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A Light Armored Vehicle with 2nd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, 2nd Marine Division, traverses a road in the Black Top Training Area aboard Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, Calif., May 17, 2016. Various units from 2nd Marine Division participated in Integrated Training Exercise 3-16 in preparation for their deployment with Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force-Crisis Response-Africa. (Official Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Levi Schultz/Released)

Photo by Lance Cpl. Levi Schultz

ITX 3-16: MAGTF-2 tackles FINEX

2 Jun 2016 | Lance Cpl. Levi Schultz Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms

Marine Air Ground Task Force 2 conducted a final exercise aboard the Combat Center May 17-19, 2016, as part of Integrated Training Exercise 3-16.

According to Col. Daniel Q. Greenwood, commanding officer, 2nd Marine Regiment, various units from 2nd Marine Division came together to form MAGTF-2 and were evaluated on their ability to conduct offensive, defensive and counter-attack operations during the FINEX.

“ITX is probably the most realistic combined-arms training we can do in the Marine Corps,” Greenwood said. “It’s a great test of where we are as a regiment and will serve as a foundation for us to begin our mission-specific training for our deployment this fall, when we serve as the command element for [Special Purpose MAGTF-Crisis Response-Africa.]”

Designed as a culminating pre-deployment event, ITX tests a MAGTF within a standardized scenario, which is then assessed against established training and readiness standards by Tactical Training Exercise Control Group’s evaluators, also known as Coyotes.

“It challenges everyone from the individual Marine all the way up to the Regimental MAGTF command element,” Greenwood said. “It requires us to integrate every weapon system alongside our maneuver in a realistic scenario TTECG paints for us.”

The goal of ITX is to ensure units are capable of operating as an integrated MAGTF. For Marines, this means learning to work in conjunction with the other components that compose a MAGTF.

“We are integrating all the elements of a MAGTF, so we have squadrons from the [Air Combat Element,] the [Logistics Combat Element] and two infantry battalions,” Greenwood said. “Additionally, we have support from other detachments such as light armored reconnaissance, tanks and artillery in order to give the Marines the most realistic training possible.”

According to Capt. Eric B. Willis, company commander, 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, this ITX was the first time many of his Marines were exposed to training encompassing a MAGTF.

“We inserted [via aircraft] to our location under the cover of artillery and close air support assets,” Willis said. “From there, our role was to establish a blocking position to protect the battalion’s flank and to drive the enemies into our engagement area.”

The training during the FINEX is important exposure for the different operations they may conduct while on deployment.

“Giving the Marines a chance to experience and see what a MAGTF can do is definitely beneficial,” Willis said. “The command relationship built with [2nd Marine Regiment] throughout the FINEX will mirror our relationship during the upcoming deployment.”

The training is also an important opportunity for the other elements of a MAGTF. Cpl. Mitchell W. Bland, field artillery cannoneer, 3rd Battalion, 10th Marine Regiment, explained that working alongside air and ground elements added another dimension to their training.

“Our mission is to provide direct support for the infantry and coordinate our fire with air support,” Bland said. “Air support can’t provide constant suppression. We mark their target with illumination rounds and provide suppression for ground elements when they are unable.”

Throughout the FINEX, communication played an integral role as the various elements moved in unison to accomplish their objectives.

"One of the biggest concerns when you get a large group of people is ensuring all entities understand the absolute plan,” said Gunnery Sgt. Nicholas L. Brown, watch officer, 2/8. “Being able to come together to accomplish the mission is what makes warfighters great. The Marines out here are doing great things for the Marine Corps and their units by setting an example throughout the ITX.”

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