Twentynine Palms -- “War is both timeless and ever changing. While the basic nature of war is constant, the means and methods we use evolve continuously.” — Excerpt from U.S. Marine Corps Warfighting Manual.
Marines with 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, based out of Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif., are putting their own spin on Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center’s Integrated Training Exercise. The 28-day exercise is currently the longest-lasting training evolution that occurs aboard the installation and involves a series of progressive live-fire exercises that assess the ability and adaptability of a force of more than 3,500 Marines and sailors.
“Darkhorse,” alongside 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, based out of MCB Camp Lejeune, N.C., make up the ground combat element of Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force 4 during Integrated Training Exercise 1-17, which began Oct. 21, 2016.
As announced in ALMAR 024/16 Sea Dragon 2025, Commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. Robert B. Neller, has designated 3/5 as the Marine Corps’ experimental force. According to the ALMAR, the battalion is being reconfigured, re-equipped, and will receive additional training as it progresses through its preparation for deployment, which places a unique twist on this iteration of ITX.
“Overall, what we are trying to do is inform the future organization and equipping of the GCE, specifically the rifle battalion,” said Lt. Col. Donald Wright, field testing branch head, Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory. “What’s different about this ITX is that [3/5 is] organized a little bit differently, and they’re using some emerging technology.”
Traditionally, the Marine Corps rifle squad is composed of 12 Marines and a squad leader. According to Wright, Darkhorse’s rifle companies are putting new standards to the test with one company experimenting with 10-Marine squads and another with 14, while the remaining company serves as the controlling factor with the original configuration. Tactical Training Exercise Control Group’s Coyotes, the Combat Center’s exercise controllers, are responsible for evaluating and providing feedback on each company’s performance.
Emerging technology plays a large role in this ITX, with rifle squads having hands-on experimental vehicles as well as unmanned aerial surveillance and ground robotics systems. Marines are using one such vehicle, the Multi-Utility Tactical Transport, or MUTT, for both enhanced logistics capabilities, in transporting ammo and other supplies, and in a weaponized variant, with mounted heavy weapon systems.
“The Marines are adapting very well,” Wright said. “Some of the technology they just received when they got out here, so they are not fully trained on it but it’s very obvious they have the right attitude. 3/5 is doing everything they can to integrate this technology because they believe in it and they believe it will enhance their operability.”
Wright described these experiments as an ongoing effort “to increase the infantry battalion’s competitive advantage.” Sea Dragon 2025 highlights a three-phase process consisting of exploration, refinement and validation prior to establishment of new Marine Corps-wide doctrine. This enables 3/5 to serve as the catalyst in testing emerging concepts and weeding them down to only the most practical applications in future warfighting.
“It’s an ever-evolving process because the situation out there is very fluid,” Wright said. “What we are trying to do is inform the future organization and equipment of the GCE which in turn will drive the future organization and equipment of the MAGTF.”