“Just about everything we’re going to do could be
applicable to a situation that could come to us in the
vicinity of the Strait of Hormuz,” Harvey said.
He cited mines and the “large numbers of small-boat
threats, irregular threats. Those are not easy to identify
in the complex littoral environment, which describes
just about all the Arabian Gulf,” he added, using the
U.S. name for the Persian Gulf. “We’re going to have to
be able to deal with all that.”
During the transit of the simulated strait the day
before D-Day, two Canadian minehunters, which had
been sweeping the simulated minefield, led the way, “like
mother hens.” The rest of the amphibious task force fol-
lowed, “one by one like ducks in a row,” Pastoor said.
To counter the small boat threat, “we’re practicing the
use of an arm we normally don’t have — the MEB with
its air arm — to help protect the amphibs,” he said.
The BA12 planners took advantage of the fact that
the Enterprise CSG, the Iwo Jima amphibious ready
group (ARG) and the 24th MEU would be conducting
their predeployment qualification tests and incorporated them into the exercise.
As part of its certification process, a company from
the MEU conducted a long-range raid from the ARG
into the Army National Guard’s Fort Pickett, Va. The
Marines made the flight of more than 160 nautical
miles in CH- 53 helicopters and MV-22s, the first time
the tiltrotor Ospreys were used in such an exercise.
At Pickett, the 250 Marines also helped the Marine
Warfighting Lab-oratory conduct a limited objective
experiment, testing long-distance
communications and a variety of
systems intended to reduce the need
for resupply. That was only one of
many innovations tested in BA12.
BA12 also tested the sea-basing
concept, designed to reduce the
need to put large amounts of
equipment and supplies ashore to
support the landing force.
In addition to supplying the
Marines from the amphibious ships,
the exercise used the Aviation
Logistics Support ship Wright to
provide major repairs for the
Marine aircraft and the Maritime
Prepositioning Force ship Obregon
to provide fuel and water via a mile-long floating hose system.
The landing force also would be
commanded from the sea base,
with the 2nd MEB commander and
his staff remaining on Wasp,
instead of going ashore.
“You can put a force ashore, great!” Hejlik said. “Now,
what do you do for command and control? How do you
sustain that? We’ll be doing that from the sea. That’s
really the value of a naval force. You don’t really need a
sea port, an airport, to project forces or to sustain them.”
Although BA12 involved thousands of people and
hundreds of pieces of equipment, the primary purpose
was to give the CSG, ESG and MEB staffs the chance to
plan and direct such a complex operation.
That put the main focus on getting the land forces
ashore and then supplying and controlling them. Once
on land, the Marines reverted to normal unit training
at Camp Lejeune, N.C.
“That’s a more effective use of the units,” Pastoor said.
The D-Day assault started in the predawn darkness
of Feb. 6, with the landing time set for 5: 15 a.m.
The first units actually hit Camp Lejeune’s Onslow
Beach 75 seconds early, Pastoor said.
Responding to a question about the likelihood of
conducting a large, real-world amphibious landing in
the era of long-range precision weapons, Owens said:
“Sooner or later, the nation is going to require a sizeable force to go somewhere where folks don’t want us
to go.” It will not be another Iwo Jima or Tarawa, he
added, “but nevertheless, when we go to shore someplace where we’re not wanted ashore, we have to be
ready to defend the force, to accomplish the mission
and then to sustain the force.” ;
Assistant Editor John C. Marcario contributed to this report.
French Marines lead a convoy at Camp Lejeune, N.C., Feb. 6 during the amphibi-
ous assault phase of Bold Alligator 2012. The exercise focused on the full range
of amphibious operations, as well as showcasing the advantages of sea basing.