed on a naval vessel with a MEU [Marine Expeditionary Unit]?” Nearly a third of the Marines raised their hands. Then he asked, “How many have ever deployed as part of a brigade-sized unit with the Navy?” Not one could say he had.
“Bold Alligator allowed the Navy-Marine Corps team to focus on cooperation and interoperability while refining current amphibious doctrine in regard to best practices and effectiveness,” said Rear Adm. Kevin D. Scott, commander of Expeditionary Strike Group 2. “The value of this to future operations is immeasurable.”
The complex scenario of the exercise dealt with an amphibious landing, defense against an invading force and the safe evacuation of non-combatants. Running the exercise in a simulated environment allowed planners to inject a number of obstacles and a level of complexity that may not have been possible in an underway environment.
“The advantage of a simulated exercise is that it affords us the opportunity to tailor the situation to test the many different aspects of an operation such as weather, actions by opposing forces, terrain, et cetera, that we can’t do in a live exercise,” said Scott.
The notional force consisted of more than 12,000 Marine and sailors and included 20 ships and specialized units.
Bold Alligator 2011 is the first of many planned exercises; the next one being a live exercise scheduled for February 2012.
“This synthetic exercise has been invaluable for getting an assessment of our current capabilities,” said Owens. We will use this experience to shape our next exercise where we will apply what we’ve learned and test solutions to current challenges in a live training environment.”
Bold Alligator was also designed to provide opportunities to introduce new equipment, technology and concepts into the amphibious arena. Information, surveillance and reconnaissance equipment, including unmanned aerial and surface vessels, were used in the simulated environment to provide exercise participants with enhanced warfighting capabilities.
"Overall, I gather from the action officers that this exercise was very useful for the sailors and Marines. Getting back to our 'amphibious roots' is more than just a phrase," said Maj. Gen. John M. Croley, deputy commander, U. S. Marine Corps Forces Command; and commander, U. S. Marine Corps Forces South. "It is a call to action and reminds us that the Navy/Marine team is the only national asset that can provide the sort of crises response and forcible entry options that we are likely to need in the near future."