[unmanned aerial system], but they don’t know the dif-
ference. They see it and it reacts, and their intelligence is
fed the same way it would be if it were a real one.”
The MSTP division has 50 to 60 uniformed personnel,
mostly majors and lieutenant colonels and some senior
staff noncommissioned officers, all Marines experienced
in operations. The division sends teams to provide exer-
cise control and train and assess the MAGTF command-
er and staff. Some have described them as referees to
ensure senior commands sharpen their warfighting capa-
bilities in line with Marine Corps’ requirements.
“We want to induce a lot of friction on the training
audience,” Keane said. “That’s the whole point. You
want to see how they react at the lowest level as well as
at the MAGTF level.”
But it has to make sense, he added, and have train-
The MSTP does not keep score — that is for others to
decide. The MSTP is focused on how the brigade or MEF
is doing and reporting and communicating with higher-ups and its subordinate commands, less so on the tactical
operations, Keane noted. So how well a platoon moves on
the ground is handled by local Marine Corps Tactical
Training Exercise Group, while the Marine Corps Tactics
and Operations Group looks at the regimental-level units.
Its main work comes during two main service-level
training exercises: MEFEX and LSE. (It was not the lead
for some high-level exercises, such as exercise Bold
Alligator ’ 14, but did support the naval blue-green exercise
off the East Coast.) The field exercise itself can have a mix
of live, virtual or constructive play depending on the exercise. LSEs usually are larger, while MEFEXs are run for
headquarters staffs with a mostly constructive scenario.
Along with their own seabags
packed for extensive travel, each
MSTP team brings along binders
with the framework for each exercise, providing higher orders’ plans
and directives, and can serve as the
“higher headquarters” during the
exercise. Extensive planning conferences can start a year ahead.
“The commander and his staff
will articulate exactly what they
want. We’ll do the lion’s share of
the work as far as the basic scenario” Keane said.
The program also includes:
; Warfighting seminar. The week
of discussions and academics is “a
partnership” with MSTP and the
command staffs undergoing the
training and experts in other areas,
such as cyber or information operations, Keane said.
; Planning Practical Operations. The MSTP guides
and mentors the command staffs through a two-week
operational planning team. The MSTP recreates a higher headquarters led by one of five “senior mentors,”
and augmented by Reservists who role-play as the
higher staff and can add “friction that occurs between
staffs of higher headquarters,” he said. The mentors are
retired three-star generals who coach the MAGTF
commanders and headquarters staffs.
; Final Exercise. A four-day “warm start” enables the
command staffs to ensure and demonstrate basic capabilities, such as communication. Then the MAGTF
does a rehearsal before the exercise begins.
“For us, it’s less about ‘you’ve messed this up,’” Keane
said. “It’s more about identifying places where we can
teach, coach, mentor those guys to think about and get
their processes back up and they’re learning.”
The mentors coach the MAGTF commanders and
staffs. While he was on active duty, retired LtGen
Richard Kramlich encountered senior mentors, includ-
ing one experienced in logistics, like him, who im-
“To get his perspectives … it was just enlightening
for me and very empowering,” Kramlich said of retired
LtGen James A. Brabham.
Six years ago, Kramlich became a mentor because
“the whole notion of that just appealed to me.”
A mentor is like a sounding board. He guides and
coaches but does not grade, he said.
“I try to avoid big prescriptives. We are not like the
[Inspector General]. We don’t report back to the command on what we’ve seen,” he said.
WWW.SEAPOWERMAGAZINE.ORG 32 SEAPOWER / DECEMBER 2015
Assault Amphibious Vehicles with 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, provide
security along a road during a live-fire and maneuver exercise Aug. 15 in support of Large Scale Exercise 15 in the vicinity of the Blacktop Training Area.
The LSE provides units with the physical dimensions required to train while
operating as a Marine Air-Ground Task Force.