Fixating on today’s fight means “we are not going to
get those conditions set,” he said. Forces three or four
days out “won’t have fuel, they won’t have bullets and
food, and it’ll be our fault.”
It’s hard work to redirect the focus, “because you
want to stare at the screen, you want to look at the full-
motion video screen and look at the predator,” he
noted. “It’s more fun than thinking four or five days
out. But if we fail there, then we’re going to fail them.”
During the “war,” MEF and U.S. coalition forces
battled a mechanized enemy almost five times larger,
but managed to keep the fight away from urban areas.
Still, Jones said, the division got into a heavy, four-day
slugging match he described as “shocking” compared
with recent counterinsurgency operations, but “fairly
moderate” compared with the major world wars.
Meanwhile, MEF information operations aimed to
disrupt the enemy’s message, using tools like social
media to deceive or “affect the will,” much like in
counterinsurgency, but also gauge what was happening
in the local populace.
The cyber threat was “eye-opening,” Berger said.
“We are going through the steps of trying to make sure
we can defend our networks.”
It was a game of cyber hide-and-seek, punch and
counterpunch, as the MEF shut down its networks as
the enemy weaseled its way into classified and unclas-
“It’s not something we are used to,” he said.
He declined to discuss whether the MEF succeeded
in shutting down enemy networks.
The MEF exercised its command and control process-
es “to manage information, to communicate clearly to
identify the things that are happening on the battlefield,
or in the battle space, more accurately that the command-
er would need to make decisions on,” Jones said. What
they found was “a determined enemy operating modern
equipment, even in a conventional environment, is not a
pushover. That was a good lesson to relearn.”
Another lesson came with exercising in the field.
“You have to be able to fight with what you’re carrying,” said Berger, sitting in a tent tucked in with others in
a dusty, scrubby field in Camp Pendleton’s northern area.
But the command’s expeditionary infrastructure
needs streamlining, as its village of tents, antennae and
vehicles becomes easy prey for a precision-guided
“It’s very comfortable for us to work out of,” Jones said,
“but it’s very easily targeted with modern capabilities.”
Expeditionary operations build confidence in gear
and equipment — from tents to computers — the staff
takes to war, and the staff gets intangible benefits from
living and working in the field, rather than the staid
confines of office buildings.
“There’s some cohesiveness you can’t really quan-
tify,” Berger said, “but it happens. You’re in the chow
hall or you’re in the head or wher-
ever. You can’t avoid people. It
builds a team. That part you can’t
Officials say next year’s MEFEX
will continue to build on lessons
from last year’s brigade-level Large
Scale Exercise held in August at
the Marine Corps Air Ground
Combat Center in Twentynine
Palms, Calif., and in upcoming
exercises including Desert Scimitar
in April and Dawn Blitz, which
focuses on amphibious operations
and planning, later this year.
Nicholson, for one, hopes
Desert Scimitar will include live
fire and maneuver in 2016.
”That would be the next logical
step,” he said. “I think the next
step in making it better is dropping
live bombs, shooting real artillery
and having real forces maneuver.
That just adds a pucker factor” and
“a level of realism that the computer can’t.” ;
WWW.SEAPOWERMAGAZINE.ORG 56 SEAPOWER / APRIL 2015
LtGen David H. Berger, I Marine Expeditionary Force Commanding General, center
left, is briefed by Col William Hooper, assistant chief of staff G- 3 Operations, Marine
Wing Headquarters 3, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, at right during Marine Expeditionary
Force Exercise 2015 at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Calif., Feb. 19.