In the shadow of victory in the 1991 Gulf War, the Marine Corps saw a revealing gap: high-level com- manders and their staffs were not as prepared to
operate together and conduct high-end, joint and
It did not take long for the Marine Corps, whose combat force included I Marine Expeditionary Force (MEF),
4th Marine Expeditionary Brigade (MEB) and 2nd Marine
Division, to see the light. It incorporated wartime lessons
into a refined service-level training plan for its Marine Air-Ground Task Forces (MAGTFs) and developed it into
today’s MAGTF Staff Training Program, or MSTP.
Col Patrick J. “Pat” Keane, the deputy director of the
MAGTF Staff Training Program at Quantico, Va., said
MSTP “really came into being after the Gulf War.” He
credits then-LtGen Walter Boomer, who, as I MEF com-
mander, led the Marine Corps’ ground, air and logistics
combat units into Kuwait and Iraq and “recognized high-
level staffs’ ability to conduct staff action processes in
Boomer later led Marine Corps
Combat Development Command
at Quantico and became assistant
While the MSTP has gone
through a few name changes over
the years, its foundation and focus
are training force- and brigade-level commanders and staffs at the
tip of Marine Corps operations. Its
mission is simple.
“The MSTP will provide training
in MAGTF operations across the
range of military operations, within
the context of a Joint and/or
Combined Task Force environment,
to improve the warfighting skills of
senior commanders and their
staffs,” states Marine Corps Order
1500.53B, signed March 2013.
Real-world operations require that the MSTP stays
flexible and adaptable, so it can assess the senior command’s ability to plan, execute and operate through realistic, challenging training for missions and contingencies. The Marine Corps’ operational focus in 1991 was
waging conventional war, with ground forces beefed up
with heavily mechanized armor and heavily armed air
forces. But after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks,
Marines encountered conventional battle, counterinsurgency and irregular warfare during Operation Enduring
Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom.
When Marines deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq, the
MSTP adjusted its focus for an operating environment
largely involving stability operations and counterinsurgency, or COIN, missions. MSTP teams helped train MAGTFs
before they deployed and swapped with other commands,
“and basically fell in on the same mission set” in that operating area, Keane said. The mission rehearsal exercise at
the time “was very COIN-centric,” he said. Events and scenarios included civil affairs and governance.
Program aims to improve warfighting skills
of senior MAGTF commanders, staffs
By GIDGET FUENTES, Special Correspondent
Refereeing the War Games
The Quantico, Va.-based MAGTF Staff Training Program (MSTP)
division supports Marine Expeditionary Forces and Marine
Expeditionary Brigades with training seminars and exercises, with
help from retired senior mentors.
; The 1991 Gulf War highlighted the need to train top operational
command staffs to do higher-end joint military operations.
; In the Marine Corps, that job falls to a seasoned, experienced
cadre who “referee” and guide senior-level operational commands
through the rigors of realistic, demanding training scenarios across
the range of military operations and consistent with service doctrine.
; The MSTP has to stay flexible and keep training relevant,
incorporating evolving enemy tactics and national security
threats, including cyber warfare and information operations.