The Marine Corps’ intense schedule of inter-
national exercises and cooperative training
events this year gives credence to the line
in their hymn that Marines will engage “in
every clime and place.”
The list of bilateral and multilateral operations
touches every continent, most major oceans and seas,
and spans from the chilly Baltics to Down Under.
The schedule is particularly long in the Indo-Asia-Pacific arena, where the nearly 23,000 Marines
deployed west of the International Dateline, the rotating Marine Expeditionary Units (MEUs) and other
elements will engage in scores of exercises, many of
which involve more than one element.
The Marines also will participate in lesser numbers
of international engagements in other regions of the
globe, with a growing number of exercises in Latin
America and Africa, along with expanding missions
in Europe as part of the response to Russian belligerence, and continuing presence in the Middle East and
Southwest Asia. Those include deployments of Special
Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Forces (SPMAGTFs)
to U.S. Central Command, Africa Command and
This year’s schedule appears to be similar to what
the Marines did internationally in 2016.
“During the past year, your Marines executed
approximately 185 operations, 140 security cooperation
events with our partners and allies, and participated in 65 major exercises,” Assistant Marine Corps
Commandant Gen. Glenn Walters told the Senate
Armed Services readiness subcommittee in February.
Because Marines operate primarily as a naval expeditionary force, most of the exercises will involve Navy
amphibious and auxiliary ships and supporting elements, plus the Navy corpsmen embedded in nearly
every Marine unit.
The litany of peaceful engagements is augmented
by the commitment of relatively small Marine units
in the combat zones of Iraq and Afghanistan, and the
more widespread missions by the Marine Raiders from
Marine Forces Special Operations Command to advise
and train allied and partner nations’ forces.
While the array of global exercises keep the
deployed units trained in their expeditionary missions
and improve friendships and interoperability with foreign militaries, they exacerbate the factors that have
strained the Corps’ personnel and equipment.
“A focus on these operations, the decrease in funding levels from fiscal year 2012, fiscal instability and
the lack of an inter-war period have left your Marine
Corps insufficiently manned, trained and equipped
across the depth of the force to operate in an evolving
operational environment,” Walters said.
Although the Marines are hoping the promises of
additional funding will be fulfilled this year, they will
carry out the scheduled exercises, and likely some pop-up
operations, with the forces and equipment they have.
Marine Corps Forces Pacific (MARFORPAC) spokes-
woman 1st Lt. Natalie Poggemeyer said the Pacific
Marines in 2017 “will participate in more than 100
different training exercises and expertise exchanges
throughout the year with partners around the Indo-
One of the biggest of the annual exercises, Cobra
Gold, took place Feb. 14-24 in and around Thailand.
The U.S.-Thai-sponsored exercise involved more than
8,000 participants and observers from 29 nations,
including 1,600 Marines among the 3,600 U.S. service
members, conducting combined task force and joint
security cooperation missions.
For the Marines, mainly from the Okinawa-based 31st
MEU, Cobra Gold is one of the best opportunities to train
in true jungle conditions, similar to what their World
War II comrades experienced in places like Guadalcanal.
A traditional part of that exercise is a chance for some
Marines to drink the blood of the deadly cobras.
SPANNING THE GLOBE
MARINES HAVE LONG LIST OF EXERCISES, TRAINING WITH OTHERS FOR 2017
BY OTTO KREISHER, SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
WWW.SEAPOWERMAGAZINE.ORG 32 SEAPOWER APRIL 2017
SPECIAL REPORT: PARTNERS IN GLOBAL PRESENCE