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United States Marine Corps satellite communication operators with Company A, 7th Communication Battalion, III Marine Expeditionary Force Headquarters Group set up camp at Camp Hansen, Okinawa, Japan, April 21, 2017, during Marine Expeditionary Force Exercise 17. The command and control exercise prepares III MEF commanders and staff to integrate with international allies and partner nations in a combined joint task force, charged with accomplishing a wide range of military operations. (U.S. Marine Corps Photo By Lance Cpl. Austyn Krecicki/Released)

Photo by Staff Sgt. Jesse Stence

III MEF Executes Command and Control Exercise: MEFEX 2017

4 May 2017 | Lance Cpl. Charles Plouffe III Marine Expeditionary Force

Marines and Sailors with III Marine Expeditionary Force executed a five-day command and control exercise called Marine Expeditionary Force Exercise 17, April 23 - 27.

The exercise featured a fully operational Combat Operations Center where command members from each component of the Marine Air-Ground Task Force oversaw complex combined arms operations in real time.

During the exercise, III MEF personnel functioned as members of Combined Marine Component Command, a joint command composed of U.S. and Republic of Korea Marines.

Col. James A. Schnelle, the CMCC fires and effects coordinator during MEFEX 17, commented on the value of the training opportunity.

“As MAGTF element commanders and staffs respond to the complex scenarios presented in MEFEX, we work to leverage maximum effect from every lethal and non-lethal Marine Corps capability in support of the MAGTF mission,” said Schnelle, a native of Missoula, Montana. “When the synchronized power of the MAGTF is displayed, it is a humbling experience.”

MEFEX 17 is supported by the MAGTF Staff Training Program in Quantico, Virginia. At the direction of Gen. Robert B. Neller, the commandant of the Marine Corps, MSTP supports exercises like MEFEX 17 to improve the warfighting skills of senior commanders and their staffs.

“The planning for a MEFEX begins about a year before,” said Maj. Joshua E. Montero, an MSTP instructor. “The planning involves multiple conferences, academic instruction, and training of the MAGTF through the Marine Corps Planning Process, and simulating systems to replicate friendly and enemy forces as well as civilian and interagency considerations.”

Setting up the Combat Operation Center for MEFEX took approximately five weeks, said Cpl. Michael Farmer, a CMCC motor transportation operator from Kingman, Arizona.

Farmer was part of an element of approximately 30 Marines who perform constant maintenance to keep the COC operational through wind and rain. The COC houses a mixture of communications equipment, including telephones, internet networks and satellite communication devices, which allow commanders and staffs to communicate with troops in the field. He estimated that the group filled approximately 10,000 sand bags in the weeks prior to the exercise to anchor down the tents sheltering the Marines and equipment in the COC.

According to Montero, large-scale exercises like MEFEX 17 ensure III MEF remains ready to provide the Marine Corps with an experienced staff capable of integrating with other branches and partner nations to “fight tonight” in a wide range of military operations.

“We can’t train separately and fight together,” said Montero. “To be most effective, we must train as a MAGTF to fight as a MAGTF.”

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