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Millennium Challenge testing Marines' next step in warfare evolution

Staff Sgt. Bill Lisbon
Scout Staff
Marine Corps News

MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. - Camp Pendleton Marines are set to take part in one of the largest, most complex military experiments in history - Millennium Challenge 2002 - which combines live field forces and computer simulations at 26 locations across the country.

The Corps' portion of the exercise, dubbed Millennium Dragon, is meant to develop Expeditionary Maneuver Warfare, the doctrine by which the Marine Corps provides light, quick, sea-based, multi-mission forces to shore, said Capt. William Mitchell, a spokesman for the exercise.

This doctrine is the next step after the Operational Maneuver from the Sea concept, which relied on bringing forces to shore and then building up logistics capabilities at the beach to allow combat forces to move further inland.

Under Expeditionary Maneuver Warfare, however, the relatively heavy logistics portion can be minimized.

"The critical difference is there is virtually no pause at the beach," said Mitchell.

Under this doctrine, combat forces will move directly to an inland objective using next-generation longer-range vehicles such as the MV-22 Osprey aircraft, which recently resumed flight testing but is not yet approved for training with operational units, said Mitchell.

To simulate the concept for this exercise, Marines from 1st Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, after departing from the USS Boxer July 29, will land at Pendleton's Red Beach and then move to the Del Mar boat basin here. There they will set up security for the arrival of further forces from 1/1 and light armored vehicles from C Company, 1st Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion. The second force will arrive via the Joint Venture, a 313-foot, high-speed catamaran currently being tested by the Marine Corps. Helicopters from Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 268 will serve as the air combat element.

Once all ground forces are on land, they will convoy north toward Victorville. Along the way Camp Pendleton Marines will hand off exercise duties to 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment based in Twentynine Palms. The Marines of 3/7 will continue Millennium Dragon with an urban exercise using some of the abandoned buildings at the Southern California Logistics Airport, formerly George Air Force Base, in Victorville.

The 96-hour urban combined arms exercise will test some emerging technologies the Corps hopes to make a part of their future arsenal, said Mitchell. These include the Dragon Eye, an unmanned aerial vehicle meant to provide reconnaissance in an urban environment thus keeping Marines out of harm's way, and the Deployable System for Training and Readiness, a system that will let Marines know if they are erroneously taking aim at another Marine on the battlefield.

As an added twist, the I Marine Expeditionary Force troops combined with computer-simulated forces will be commanded remotely by II MEF personnel via computers at the Joint Warfighting Center's Joint Training Analysis and Simulation Center in Suffolk, Va.

The U.S. Joint Forces Command-sponsored experiment features elements of all military Services, U.S. Special Operations Command, most functional and regional commands, and various Department of Defense and federal agencies.

The experiment will use 13,500 participants stretched across the United States in nine live force-training locations and 17 simulation locations, said Army Gen. William "Buck" Kernan, commander of U.S. Joint Forces Command in Norfolk, Va.

Joint Forces Command and the services have been planning two years for the experiment.

The Defense Department and Congress will use Millennium Challenge data to judge the effectiveness of the force and progress in transforming the military to meet the threats of the 21st century.

The bottom line, Kernan said, is that the U.S. military and other government agencies should "know as much about our adversary as possible - more than he knows about himself - no matter who that adversary may be." This knowledge would allow the United States to shut down an enemy quickly and effectively with the least amount of damage and loss of life, he said.

"We are developing a force capable of attacking multiple targets from many different angles," he said. "We will have the will and the ability to operate more rapidly and decisively than we've ever had before."

Editor's Note: American Forces Information Service's Jim Garamone contributed to this report.

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