3rd Marine Littoral Regiment Headquarters made its maiden deployment to the First Island Chain, working shoulder to shoulder with the Armed Forces of the Philippines during Exercise Balikatan 22, which is scheduled to run from March 28 to April 8. .
BK22 is the 37th iteration of the Philippine-led bilateral exercise, which is designed to enhance the alliance’s collective security and defensive capabilities.
For the Marines and Sailors of 3rd MLR, the exercise began with combined amphibious landings in northern Luzon, followed by coastal defense training, providing the newly designated unit with a valuable opportunity to deploy d ‘Hawaii in the Western Pacific to work alongside the Philippine Marine Corps and other AFP counterparts.
Upon arrival in the Philippines, 3d MLR HQ partnered with 1st Battalion, 3rd Marines to integrate into the exercise with the PMC while continuing the Force Design 2030 experiment.
“3d MLR’s maiden deployment is the next step towards achieving initial operating capability,” said Col. Timothy Brady, commanding officer of 3d Marine Littoral Regiment. “The move of MLR Headquarters to the first island chain to partner with the Armed Forces of the Philippines is an excellent opportunity to lay the foundation for future employment of MLR. Additionally, lessons learned from this exercise will 3d MLR to hone and adapt to prepare for any potential opponent across the competition continuum.”
“The days of reporting to a fully established forward operating base are over. To succeed in this environment, we must rely on each Marine’s creativity, initiative and dynamic problem solving.” Colonel Timothy Brady, Commanding Officer of the 3rd Marine Regiment Littoral
The logistics and command and control capability of 3rd MLR were tested throughout the exercise as it established small, distributed expeditionary sites in austere environments. The Marines have developed creative solutions to meet the challenges inherent in operating in such locations. Leading new methods of expeditionary support, 3rd MLR worked with elements of AFP and 3rd Marine Logistics Group to find effective solutions. The Marines and Sailors of 3rd Combat Logistics Regiment and 9th Engineer Support Battalion were critical to this success. The CLR-3 served as the command element of the Marine Air-Ground Task Force, providing operational contract support and supported reception, staging, pursuit movement and integration for all forces marines. The 9th ESB served as a logistics combat element, providing support, littoral engineering reconnaissance, and geospatial imagery support with the VAPOR 55 unmanned aerial system.
Marines and sailors from Alpha Surgical Company and Bravo Surgical Company, 3rd Medical Battalion and Combat Logistics Regiment 37 have teamed up to establish a robust Role II medical facility at Cagayan International Airport during BK22. Additionally, Marines and Sailors partnered with their AFP counterparts to provide enhanced shock trauma care, labs, and emergency surgery in a tactical environment. This Role II facility was a key element in safely executing dynamic training in remote locations in northern Luzon.
“Adjusting to change is not easy,” Colonel Brady said. “The days of showing up to a fully established forward operating base are over. To succeed in this environment, we must rely on the creativity of each Marine, take initiative and solve dynamic problems. I am impressed with our team and delighted to see the continued growth of the Marines, this unit and our partnership with AFP.”
In addition to elements of 1st Battalion, 3rd Marines, elements of 3rd Littoral Anti-Air Battalion and 3rd MLR Communication Company deployed to support distributed C2, experimentation with emerging capabilities and concepts, and strengthen partnerships and security in the region
Experimentation with sensors, fire support and expeditionary forward bases provided the framework for integrated coastal defense with the AFP. Over the course of eight days, 3rd MLR HQ partnered with the Philippine Marine Corps Coastal Defense Regiment and provided command and control of several EABs in northern Luzon. This coastal defense was further reinforced by two Patriot missile batteries from the US Army’s 1st Battalion, 1st Air Defense Artillery Regiment. The United States Navy also played a key role with divers, ship-to-shore connectors, and sealift from USS Ashland.
Photo taken by Cpl. Joshua Brittenham
A high-mobility artillery rocket systems platoon from 3rd Battalion, 12th Marines also integrated into coastal defense. The HIMARS platoon received real-time targeting data from the 3e Régiment du Littoral Marin combat operations center to pursue simulated fire missions during training. The HIMARS provided a ground-based sniping capability in support of counter-landing operations and served as a surrogate for future employment of the Navy’s Expeditionary Ship Interdiction System. The coastal defense scenario allowed the fire and intelligence sections of 3rd MLR to integrate with the common sensor network and develop a clear common operational picture. At the same time, a small element of the 3rd Littoral Anti-Aircraft Battalion assisted in the deconfliction of land, air and sea traffic to ensure a safe flight path for the simulated missile. This combined interoperability event brought together the US Marine Corps and the Philippine Marine Corps in a common mission to enhance the collective defensive capabilities of the alliance.
The Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory observed III Marine Expeditionary Force forces during BK22 to observe and assess a range of activities required to conduct joint and combined littoral operations with our Philippine partners.
“III MEF is experimenting with and exercising new concepts and capabilities, as well as refining concepts already in development,” said Major John Mueller, team leader with MCWL. “As we continue to learn…through exercise, experimentation and the process of feedback” /
Although 3d MLR is not expected to be fully operational for several years, BK22 has provided many lessons learned and opportunities to strengthen critical relationships with the Philippine Marine Corps and joint partners while expanding capabilities collective defenses of the US-Philippine alliance.
The MLR will command and control three subordinate battalions: a littoral combat team, a littoral anti-aircraft battalion and a combat logistics battalion. The MLR will exercise command and control over these units through a robust regimental headquarters and communications company with enhanced signals and human intelligence, reconnaissance, communications, logistics planning, civil affairs, cyber and information operations. Each of the MLR elements will be able to train and operate with our allies and partners.