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American Forces Press Service

‘Bold Alligator’ Helps to Sustain Amphibious Operations

By Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone C. Marshall Jr.
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 31, 2012 – As the Navy and Marine Corps continue “Bold Alligator,” their largest joint, multinational amphibious assault exercise in 10 years, it is important that both services sustain amphibious operations, the commander of U.S. Fleet Forces Command said today.

“It’s enormously important for the Navy to start learning an awful lot about Marine Corps operations and getting a landing force ashore, and how that land force operates,” Navy Adm. John C. Harvey Jr. said at a Defense Writers Group breakfast.

“And it’s enormously important for the Marine forces to understand what it took to get the naval force to the position where you could land the assault forces and sustain those assault forces,” he added. “That part of this education, I think, will be the greatest benefit to this exercise.”

Bold Alligator 2012 began Jan. 30 and is scheduled to run through until Feb. 12, on and off the coasts of Virginia, North Carolina and Florida. The exercise’s intent is to revitalize Navy and Marine Corps amphibious expeditionary tactics, techniques and procedures, and reinvigorate its culture of conducting combined Navy and Marine Corps operations from the sea, a Navy statement said.

Although Bold Alligator is the largest exercise of the past decade, Marines never completely left the seas, Lt. Gen. Dennis J. Hejlik, commander of U.S. Marine Corps Forces Command, emphasized.

“We have the seven [Marine Expeditionary Units] out there,” he said. “So we have a percentage of Marine Corps officers and Marine enlisted that have always been out there.”

Harvey said these types of exercises test commanders and their staffs in preparation for tough real-world scenarios.

“Commanders are going to make decisions based on the kinds of situations they are confronted with,” he said. “We’re going to test that commander’s ability to make these decisions and apportion those forces. The biggest stress for any commander is the apportionment of the forces under his command for the multitude of tasks they’ve been given.”

Harvey and Hejlik said the naval exercise is not based on current events in the Persian Gulf, but is “certainly informed by recent history.”

“This exercise deals with large numbers of small-boat threats, irregular threats, not easy to identify in the complex battle space, … which could be used to describe just about the entire Persian Gulf,” Harvey noted. The exercise deals with both regular and irregular threats, as well as with shore-based cruise missiles, the admiral said.

“When we constructed the scenario, we put it against what we called a moderate force, or a medium force with moderate ability, who denies access into theater and actually on land,” Hejlik said. “And we did that purposely because of the force that we’re exercising, … so it’s not patterned after any contingency planning, if you will.”

Hejlik also cited working with conventional and special operations forces as an important objective during Bold Alligator.

Harvey noted that Gen. James F. Amos, Marine Corps commandant, refers to the Marine Corps as a “middleweight” force.

“We can go high, we can go low, but are a middleweight force that can strike with power,” Harvey said.

The admiral said he hopes the Navy and Marine Corps continue exercises like Bold Alligator to “keep that institutional learning going.”

“When did we bring it all together?” he asked, referring previous training. “When did we bring the parts together in a purposeful manner and challenge ourselves to do what we are expected to be able to do in 10 years?

“That’s really what this is all about,” Harvey added. “And I hope that we continue that cycle.”

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