Next summer, the The Marine Corps' desert training base in Twentynine Palms, California, will host the is pushing training outside the box. In August 2016, Marines at Twentynine Palms will conduct their first expanded large-scale exercise using an additional 132,000 acres of federal land meant from the Bureau of Land Management to replicate future operational conditions.
"We have been deliberate in our planning to utilize this new and important resource necessary for mission readiness in a venue that can support fully integrated, large-scale training," Maj. Gen. Lewis Craparotta, Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center commanding general, said in a press release.
The expanded training area in Johnson Valley was gained under the National Defense Authorization Act of 2014, which granted 79,000 acres to the Corps for Exclusive Military Use and designated 53,000 acres for shared use with the public.
The Shared Use Area is available for public recreation 10 months of the year, and used by Marines for two 30-day periods annually.
Known as LSE-16, the exercise is still in its planning stages. Involving thousands of Marines, it but will be the most expansive Corps' largest training scale annual training event ever held there, yet and include more realistic scenarios and lots of firepowerintegrating over 5,000 Marines in sustained, combined air-ground operations over a widely-dispersed area.
"Present-day training standards require Marines to conduct intensive operations over extended distances that allows for maneuvering in the presence of ground and air live-fire," said MCAGCC public affairs officer Capt. Justin Smith, a spokesman for the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center told Marine Corps Times. "... In the past, the Marine Corps has not possessed a venue adequate enough to support training of this size and was forced to rely on classroom instruction and simulation, which provided unrealistic and limited practical experience for command, control and maneuver," Smith said."
By comparison, LSE-14, which ran from 8-14 August 2014, brought together 3,700 Marines, plus of the I Marine Expeditionary Brigade to Twentynine Palms augmented with some Canadian and support forces, to practice run through a variety of scenarios, including long-range raids, casualty evacuations and defensive operations. The constrained training areas and limited resources meant computer simulation was necessary to represent battlefield conditions, maneuvers and airstrikes.
The expanded training area for LSE-16, however, will open the field to full-spectrum operations, challenging leaders to command and control units in real time.
Located in Johnson Valley, the land was gained under the National Defense Authorization Act of 2014, which granted 79,000 acres to the Marine Corps for "exclusive military use" and designated 53,000 acres for shared use with the public. The shared area is available for public recreation 10 months of the year. The Marines can use it for two 30-day periods annually.
Such training is in line with the Marines' new Expeditionary Force 21 concept, a the Corps' strategic vision for the next decade, which organizes the force into special purpose Marine air-ground task forces. Each SP-MAGTF integrates command, ground, aviation and logistical elements operating over wide geographic areas.
SP-MAGTF Crisis Response Africa, for example, is based in Spain, Romania and Italy, but is prepared to execute a variety of missions throughout the African continent including embassy reinforcement and evacuation, downed aircraft recovery as well as humanitarian and disaster relief.
Officials announced recently that the crisis-response unit will begin sending small detachments to new forward-staging bases in the West African countries of Ghana, Senegal and Gabon. A fourth, in Niger, is being negotiated.
The service believes that its ability to expand training in the California desert will enhance preparedness for real-world missions in which small units find themselves distributed across wide swaths of territory or even across geographic borders.
"With the acquisition of this land, the Marine Corps is now capable of conducting LSE training, necessary for mission readiness, in a venue that can support fully integrated, live-fire, MAGTF training," Smith said.