A new training exercise that took place across four states tested Marines' mettle to carry out missions like embassy evacuations and pilot rescues as the steady deployment of land-based crisis response units becomes the new norm. As the Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force - Crisis Response - Central Command falls into a steady deployment cycle, the certification exercise that Marines must complete before they deploy has taken shape.

Marine officials have created a new certification exercise to test units on tap to deploy with the Corps' crisis response unit for the Middle East. It's designed to mimic missions Marines deploying with Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force-Crisis Response-Central Command will be called on to carry out.

Marines deploying in coming months, including members of 7th Marine Regiment, completed the certification exercise — or CERT-EX — at Joint Forces Training Center-Los Alamitos, California, in mid-February. The scenario they faced could have been pulled from recent news headlines.

"CERT-EX is intended to replicate as closely as possible what we are going to do in theater and the environment we would do it in," said Col. Jay Bargeron, 7th Marine Regiment's commander.

It was the first time Marines have completed the certification exercise in preparation for a deployment with SPMAGTF-Crisis Response-Central Command.

"This special purpose MAGTF has only been around for the last couple of years, so we really haven't gotten to the point where we've done this," Bargeron said.

Participating units included: 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines; Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 232; Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 165; and Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron 352.

Over the nine day exercise, the Marines carried out training missions in Southern California, Arizona, Nevada and Idaho. They had to show that they could recover a down pilot and aircraft, conduct mass casualty evacuations, theater security and stability operations, stability operations, provide humanitarian assistance and reinforce embassy security.

Marines and Sailors with Company K, 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, utilize riot control tactics to respond to violent protestors attempting to get past their security checkpoint during an embassy reinforcement scenario on Joint Forces Training Base Los Alamitos, February 12, 2015. This training was a part of the Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force – Crisis Response – Central Command 15.2 certification exercise. The purpose of the CERTEX was to test and certify SPMAGTF CR-CC 15.2 across a broad spectrum of mission essential tasks.
Marines and Sailors with Company K, 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, utilize riot control tactics to respond to violent protestors attempting to get past their security checkpoint during an embassy reinforcement scenario on Joint Forces Training Base Los Alamitos, February 12, 2015. This training was a part of the Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force – Crisis Response – Central Command 15.2 certification exercise. The purpose of the CERTEX was to test and certify SPMAGTF CR-CC 15.2 across a broad spectrum of mission essential tasks.

Marines and sailors with 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines use riot control tactics to respond to violent protesters attempting to get past their security checkpoint during an embassy reinforcement scenario on Joint Forces Training Base Los Alamitos, Calif., on Feb. 12. The Marines are preparing to deploy with Special Purpose Marine-Air Ground Task Force-Crisis Response-Central Command.

Photo Credit: Lance Cpl. Garrett White/Marine Corps

Marines faced civil unrest and rising anti-American sentiment at a mock American embassy somewhere in the Middle East. Marines with 3/7 were tasked with setting up vehicle control points, maintaining security, and using non-less-than lethal force.

Around the same time, Marines currently deployed with SPMAGTF-Crisis Response-Central Command were responding to a area of operation was handling a tense crisis in Yemen. Rebels took control of the country's capital, bringing unrest to the streets of Sana'a. and tThe State Department had to close the U.S. Embassy there, and Marines its embassy. Marines had to bolstered security as the diplomatic personnel were evacuated. so Diplomats and others could evacuate as violence grew.

While CERT-EX drill in California wasn't based specifically based on the situation in what was going on Yemen, the similarities were intentional.

Bargeron said other Marine units deploying with the crisis response force can expect to participate in similar training as they complete their predeployment work-ups. Exactly what sort of capabilities they'll be tested on will almost certainly change as situations in the Middle East change, he said.

"As time goes on, these will definitely evolve, and they will evolve to the environment and missions in theater," he said.

The CERT-EX for the special purpose MAGTF is The SP-MAGTF work-up schedule is similar to those Marine expeditionary units complete before deploying, but crisis response mission capabilities are tested. ones used to prepare Marine Expeditionary Units to go to se. Both exercises units follow a process that begins with training the individual unit and work up towards training as a MAGTF. then a team of Marines until the entire group trains together. Eventually there's a The certification exercises measure whether the units y're to determine if they meet performance standards for their deployment. "It's definitely a command and control challenge," Bargeron said. "It's a mental challenge. You have to come to it from an individual perspective, then an element perspective, then a MAGTF level."

CERT-EX was a success, Bargeron said, and the The certification went well and Marines were approved for their spring deployment, Bargeron said. Once overseas, the units will be scattered around the U.S. Central Command area of operations. The unit operating there now is in the SP-MAGTF there now is in at least Jordan, Kuwait and United Arab Emirates.