CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. -- "To focus our Corps' intellectual and physical might - our efforts and actions will revolve around two touchstones; warfighting excellence and the well-being of our Marines." - Gen. Michael W. Hagee, 33rd Commandant of the Marine Corps.
Recently, the II Marine Expeditionary Force commanding generals and more than 150 of their staff officers completed the first portion of MEFEX '04. It's a multi-phase exercise that includes extensive study and practical application of warfighting techniques that will guarantee future battlefield wins, according to Lt. Gen. H. P. Osman, II MEF commanding general.
Helping to lead the charge to Baghdad earlier this year were II MEF Marines who encountered fierce resistance in An Nasiriyah, in south-central Iraq. They were organized as a lighter Marine Expeditionary Brigade - a smaller version of the MEF - yet supported by aviation and artillery fire normally associated with the larger unit.
Whether in force or brigade composition, this method of warfighting organization is termed a "Marine Air/Ground Task Force" - an orchestrated and routinely practiced competency through which the Corps has heightened its reputation for mission accomplishment.
To that end, the Corps' three MEF units are required to undergo an evaluation by former MEF commanders and other experts to determine mission readiness and further the inherent intricacies of, as simply stated by one senior Marine leader, "kicking the enemy's butt."
"Every individual unit has core competencies. The MEF is no exception," said Osman. "This exercise teaches procedures that allow for proper planning that when applied to any contingency will result in early success."
He broadly described the competencies to include planning, execution and operation assessment.
Subsequent MEFEX phases scheduled are post-holiday Operational Planning Team training and a command post exercise beginning in late February.
"This exercise concentrates on fundamentals of MAGTF [pronounced MAG-TAFF] capabilities and operations. It's basic meat and potatoes with an amphibious flavor to gain and maintain those core competencies," said Col. Robert L. Hayes III, II MEF operations officer.
Trainers from the Quantico, Va., - based MAGTF Staff Training Program, are augmented by retired Marine generals who serve as mentors to the MEF's senior commanders. The MEFEX '04 panel includes former Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. Richard I. Neal, Lt. Gen. George R. Christmas, Lt. Gen. Bruce B. Knutson Jr., and Lt. Gen. Gary S. McKissock. They will assess the evolution overall and specifically the command, ground, aviation and combat service support components respectively.
The senior mentors provide guidance and develop the operation planning team, said Osman. "Their experience is invaluable."
The MEF has also fielded a team of its own evaluators that, according to Hayes, will perform an internal review during MEFEX '04 to ensure that training objectives are met and develop a plan to correct deficiencies.
Hayes listed five essential MEF tasks that participants are intently studying: planning; MAGTF fires (aviation, naval surface and artillery); command and control; information operations (strategic influence directed toward enemy leaders to disrupt or sway battlefield decisions); and an operational assessment that provides a commander comprehensive insight on mission results. Other elements under review are deployment of force reconnaissance and logistics.
As these MEF-level training exercises are a priority of the commandant, Gen. Hagee participates in the review process, issuing his personal "stamp of approval."
"The commandant considers this his 'number one priority,'" said Osman.
Also scrutinizing the exercise are the Commander of Marine Forces Atlantic Lt. Gen. Martin R. Berndt, Marine headquarters senior officials and other combatant leaders in Central, European and Southern commands to which II MEF has forces engaged.
"We're globally committed," remarked Osman. "The sun never sets on II MEF."
MEFEX '04 is scheduled for completion in March.