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MARSOC Takes Certification Exercise To The Next Level

Saturday, December 7th, 2019

Marine Forces Special Operations Command recently concluded a series of exercises in the Gulf Coast region aimed at streamlining integration of forces at various command levels. The three-10-day exercises were a collaborative effort between MARSOC, governmental agencies and other stakeholders to evaluate Marine Special Operations units deploying in support of Theater Special Operations Commands and Combined Joint Special Operations Task Forces across the globe.

RAVEN Unit Readiness Exercise serves as the certification exercise for a soon-to-be deploying Marine Special Operations Company. It has evolved into a multilevel venue to integrate the various command structures and capabilities deployed by MARSOC. Each level of command, down to the team, is challenged in planning and executing, and command and controlling activities in urban environments. Through RAVEN, the MARSOC commander ensures operational readiness and capability of Marine Special Operations Forces to conduct special operations missions across a range of military operations and domains. It tests Marine Raiders’ individual and collective abilities to synchronize operations, activities, and actions in the information environment with those in the physical environment to affect decision making and mission planning.

Since its inception in 2012, the unit readiness exercise has become increasingly complex. What was originally done at Fort Irwin, Calif., has expanded to several locations throughout Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi. Teams were spread across a 100-mile area, with the exercise operations center at the National Guard Base in Gulfport, Miss. The decentralized approach is intended to mimic the challenges in communication, planning and logistics when evaluating considerations for mission execution.

“RAVEN’s scenario design incorporates current and future dynamics the joint force may encounter to present exercise participants challenges across the range of military operations,” according to a former company commander, now the special operations officer in charge of the entirety of training execution. “Within this, participants must account for the implications of tactical actions across operational and strategic levels. The great thing about RAVEN is that it lets a unit execute full spectrum operations in a realistic military training environment without any requirements to support the exercise.”

It is also an opportunity to enhance collaboration and strengthen our operational relationships between members of the SOF community, conventional Marine Corps units and other partners with whom Marine Raiders work closely, ensuring MARSOC provides the nation with an agile, adaptive force to meet the complex demands of the future operating environment.

“RAVEN incorporates lessons learned from academia, the joint force, and redeploying MARSOC units to maintain a realistic and current exercise. The [Exercises, Training and Education Branch] consistently seeks incorporation of experimental and new technology, equipment, and TTPs into the exercise providing exposure to the force, and testing and evaluation feedback under simulated real-world conditions,” said the OIC. “This enables the exercise the ability to immediately implement the Commander’s initiatives while quickly adapting to emerging indicators of the future operating environment.”

The exercise also capitalizes on the opportunity to further streamline the integration of other SOF and conventional forces.

“SOF are inherently reliant on support from joint forces across conventional and SOF formations. Conventional forces gain the exposure and experience of working aside SOF units and the joint force improves interoperability with both SOF and conventional forces. As Marines, [Raiders] are intimately familiar with the task organized Marine Air-Ground Task Force concept. Our understanding of the MAGTF, and both USMC and SOCOM concept allow us to improve institutional and operational cooperation through interdependence, interoperability and integration with conventional forces,” said the former company commander.

For this particular exercise, MARSOF integrated with conventional Marine Corps assets from Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 366 from 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing, 3rd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, and 2nd Reconnaissance Battalion from 2nd Marine Division and 3rd Assault Amphibian Battalion from 1st Marine Division. There was also integration of Air Force Special Operations Command assets from the 73rd and 319th Special Operations Squadrons, and the 178th Attack Squadron; and Army Special Operations Task Force. These units were able to come together and execute missions beginning at the target development phase all the way through mission execution.

“This is the kind of stuff you envision when you join the Marine Corps,” said one of the platoon commanders from 3rd AABN. “You can see the added excitement and engagement from my Marines who are getting the added exposure to infantry skills that may have some carry over for when we have to operate with infantry Marines in the future,” he added. His team of 15 Marines conducted weapons familiarization, close quarters battle drills and planned and executed a raid with the MSOT they were attached to.

For the MAGTF Marines, the training conducted at RAVEN provides exposure to small unit tactics they might not otherwise receive, particularly units like 3rd AABN, whose day-to-day responsibilities are focused on amphibious assault vehicle readiness, basic formations and water ops, and terrain driving.

At the MARSOC company level, RAVEN is the last in a series of training evolutions within the 180-day training cycle an MSOC will execute in preparation for deployment. At this point, units are refining and streamlining processes. Considerations for mobility, sustainment, and logistics all require additional planning and coordination, according to a critical skills operator and team chief evaluated during this RAVEN series.

Having first participated in RAVEN as a sergeant, the gunnery sergeant has seen the exercise grow in scale and complexity, providing units the ability to execute the full range of special operations core tasks, special insertion skills, and missions against an opposing force.

“The command has invested quite a bit of time and money into making the training challenging and realistic,” he said. While there are still role players, the scenario is much more developed, requiring in-depth analysis in developing possible targets.”

According to this team chief, another aspect that has improved is the extent of the integration of mentor-evaluators and Exercise Control Group into the training.

“It is an opportunity for the team to cross-pollinate [tactics, techniques and procedures] from units across MARSOC. We all have the same baseline, but it comes to identifying gaps and refining efficiencies, down to things as simple as naming conventions,” he said. “Having been a mentor-evaluator and seeing teams go through the stress of the exercise, it is eye-opening to have that outsider’s perspective. It can be time-consuming, but it spreads the learning across the entirety of the exercise.”

MARSOC conducts the RAVEN series several times a year, alternating locations from the Gulf Coast Region and the Kentucky-Tennessee border two to three times per year, with the next one being conducted in April, 2020.

Story and Photos by Gunnery Sgt. Lynn Kinney , Marine Forces, Special Operations Command

Additional Photos by Photo by Lance Cpl. Elias Pimentel. Marine Forces, Special Operations Command

Happy Birthday US Marines

Sunday, November 10th, 2019

Here’s the Commandant’s birthday message.

We appreciate everything you’ve done America. Keep it up!

Here’s to 244 more!

Next-Generation Bomb Suit Lightens Load for Marines

Wednesday, October 23rd, 2019

MARINE CORPS BASE QUANTICO, Va. —
Explosive Ordnance Disposal Marines will soon receive a lighter and more capable bomb suit for protection against various threats.

Fielding in 2020, the EOD Advanced Bomb Suit incorporates several 21st century, next-generation technological advancements intended to help EOD Marines withstand arduous conditions on the battlefield.

The system protects against severe injuries caused by blast overpressure, shrapnel, heat and impacts. The suit also comprises an elaborate integrated ventilation system to reduce heat stress and improve breathing.

“The new EOD bomb suit provides the warfighter with additional protection and flexibility,” said Fernando Pena, Marine Corps Systems Command’s project officer for the suit. “It is a superior suit compared with the previous system.”

In 2014, the Corps fielded an innovative bomb suit that has provided protection to the warfighter. However, because threats are ever-evolving, the need to find new ways to safeguard EOD Marines is paramount in carrying out missions and defeating adversaries.

Master Sgt. Zachariah Kindvall, an MCSC subject matter expert for the EOD bomb suit, says the new system helps meet the warfighter’s ever-changing needs.

“The new EOD bomb suit will add another level of personal protection equipment for Marines to use,” said Kindvall. “It provides a higher level of protection than what we currently have.”

The EOD suit meets or exceeds the performance and characteristics of the legacy system. For example, the newer system has a more ergonomic design, offers superior overall balanced protection, and provides greater situational awareness and operational capabilities, said Pena.

Kindvall noted how the suit offers more comfort, reducing the risk of fatigue. He said engineers emphasized the design and fitting of the suit, making it easier for the warfighter to maneuver. The clothing is also easier to don and doff compared with the previous system.

“The foot protection, in particular, is much easier to walk in and provides much more comfort and protection,” said Kindvall.

Additionally, the suit is significantly lighter than its older counterpart—a characteristic of the system Kindvall says can help Marines. Lightening the warfighter’s load is important because too much gear can wear on the warfighter. The new bomb suit reduces weight while also enhancing protection and communication.

“Lightening the load gives Marines more flexibility during missions—even if it is just a reduction of a few pounds,” said Kindvall. “That weight reduction can be significant.”

Both Pena and Kindvall are confident the system will be advantageous on the battlefield. As Pena explained, the warfighter can investigate and perform render-safe procedures involving an improvised explosive device knowing the suit’s added stability can protect them from serious impact and other hazards.

“We as a program office must be proactive in understanding the dynamic changes of today’s threats as well as future threats,” said Pena. “The new EOD bomb suit helps to support this idea.”

By Matt Gonzales, MCSC Office of Public Affairs and Communication | Marine Corps Systems Command

MARSOF 2030

Saturday, October 5th, 2019

The newest of United Special Operations Command’s components, Marine Corps Special Operations Command was founded in 2006, following an experiment with MCSOCOM Detachment-One.

Despite not having a long history in SOF, they also weren’t burdened with an organizational structure created during the Cold War. Instead, they leveraged capabilities found within the Corps and stood up a command with multiple disciplines including traditional Special Operators, Terminal Attack Controllers, Intelligence specialists, EOD and K9. Just like with standard Marine Corps units, medical support is provided by selected and trained Navy Corpsmen. Furthermore, MARSOC developed specialized training for all of their personnel l including logistics and communications. They have done a fantastic job at operationalize all of these capabilities.

If I were in one of the other components, I’d read this. They are coming for your missions.

MARSOC continues to evolve. This document shows us what they bring to the fight. Download it here.

Fine-tuning the Corps’ Amphibious Combat Vehicle in Preparation for IOT&E

Friday, October 4th, 2019

MARINE CORPS BASE QUANTICO, Va. —

Three thousand miles away from the epicenter of Marine Corps Amphibious Combat Vehicle acquisition, a cadre of Marines, civilians and contractors are hard at work completing a logistics demonstration effort on the vehicle.

The logistics demonstration effort—or Log Demo—is one of the last steps the Advanced Amphibious Assault program office at Program Executive Officer Land Systems needs to execute before training Marines in the Operating Forces to use and maintain the vehicle during IOT&E, the integrated operational test and evaluation activities scheduled for next year.

“Log Demo’s main purpose is to verify the validity and accuracy of the ACV’s technical manuals,” said Tommy “TJ” Pittman, Log Demo’s technical manager lead for PM AAA. “We want to make sure that the Marine can do the job, given the technical manual, training and tools [provided to them].”

For the logistics demonstration team, this means individually reviewing and performing nearly 1,500 work package procedures in the Interactive Electronic Technical Manual designed for Marines in charge of vehicle maintenance.

The demo also involves reviewing 125 work packages—spanning over 2,000 pages—in the Electronic Technical Manual designed for Marine ACV operators. The Common Remotely Operated Weapons System—or CROWS—on the ACV also has its own technical manual that the team must verify.

“This is less about our ability to perform the task or our skills as a mechanic, and more about whether the IETM can direct us to do the task properly” said Staff Sgt. Justin Hanush, lead ACV maintenance instructor for Advanced Amphibious Assault program office’s new equipment training team at PEO LS. “We’re painstakingly going through the IETM word-for-word, letter-by-letter, illustrations, everything—to make sure we can do the task as the IETM is written.”

A next-generation technical manual for a next-generation vehicle

The IETM is especially noteworthy because, for the Marine Corps, it’s the first of its kind for ground vehicles.

“I’ve personally worked for 15 years on getting the Marine Corps an interactive electronic tech manual that can be updated within moments,” said Pittman.

As a former Assault Amphibious Vehicle operator, the 24-year Marine Corps veteran has extensive experience operating and maintaining vehicles in the amphibious assault community. Pittman worked with Army Aviation and Missile Command to integrate the ACV’s IETM onto their software system and servers.

The interactive aspect of the technical manual streamlines the diagnostic and troubleshooting process Marines use when performing maintenance on a vehicle. By collaborating with the Army on a virtual manual, the Marine Corps can also reduce the amount of time needed to make updates to the IETM.

In the past, it could take up to a year for the technical manual for the ACV’s predecessor, the Assault Amphibious Vehicle, to be updated, said Hanush. With the introduction of the new IETM software, updates to the technical manual are implemented overnight.

On the ACV operator side, the team is ensuring their technical manual is clearly written so Marines can properly operate the vehicle and provide first-level maintenance on the vehicle if needed, said Sgt. Jarrod Warren, lead ACV operator instructor for the NETT.

“It’s important that the outcomes we reach when going through the ETM are the same outcomes stated in the book,” said Warren. “It’s also important to make sure we can maintain the vehicle at our level and, if not, we know when to bring it up to the maintenance side.”

The importance of meticulously reviewing the technical manuals to ensure the validity and accuracy of the document is not lost on Hanush, who noted, “I could have grandchildren someday who join the Marine Corps, and they could be working off the manual that I’m helping to write.”

Technical manual writing aside, Hanush is appreciative of the dedication of his fellow Marines during Log Demo, saying, “I couldn’t ask for a better group of ACV mechanics. They’re knocking it out of the park.”

One team, one fight, under one roof

Unlike other logistic demonstrations undertaken by the Corps, which typically take place at a contractor’s facility, this one takes place at the Marine Corps’ Amphibious Vehicle Test Branch at Camp Pendleton, California.

The three-month logistics demonstration took more than a year-and-a-half to plan, said Pittman. He said a unique aspect of Log Demo was that the program office, rather than the contractor, planned and created the logistics demonstration plan.

Equally critical to the success of the Log Demo effort are PM AAA’s industry partners, whose participation spans multiple states and continents, and whose roles vary from field service representatives to technical illustrators.

“We have about 65 individuals on the ground here, between the Marines, civilians, BAE, and one foreign representative from Iveco, which is the subcontractor to BAE on the vehicle,” said Pittman. “We have the right people—the writers, the illustrators, the engineers, the Marines, the data collectors, the safety people and the —in one location, which makes communication between the groups so much easier.”

Moving forward to IOT&E

Currently, the Marines on the NETT are the Corps’ uniformed subject matter experts on the ACV. Following Log Demo, Hanush, Warren and the rest of the NETT will use the verified training manuals as their guide to train and prepare Marines for IOT&E.

IOT&E is the program office’s final evaluation of the ACV before fielding the vehicle. During IOT&E, executed by Marine Corps Operational Test and Evaluation Activity, the NETT will take a step back from operating and maintaining the vehicle and instead enable Marines to put the vehicle through its paces.

“IOT&E is sort of like a dress rehearsal for the system,” said Maj. Scott Jennings, a project officer at MCOTEA who will be involved with IOT&E of the ACV. “Marines will operate the vehicle in realistic environments and go on realistic missions so that we can evaluate the operational suitability and effectiveness of the system and see if it does what we want it to do in the way we want to do it.”

Until then, PM AAA’s focus is to ensure the ACV is ready for use. The modernized vehicle brings the Corps’ amphibious assault capabilities back to the forefront and will assist Marines in reestablishing themselves as a naval expeditionary force-in-readiness prepared to operate inside actively contested maritime spaces in support of fleet operations.

“I believe wholeheartedly in the mission these [Marines] do out there because I’ve been there,” said Pittman, who has dedicated over 48 years of his life to the assault amphibious community as an active duty Marine and a civilian. “I believe that we need to give them the best assets that we can possibly put in their hands, to not only save their lives, but to also protect our freedom.”

By Ashley Calingo, PEO Land Systems Public Affairs | Marine Corps Systems Command

MDM 17 – USMC Certifies XGO Performance T-Shirt For Alternate Wear

Tuesday, September 17th, 2019

The Marine Corps has certified the XGO Non-FR Performance T-Short in short and long sleeved versions for alternate wear. Certification Number 001254 for short sleeved and 001255 for long sleeved.

The shirts features flat seam construction for comfort and the material is anti-microbial.

www.proxgo.com

MDM 19 – Rocky USMC Tropical Boot

Tuesday, September 17th, 2019

The Marine Corps has selected two new tropical boots for use on the jungle. One of them is the Rocky boot.

It features a modernized version of the famous Panama tread outsole, manufactured by Vibram. The sole incorporates a ASTM certified puncture plate and an air-port cushioned footbed.

The upper is a full grain, flesh out leather combined with 1000D Cordura. The leather portion of the upper also features drainage holes to release water and increase breathability.

www.rockyboots.com

Handheld Tablet Improves Situational Awareness for Marines

Sunday, September 15th, 2019

MARINE CORPS BASE QUANTICO, Va. —

During Island Marauder 2019, Marines will demonstrate the effectiveness of several Marine Corps Systems Command technologies—including a handheld system that helps the warfighter navigate on the battlefield.

The Marine Air-Ground Task Force Common Handheld is a tablet-based communication system that enhances situational awareness on the battlefield. The device enables dismounted Marines to leverage commercial smart devices to plot and share locations.

The device includes pre-installed tactical applications to eliminate the need to juggle multiple technologies for various capabilities, lightening the load for the warfighter.

“MCH is essentially an interactive tactical mapping program with a GPS navigation software and a chat functionality,” said Maj. Richard Beeson, MCH project officer at MCSC. “The technology feeds the battalion’s current operational picture with real-time friendly force positions and allows this battlespace awareness to be shared down to the squad-leader level.”

The tablet feeds the information into Networking On-the-Move, while simultaneously transmitting it to the Combat Operations Center, where command leaders can use the information to make critical battlefield decisions.

Through MCH, commanders can disseminate orders, graphics and digital data, providing Marines the ability to visualize the commander’s intent and scheme of maneuver.

“It helps Marines to share enemy locations in real-time in an easily understood digital, moving map format,” added Beeson.

MCH enables warfighters to pass messages to one another in real-time—similar to text messaging—allowing the commander to make faster, more effective, decisions. It also assists the warfighter in deciphering whether an explosion was caused by enemy or friendly fire.

“MCH is a Command and Control situational awareness system that gives the squad leader and platoon commander a better understanding of the battlefield to make tactical decisions,” said Justin Meidinger, an engineer for MCH. “This system helps them have a better idea of what is going on around them.”

Earlier this year, the Corps fielded an early release version of the system to Marines. In fiscal year 2020, the warfighter will receive an updated version of the MCH that allows Marines to communicate with one another through several additional joint communication systems.

Later this month at Island Marauder, Marines will demonstrate the effectiveness and interoperability of MCH by linking it with other satellite technologies. The risk-assessment evaluation is intended to reduce miscommunication among Marines who use communication technologies. Beeson raved about the benefits of MCH and how the system supports the warfighter.

“MCH allows for communication, collaboration and coordinating among units,” said Beeson. “It helps everyone to be on same page. MCH increases the digital lethality of Marine infantry squads while reducing the risk of friendly fire.”

 

By Matt Gonzales, MCSC Office of Public Affairs and Communication | Marine Corps Systems Command