The challenge always for us, when it comes to sea-based aircraft, is the deck and the hangar deck where
it’s just so tightly packed with aircraft and our amtracs.
It’s very difficult to move one thing. If you’ve got like a
parking lot that’s 20 miles away and you can fly over
there and free up deck space and reconfigure, that’s
what we can’t do right now. It’s really hard.
What is on tap this year to train with more
international partners, and even work alongside other services?
BERGER: Exercise Dawn Blitz is right off the coast here
[Camp Pendleton]. There are other countries that are
not directly participating with ships or people, but
they want to come and observe — that’s Peru,
Colombia, Chile and Australia — and learn how they
might participate in the future.
Overseas for us, there are exercises in the next 60 days
in the Pacific area … where they are moving island to
island and building partner capacity. I think the demand
is going to be high. That helps us improve the relationships and build our cultural awareness, too, which is
really important. The challenge for us and for the other
participating countries is how much can we afford. Of
course, that’s always the factor.
SOFLE [Special Operations Forces Liaison Element]
is a success story. The 11th MEU [did] a great job in
proving that concept and the value of it. The 15th MEU
out there has it now, that liaison element that can tie in
the Theater Special Operations Command. It is making
them money, in terms of being able to coordinate activity,
being able to share information, getting advance warning
of what special operations is thinking of doing or plan-
ning and doing, and what support the MEU/ARG might
be able to provide. It’s given them a heads-up and a great
tie-in, so I think it is going to endure.
There’s value in exercising with these foreign
BERGER: The benefit to us is it trains Marines at how to
work with other countries. From a generic point of view,
it helps us learn how to build partnerships with any
country that’s important to the U.S. From the tactical
perspective, if the other country is very important to the
U.S., of course the value to the U.S. security posture is
pretty self-evident. That’s why we’re told to go train with
them, because we are helping them build a capacity so
they can take on their own security role by themselves,
with our support if needed. I think it’s huge.
What will the F- 35 Lightning II joint strike fighter
bring to the MEF?
BERGER: I think we will start flying training missions
with the F- 35 in support of our ground training next
month. The way things are looking
so far, it looks positive for that.
From a training perspective, we are
ready to start using that aircraft in a
training role now, flying in support
of MAGTF training, in support of
What is it going to bring to us?
From our tactical perspective, that
thing is so much more than a close-air support, bomb-dropping aircraft
— which it is superb at — but it is a
vehicle, a platform, that is going to
give us a much better awareness and
understanding of what’s out in front
Our challenge is going to be,
frankly, integrating that into the rest
of the Marine Air-Ground Task
Force. That’s our challenge, to learn
how to maximize that capability.
You’ll see it, I think, in ITXs [Inte-grated Training Exercises] next year.
You’ll see more and more shipboard
use as it moves toward the initial
deployment, which I think is still set
for [fiscal 2017].
Berger, Col William F. McCollough, center, commanding officer of 1st Marine
Regiment, and LtCol David J. Hart, commanding officer of 1st Battalion, 7th
Marine Regiment, discuss tactical training strategies during an Integrated
Training Exercise aboard Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine
Palms, Calif., Aug. 6.;