Leatherneck Covers Bold Alligator 2012: The Largest Sea-Based Exercise Since 9/11
"Bold Alligator 2012" is the largest joint and multinational amphibious assault exercise held off the East Coast in the last 10 years. It's a live, scenario-driven, simulation-supported exercise that encompasses the major facets of USMC amphibious doctrine; humanitarian and/or relief operations; evacuation of American citizens from a hostile foreign environment; power projection; and forcible entry.
The exercise is far more than an exercise to demonstrate capabilities. A principal goal is to drive innovation for force shaping, helping determine what sea-based forces will be able to do in the future. The exercise takes place Jan. 30 - Feb. 12, 2012, off the coasts of Virginia, North Carolina and Florida.
There are 14 ships and 9 countries participating. Participating at some level will be forces or representatives of the United Kingdom, Canada, France, Australia, Italy, Netherlands, Spain and New Zealand.
Andrew Lubin, a frequent contributor for the Marine Corps Gazette and Leatherneck magazine will embedded and filing reports through Feb. 6.
The culmination of Bold Alligator 2012 will be three large-scale events: an amphibious assault at Onslow Beach, Camp Lejeune, N. C., an air assault from the sea into Fort Pickett, Va., and an amphibious raid at Fort Story, Va.
Feb. 14, 2012
Feb. 14, 2012
Feb. 10, 2012
Landing Support Crucial To Amphibious Assault
Feb. 9, 2012
Andrew Lubin Interviews The Co-Commanders Of Bold Alligator 2012
Feb. 8, 2012
Exercise Bold Alligator 2012: A Coalition MEB-Size Amphibious Exercise
Story and photos by Andrew Lubin
Feb. 2, 2012, From USS Wasp: “The Marines and Navy can do a MEU-ARG with no notice,” Lieutenant Colonel David Suggs said. “But this is a MEB-ESG level exercise and that’s far more complicated.” Suggs is the current operations officer for Bold Alligator 2012 (BA 2012), the first Marine expeditionary brigade-expeditionary strike group (MEB-ESG) size exercise held in over 10 years.
BA 2012 also is the world’s largest amphibious exercise in the last 10 years, and runs from January 31-February 13. Comprised of three major units, 2d Marine Expeditionary Brigade commanded by Brigadier General Christopher Owens, Expeditionary Strike Group 2 commanded by Rear Admiral Kevin Scott and the Enterprise Carrier Strike Group, there are 24 ships and approximately 14,500 personnel participating. Ships range from a Coast Guard patrol boat to the U.S. Navy’s nuclear-powered USS Enterprise (CVN-65) to the French Navy’s LHD-class Mistral, with three U.S. Navy big deck amphibious ships, USS Iwo Jima (LHD-7), USS Wasp (LHD-1) and USS Kearsarge (LHD-3), and their support ships carrying the 1,200 Marines that will assault the beach.
LCAC from USS Wasp (LHD 1) approach the well deck after a day of manuevers.
“Not only is it about integrating the Blue and Green teams (Navy and Marine) into a MEB-ESG operation, but also integrating the Coalition partners,” said Dutch Lieutenant Commander George Pastoor. If anyone is an example of successful integration it’s Pastoor. On assignment from the Netherlands government, he’s not only the N-5, Coalition Affairs Officer for Expeditionary Strike Group 2, but is the lead planner for the U.S. Navy for BA 2012.
Following the precedents set by Coalition action in Afghanistan and Libya, joint and combined training remains the key to international security and is in evidence here. In addition to Mistral, the French sent 300 combat troops to join the landing force, and other NATO, European and ASEAN countries are participating on a variety of levels. The Netherlands sent 140 Marines and combat engineers along with a Marine Boat Detachment. Canada sent two ships and 140 soldiers and the UK sent 120 Royal Marines. Additionally Australia, New Zealand, Italy, Spain, Netherlands, and the UK sent a range of officer ranks who are active participants in the planning, implementation, and execution of the many BA 2012 objectives. Turkey and Portugal are observing.
The exercise also attracted a list of distinguished visitors from both the military and political worlds, with star and flag level attendees from India, Israel, Turkey, Netherlands, UK, Italy, New Zealand and Canada, as well as House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.), HASC Seabasing Subcommittee Chairman Rep Randy Wittman (R-Va.) and Jack Kingston (R-Ga.) of House Appropriations Committee – Defense. The Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps, General Joseph F. Dunford Jr., Lieutenant General Dennis J. Hejlik, Commander, United States Marine Corps Forces Command and Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Jonathan Greenert also attended.
“The Treasure Coast”
The overall mission is to plan and execute a MEB-size amphibious assault into a medium land and maritime threat environment. The exercise is built on the Navy-Marine “Treasure Coast” scenario where the fictitious friendly country of Amber requested UN assistance in restoring its borders. The equally fictitious nearby country of Garnet has been sending insurgents and arms to destabilize Amber, so the arriving MEB-ESG will be utilizing a variety of weapons to reverse the situation and restore peace.
Marine Harriers on the flight deck. While ready to launch in defense of the convoy,
the bad weather halted the expected attack by a swarm of small speedboats.
Planned missions include a broad spectrum of actual and synthetic challenges, as Pastoor and his staff of 100 developed a range of offensive and defensive scenarios. The insurgents are rumored to possess long-range anti-ship missiles, a (synthetic) threat that must be neutralized, while for the first time a (actual) Marine “Company Landing Team” will be airlifted approximately 200 miles inland to land and seize an objective. The company landing team will have significantly enhanced capabilities providing opportunities for coordinating fires, intel and logistics.
In two other actual missions, USS Gettysburg (CG-64) participated in a naval gunfire shoot, practicing with her 5-in. guns, while a 2d Force Reconnaissance Battalion element flew to Fort Stewart, Ga., parachuted in and began recon operations. Combined training missions will occur between Marine and British, French, Canadian, and Dutch forces in and around the Combat Town training complex at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C., including a Marine and Dutch sniper operation and U.S. Marine and French 120 mm mortar shoot.
“As the Current Ops Officer, I’m planning and re-planning as the Treasure Coast events are unfolding,” Suggs explained. “We’ve got a strait’s passage upcoming where we need to be alert to small boat and air attack, a possible evacuation of Americans from the embassy in Amber, and other events both synthetic and actual.”
The scenario gives the opposition a synthetic anti-ship missile capability for which Suggs and his staff must prepare as they approach Onslow Beach at Camp Lejeune for an actual landing. The upcoming landing will be in waves of air cushioned landing craft and amphibious tractors, and the French will use their new 80-ton capacity landing catamaran for the first time. Called the L-CAT, it was delivered in November 2011.
As the actual and synthetic exercises are being conducted, the MEB-ESG staff is writing and re-writing standard operating procedures (SOP). “There was no written description of my billet,” Suggs continued. “But, by doing a lot of listening, we’re developing the SOP here. We’ve incorporated some excellent tactics brought by the Australians and the Dutch. We even brought up a Marine trac [amphibious tractor] lieutenant who gave the staff a brief in trac operations so they knew how trac’s were utilized. This is the first time at sea for many here, and Bold Alligator 2012 is giving us the opportunity to develop both the SOP and the expertise for doing this if a MEB is ever needed.”
Editor’s note: Contributing editor, Andrew Lubin frequently embeds with Marine units and enjoyed shipboard life to observe and report on Exercise Bold Alligator. This is the first of his report.
Feb. 7, 2012
Sailors, Marines Defend Ship Together
U.S. Navy video by Petty Officer Second Class Julian Thomas Olivari
Story by LCpl Scott L. Tomaszycki
Right, Petty Officer 1st Class Kekoa J. Cortez, a gunner’s mate aboard the
USS Kearsarge, prepares a 25mm cannon for firing during a drill, Feb. 6.
As a gunner’s mate, Cortez’s job is to defend the ship and ensure
personnel are properly trained and equipped to defend the ship.
ABOARD USS SHIP KEARSARGE, At Sea – When amphibious ships pass through potentially hostile waters, sailors and Marines work together to ensure safe transit. During Exercise Bold Alligator 2012 the USS Kearsarge passed through the hypothetical “Chalker Straights,” Feb. 5, where hostile forces could have lain in wait for an ambush.
Marines of the 2nd Low Altitude Air Defense Battalion kept an eye out for low flying aircraft as the gunner’s mates of the Kearsarge manned their battle stations along the ship. Just in case enemies made their way past the Kearsarge’s long range defenses there were close range cannons, machine guns and anti-aircraft missiles ready for contact.
“My job as gunner’s mate is to deal with the arms and ammunition on board,” said Petty Officer 1st Class Kekoa J. Cortez, a gunner’s mate aboard the Kearsarge. “I train individuals on the gun mounts and we stand watches. We have four 25 mm guns placed on the four corners of the ship. There are four other gun mounts that we can man up for .50-caliber machine guns or we can mount M240s on there in single or twin mounts.”
In addition to the normal compliment of weapons, the LAAD Marines brought out their own weapon systems which were positioned across the flight deck.
“If there are aircraft under the radar and the radars can’t pick them up, we’ll be sitting out there watching and observing everything coming toward the ship,” said Cpl David Garner, a team leader for B Battery 2d LAAD.
Garner said every Marine Expeditionary Unit has a detachment of LAAD Marines equipped with Stinger anti-aircraft missiles to provide extra defense.
Before firing the Marines and sailors must receive permission from the captain of the ship who makes the decision to fire or not to fire based on an analysis of the threat. This portion of Exercise Bold Alligator helped revitalize the Navy and Marine Corps’ amphibious operations by exercising defensive systems that may be used in transit to protect the ship while transiting high risk areas.
Petty Officer 1st Class Kekoa J. Cortez, a gunner’s mate aboard the USS Kearsarge,
mans a 25mm cannon during a drill, Feb. 6. All decisions to fire the ships weapons
must first be made by the ship’s captain.
Feb. 6, 2012
Video: A Summary Of Week 1 Of Bold Alligator 2012
Exercise Bold Alligator 2012, the largest amphibious exercise in the past 10 years, represents the Navy and Marine Corps' revitalization of the full range of amphibious operations. The exercise focuses on today's fight with today's forces, while showcasing the advantages of seabasing. The exercise will take place Jan. 30 through Feb. 12, 2012, afloat and ashore in and around Virginia and North Carolina.
Sgt Justin Waitman, a tank commander with Delta Company, 2d Tank Battalion, Regimental Landing Team 2, guides a tank onto a landing craft, air cushion Feb. 1, 2012, at Onslow Beach aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C. The battalion is participating in Exercise Bold Alligator 2012, which represents the Navy and Marine Corps’ revitalization of the full range of amphibious operations.
An empty landing craft, air cushion arrives at Onslow Beach, N.C., Feb. 1, 2012, to ferry Marines and equipment to ship for participation in Exercise Bold Alligator 2012. The hovercraft can transport heavy equipment like the M1A1 Abrams tank to ships for the largest naval amphibious exercise in the past 10 years.
LCpl Erain Abreu, left, assigned to 3d Bravo, 2d Marine Expeditionary Brigade aims a 240B light machinegun while Pfc Zakary Mitchell, right looks on during a timed weapons familiarization exercise in the hangar bay of the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp (LHD 1). ). Wasp is engaged in Exercise Bold Alligator 2012.
Feb. 1, 2012
Video: Weapons Training During Exercise Bold Alligator 2012
Jan. 31, 2012
RLT-2, Italian Navy Partner During Exercise Bold Alligator 2012
By LCpl Scott L. Tomaszycki
Italian navy officer Ship of the Line Sublieutenant Santoro
Francesco (equivalent of a U.S. Navy Lieutenant Junior Grade)
pauses with coworker Master Gunnery Sgt. Wendell Myles, the
operations chief for Regimental Landing Team 2, in the hangar
bay of the USS Kearsarge. Francesco, an assault platoon commander
temporarily assigned to observe Exercise Bold Alligator 2012, has
fought side by side with American forces in Afghanistan. He said it is
important for allies like the U.S. and Italy to train together so they are
better prepared to conduct operations together. (Photo by author.)
USS KEARSARGE, At Sea – Marines, sailors and coalition partners from around the world are gathering aboard ships off the Virginia and North Carolina coasts in execution of Exercise Bold Alligator 2012.
Although the exercise represents the Navy and Marine Corps’ revitalization of the full range of amphibious operations, it is also giving operating forces a chance to build upon international relationships with foreign military services.
Among the participating countries in the exercise are Italy, the United Kingdom, Canada, France, the Netherlands, Spain, New Zealand and Australia who have sent personnel to observe operations and directly participate in the exercise.
One such officer, Ship of the Line Sublieutenant Santoro Francesco, an Italian navy augment to Regimental Landing Team 2’s landing force operations center, has fought alongside multinational forces before and looks forward to the exercise.
Francesco said practicing exercises like Bold Alligator helps allies work together in combat operations like those in Afghanistan where he served as an assault platoon commander with Regiment San Marco, Italian Landing Force.
“It’s important for us to be on the same sheet of music so we’re able to communicate and tackle the problem at hand,” said Gunnery Sgt. Ernesto Panalez, the intelligence chief for Regimental Landing Team 2. “It’s always interesting to operate alongside foreign militaries; they always bring a different flavor to the fight. It’s a learning experience for all of us.”
Exercise Bold Alligator 2012, the largest naval amphibious exercise in the past 10 years, is not only a chance to building upon international relations, but it also represents the Navy and Marine Corps’ revitalization of the full range of amphibious operations. The exercise focuses on today’s fight with today’s forces, while showcasing the advantages of seabasing. Foreign militaries often operate side-by-side with the American military for a common goal, and training together will help combined operations in the future. This exercise will take place from Jan. 30 to Feb. 12 afloat and ashore in and around Virginia and North Carolina.
Jan. 30, 2012
24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, Amphibious Squadron 8, Conduct Final At-Sea Training Exercise, Prepare For Pending Deployment
OFF THE COAST OF NORTH CAROLINA — The 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit and their Navy counterparts of Amphibious Squadron 8 kicked off their final training evolution today to prepare their Marines and Sailors for an upcoming deployment this spring.
Certification Exercise, commonly called CERTEX, is the third at-sea exercise for the Navy-Marine team and is intended to test their ability to rapidly plan and respond to a variety of crises during the next three weeks.
Over the weekend, approximately 2,300 Marines loaded the three amphibious assault ships of the Iwo Jima Amphibious Ready Group, which includes the USS Iwo Jima, USS New York and USS Gunston Hall. The Marines worked around the clock to load the essential aircraft, vehicles and equipment that constitute a Marine Air Ground Task Force, which they will put to the test while refining their skills before heading across the Atlantic into the European and Central Command areas of operation.
The 24th MEU/PHIBRON 8 team will conduct training missions in North Carolina and Virginia in the coming days, which will include a Tactical Recovery of Aircraft and Personnel, mechanized raids, long-range aviation raids, and a response to a multiple casualty situation. These missions are based on a continuous fictitious scenario that has developed throughout the MEU’s six-month work-up cycle that has the unit operating off the coast of unstable countries who requested support from the United States.
A unique addition to this final exercise will be the integration of an unmanned aerial vehicle, which will deploy with the 24th MEU. This will be the first East Coast MEU to deploy with a UAV, which they will use to gather aerial imagery.
The 24th MEU’s CERTEX is also being included in the scenario driving Bold Alligator, the largest amphibious exercise conducted off the East Coast in ten years. The 24th MEU will conduct some missions in support of this larger exercise, but will mostly focus on its own mission essential tasks they are required to execute prior to deploying.