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Marine Expeditionary Force (MEF)

The Marine Expeditionary Force (MEF) is the principal warfighting MAGTF in the active force structure of the Marine Corps and is normally built around a Division/Wing/FSSG team. The Marine Expeditionary Force (MEF) was formerly called Marine Amphibious Force (MAF). The nomenclature was changed because senior Marine leaders felt the term "expeditionary" implied a mission, while "amphibious" was simply a transportation method.

There are presently three active MEF's which source the CE's, GCE's, ACE's, and CSSE's of other MAGTF's (SPMAGTF, MEU, and MEB). In addition to "sourcing" smaller MAGTFs, the MEF is the principal Marine Corps warfighting organization, particularly for a larger crisis or contingency. As a crisis escalates, or in the case of major theater war, smaller MAGTFs and supporting units are sequentially deployed until the entire MEF is in place to support the CINC's campaign plan. The MEF is capable of conducting a wide range of expeditionary operations, both amphibious operations and sustained operations ashore. It can be tailored for a wide variety of combat missions in any geographic environment and deploys with 60 days of accompanying supplies.

Normally commanded by a lieutenant general, a MEF can include one or more divisions in its ground combat element, one or more aircraft wings in its air combat element, and one or more force service support groups in its combat service support element.

The Ground Combat Element (GCE) of a MEF is normally a Marine division reinforced with other appropriate FMF units. The Marine Division includes three infantry regiments, an artillery reginment, a tank battalion, an assault amphibious vehicle battalion, a light armored reconnaissance battalion, and a combat engineer battalion. The division fights using combined arms tactics and can tailor itself to meet the demands of any mission - from operations other than war to major theater warfare.

The Aviation Combat Element (ACE) of a MEF is a Marine aircraft wing, task-organized to conduct all six functions of tactical air operations. The wing is organized and equipped to operate from ships, permanent airfields ashore, or expeditionary airfields. The Marine Aircraft Wing conducts the complete range of air operatins in support of the MEF, to include anti-air warfare, offensive air support, assault support, aerial reconnaissance, electronic warfare (including active and passive electronic countermeasures), and control of aircraft and missiles. As a collateral function, the wing may also provide units that operate as an integral component of Navy carrier air wings onboard aircraft carriers.

The Combat Service Support Element (CSSE) of a MEF is the FSSG. The organic battalions of the FSSG provide the full range of CSS functions to include maintenance, transportation, deliberate engineering, supply, health services, and other services (e.g., postal, disbursing, law enforcement). The Force Service Support Group provides sustained combat service support above and beyond the organic capabilities of subordinate MAGTF combat service support elements. It provides a full range of medical, dental, maintenance, supply, motor transport, and engineer capabilities.

There are three standing MEFs: I Marine expeditionary force (I MEF), based in southern California and Arizona; II Marine expeditionary force (II MEF), based in North and South Carolina; and III Marine Expeditionary Force (III MEF), based in Japan and Hawaii. Each standing MEF consists of a permanent CE and one Marine division, MAW, and FSSG. These major commands constitute the primary reservoir of combat capabilities from which MAGTFs are sourced.

The size and composition of a deployed MEF can vary greatly depending on the requirements of the mission. It can deploy with not only its own units but also units from the other standing MEFs, the Marine Corps Reserve, or the other Services and the Special Operations Command. A MEF typically deploys by echelon with 60 days of sustainment. The lead echelon of the MEF, tailored to meet the specific mission, is designated the MEF (forward) (MEF(FWD)) and may be commanded by the MEF commander personally or by a designated commander. The MEF(FWD) prepares for the subsequent arrival of the rest of the MEF or other joint or combined forces. However, the deployment of the MEF( FWD) does not necessarily mean that all the forces of the standing MEF will follow. This would occur only if the entire MEF were required. MEFs may conduct sustained operations ashore upon completion of an amphibious operation or by deploying from the sea, land, or air and linking up with maritime prepositioning ships carrying equipment and supplies.

While MEU(SOC)s and ACMs can do a multitude of tasks well, they aren't always enough to defeat an enemy, especially at the high end of the conflict spectrum. When confronted by a numerically superior foe bent on denying U.S. forces access into a theater, regional CINCs may require a first-on-the-scene, sea-based MAGTF -- larger and more capable than the MEU(SOC) -- that can force its way ashore and pave the way for follow-on joint forces. This role is filled by a specially-configured MEF, embarked aboard amphibious assault ships.

The current Navy amphibious force is being reshaped to provide 36 modern amphibious ships, including 12 large assault ships, that can each carry a sizable, mixed complement of helicopter, tilt-rotor and V/STOL aircraft. This force will provide the means to form 12 multi-purpose ARGs. These ARGs will support the peacetime deployment of MEU(SOC)s and, when necessary, combine to form a larger task force capable of transporting the amphibious MEF to combat.

The amphibious MEF consists of up to two-thirds of the MEF's full combat power. It is equipped with the necessary assault amphibious vehicles, landing craft, and rotary- and fixed-wing aircraft to conduct opposed ship-to-objective movements. When it arrives in theater, the MEF can either absorb on-scene MEU(SOC)s into its overall structure, employ them independently in support of the overall forcible entry operation, or employ them in support of other operations designated by the theater CINC.

The amphibious MEF remains the only means for self-sustainable forcible entry into a region in which U.S. forces are being denied access. It can seize and hold airfields and ports to enable the introduction of follow-on MEF or joint forces. Once this is accomplished, the MEF can remain in theater to conduct main or supporting attacks during joint campaigns. In the future, when equipped with advanced amphibious assault vehicles, air-cushioned landing craft, and tilt-rotor aircraft, it will be capable of projecting combat power from the sea -- 25 to 75 miles over the horizon -- directly against the decisive objectives for inland. This concept, known as operational maneuver from the sea, will make the amphibious MEF an even more flexible, potent instrument of joint combat power.

As a singular national capability, an amphibious MEF serves as a key "swing force" in the case of multiple theater operations. In other words, it would engage in one theater, and once follow-on joint forces are established, it would backload, reconstitute itself, and proceed to engage enemy forces in the next theater.






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