WWW.SEAPOWERMAGAZINE.ORG 32 SEAPOWER / MAY 2016
When the Marine Corps kicks off a year-long experiment to push new concepts and tech- nologies across the force this summer, one
infantry battalion will take point.
The 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines, is the dedicated
experimental unit as the Marine Corps Warfighting
Laboratory moves ahead with a concerted plan to bolster Marine Air-Ground Task Force capabilities down to
the company landing team level. The Camp Pendleton,
Calif.-based battalion is one of the Corps’ most highly
decorated units, with combat deployments to Iraq and
Afghanistan. As of early April, the unit was wrapping
up a six-month deployment and returning home.
The commandant, Gen. Robert B. Neller, announced
3/5’s unique role on Feb. 19 at the WEST defense and
communications industry conference in San Diego.
The battalion, he said, would help shape the future
force and boost the Marine Corps’ digital capabilities
across its integrated forces.
“We are doing a number of
experiments with air-to-ground
communications. We are going to
take a unit — 3rd Battalion, 5th
Marines — for the next year, and
they are going to be our experimental platform,” he said. “We are going
to give them capabilities and do it
in an efficient way, which I think
is giving it to Marines and let them
figure it out, because they are our
best developers and experimenters.”
Marine Corps officials considered
a variety of units for the experimental work. Among the ideas: Establish
a dedicated or permanent experimentation force, like the Special
The SPMAGTF (X) is relegated to history, but today
the Warfighting Lab is leading the effort as the “change
agent” for the Marine Corps. It is focused on helping
the MAGTF to rapid deploy, employ and sustain forces,
with an innovative focus on capability and development, and with real input from Marines at the operational level, officials said.
“We decided to keep with the commandants’ guidance — the 36th and the 37th [Gen. Joseph F. Dunford
Jr. and Neller, respectively] — to use operational forces during existing exercises to do experimentation,”
Col. Jeff Holt, deputy director of the Marine Corps
Warfighting Laboratory’s Futures Directorate, told
Seapower. “We decided, with commandant guidance,
to concentrate on one specific unit as they deploy …
and through the preparation to deploy.”
Marine Corps taps battalion, MEU as experimentation forces
By GIDGET FUENTES, Special Correspondent
The Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory’s Futures Directorate
has the lead in the service’s experimentation, and this year will
guide an infantry battalion dedicated to the year-long effort.
n The Marine Corps assigned one infantry battalion — 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines — as the experimental unit, as it prepares for
overseas duty and assignment as the ground combat force with
the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit in Japan in 2017.
n Marines will experiment with new technologies from digital tablets and 3-D printers to wearable batteries and small drones that
n A key focus of the Warfighting Lab-led experimentation is on
the company landing team and bolstering its digital capabilities
and its ability to operate across the distributed environment of a
Marine Air-Ground Task Force and in austere environments.