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Strike Group Leads Crisis Response Exercise

Navy News Service

Story Number: NNS141105-12
Release Date: 11/5/2014 3:02:00 PM

From Expeditionary Strike Group 2 Public Affairs

ATLANTIC OCEAN (NNS) -- More than 4,500 Sailors from 19 countries got underway to train across a range of simultaneous, and near simultaneous, crisis response missions during Exercise Bold Alligator, the largest, multinational, amphibious exercise conducted in a decade.

The exercise, which is scheduled to run Oct. 29 - Nov. 10 reached its midpoint, Nov. 4.

Rear Adm. Cindy Thebaud, commander, Expeditionary Strike Group 2, leads the multinational, maritime force of 18 ships, including platforms from five countries.

'Today's amphibious warfare operations are more than singular, large scale amphibious assaults,' said Thebaud. 'To reinforce skill sets across the full range of military operations, this year's Bold Alligator refocuses the Navy and Marine Corps team on crisis response. We are exercising in an environment where forces respond more rapidly and are capable of engaging multiple, dispersed objectives.'

Attainment of said objectives requires coordination across military services, warfare areas, platforms and nations. Partnering with 2d Marine Expeditionary Brigade (2d MEB), ESG 2 leveraged various skills, experiences and capabilities offered by more than 8,000 Sailors and Marines to direct the planning and response of 23 exercise mission orders to date.

'The unique aspect of crisis response operations is the condensed planning timeline,' said Capt. Kirk Weatherly, Expeditionary Strike Group 2's operations officer. 'Immediate response requires immediate solutions and the use of on-hand personnel and equipment. Given our daily oversight of the East Coast amphibious force, ESG 2 is in a prime position to quickly match amphibious requirements and identify shortfalls for emergent tasking.'

ESG 2 is also a contingency deployable staff and able to provide afloat expertise in areas that are not organic to amphibious squadrons, including areas such as rules of engagement, supply and public affairs. More centrally, the embarked command staff enables on-scene command and control to unify direction of multiple amphibious ready groups (ARGs).

Bold Alligator 2014 hosts amphibious ships, destroyers and frigates, which are distributed across three ARGs. The ARGs are commanded by two U.S. Navy amphibious squadron commodores and a Dutch rear admiral. The command ships include USS Kearsarge (LHD3), USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7), and HNLMS Johan de Witt (L801).

'In today's environment, the most formidable force consists of international partners and allies,' said Thebaud. 'Each nation brings unique capabilities, expertise and experience which strengthen global presence, flexibility and ability. Bold Alligator is a good demonstration of our interoperability. For instance, I have planners on my staff from seven countries, and the Johan de Witt ARG is led by Dutch Rear Adm. Rob Kramer, commander of the Netherlands Maritime Forces.'

In addition to reinforcing proven partnerships, Bold Alligator is attempting to prove new concepts. A first to the Bold Alligator series, BA14 tested the Fly-in Command Element (FICE) concept as a means to more quickly provide on-scene flag and general officer command and control. At the start of the problem set, Kearsarge was pierside in accordance with the ship's routine deployment cycle. Upon receiving orders to respond to crises in the fictional Treasure Coast region, the ship began loading mission essential personnel, equipment, and ship-to-shore connectors. Simultaneously, a 'suitcase' staff that consisted 12 ESG-2 personnel, including Thebaud, flew to Iwo Jima, which was already operating in the exercise area, in order to immediately establish command and control of the maritime force. A similar 12-person Marine staff element, commanded by Maj. Gen. Richard Simcock, commander, 2d Marine Expeditionary Brigade provided initial command and control of the landing force.

Once Kearsarge arrived in theater, Thebaud, Simcock and their initial headquarters elements shifted their flags from Iwo Jima to Kearsarge to join the rest of their afloat staff, whose expertise was leveraged, while Kearsarge was in transit.

'The FICE concept allows us to quickly establish command and control on a forward deployed Navy ship,' said Col. Jim McGrath, deputy commander, Expeditionary Strike Group 2. 'It allows the commanders the opportunity to assert their presence to have a coordinated and immediate impact on the mission.'

McGrath further explained the Navy-Marine Corps team brings a unique contribution to the FICE.

'We offer multi-domain command and control over land, air and sea in a single naval battle construct,' he said.

Bold Alligator is an annual exercise intended to improve Navy and Marine Corps amphibious core competencies and takes place afloat and ashore along the Eastern Seaboard.

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