Marine Corps Connection: America's Expeditionary Force in Readiness

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LARGEST SEA-BASED EXERCISE SINCE 9/11 RETURNS MARINES TO THEIR AMPHIBIOUS ROOTS


Bold Alligator 2012 (BA12) will be the nation's largest joint/multinational amphibious assault exercise in the past 10 years. Scheduled to take place along the Atlantic coast Jan. 30 - Feb. 12, the exercise will employ the six core capabilities of Maritime Strategy: forward presence, deterrence, sea control, power projection, maritime security and humanitarian aid. "In today's world, the Navy-Marine Corps team must remain capable of gaining access to an operational area and projecting and sustaining a sizable landing force ashore," said Lt. Gen. Dennis Hejlik, Commander of Marine Corps Forces Command. BA12 also aims to revitalize Navy and Marine Corps tactics and procedures for conducting combined operations from the sea at the Marine Expeditionary Brigade (MEB) and Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG) level. In addition to the Marines and Sailors, forces from Britain, Spain, Italy, the Netherlands and New Zealand will participate in the exercise.
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Also Watch Col. Bradley Weisz, Deputy Commander, Expeditionary Strike Group 2 discusses the role of the Expeditionary Strike Group and the allies in the exercise.

FISCAL 2013 BUDGET PRIORITIES ANNOUNCED


Spending priorities in the forthcoming fiscal 2013 defense budget request call for reductions in the Army and Marine Corps, an increase in special operations forces and maintaining the number of big-deck carriers, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta said on Jan. 26. "In this budget, we plan to gradually resize the active Army to 490,000. That's down from present force level of 562,000. And the active Marine Corps will go to 182,000.  That's down from 202,000," Panetta said in his opening statement at a press conference held at the Pentagon on Jan. 25. "That transition will take place over the five years.  We won't reach those numbers until 2017. This plan maintains, as I said, a very significant Army and Marine force.  Both services are at larger levels than they were at prior to 9/11. They will be fundamentally reshaped by a decade of war.  They will be far more lethal, battle hardened and ready." Panetta described the future Marine Corps as a middleweight expeditionary force with reinvigorated amphibious capabilities.
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Also read: Marine Corps Force Structure Review


NEWS

HARD-BITTEN BATTALION HEADS HOME AFTER 3RD CONSECUTIVE COMBAT DEPLOYMENT


The men of 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment have endured three deployments in three years and conducted large scale offensive operations across Helmand province, Afghanistan. The battalion was split into different areas of operation. Charlie Company reinforced Marine and Afghan forces in Marjah, and Alpha Company supported other Marines in the Sangin district. Headquarters, Bravo and Weapons companies secured Route 611 through Kajaki Sofla, long a domain of insurgents and arms and drug traffickers during Operation Eastern Storm. "There is an enormous amount of experience our Marines have to offer in this type of environment," said Sgt. Maj. Larry Harrington, battalion sergeant major, 1/6. "Small units thrive on the wisdom and knowledge of the experienced Marines within their unit. It is amazing the amount of trust we put into our young Marines. Although times are not always easy, they get what is going on and what is required of them. I'm so very impressed with what they have accomplished over the last seven months." Now approaching the end of their deployment, the Marines see the impact they have made on Kajaki Sofla schools are being constructed, roads and irrigation canals repaired, and a steady stream of traffic now runs along Route 611.
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Read More: FET Conducts Final Engagement Training

PANETTA LIFTS F-35 FIGHTER VARIANT PROBATION


Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta announced Jan. 20 that he lifted probation from the Short Takeoff, Vertical Landing (STOVL) variant of the fifth-generation Lightning II joint strike fighter (JSF). The aircraft is vital to maintaining air superiority. The STOVL was put on probation early in 2011 due to development problems. Speaking at a town hall-style meeting at Naval Air Station (NAS) Patuxent River, Md., Panetta lauded the JSF's workforce for their efforts to bring the STOVL up to the standards of the other two existing versions of the F-35. "Over the course of last year, you here at Pax River helped make an incredible difference by completing tremendous amounts of STOVL testing," Panetta noted. "You demonstrated that we've made real progress towards fixing some of the known problems that we had with STOVL." Though the JSF's probation has been lifted, there is still testing that needs to be conducted to ensure it is up to the highest standards. Panetta also emphasized the importance of maintaining a technological edge and its role in the future of military operations.
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IN SEARCH OF THE ORIGINAL MONTFORD MARINES


The Marine Corps is taking the initiative to assist the Montford Point Marine Association in the search for the original Montford Point Marines. These Marines, once found, will be among those recognized with bronze replica medals when they are awarded the Congressional Gold Medal. President Obama signed a bill to award the Marines with the medal on Nov. 23, 2011. An award ceremony is tentatively planned for the spring of 2012. To be counted among the original Montford Point Marines, documentation verifying completion of recruit training at the Montford Point Camp between 1942 and 1949 must be submitted to the association.
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WOUNDED WARRIOR MARINES STILL IN THE FIGHT


A group of Marines who sustained injuries while deployed graduated the first Wounded Warrior Corporals Course at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., on Jan. 17. The course was identical to other corporals' courses, which provide the basic fundamental essentials for Marines to lead their subordinates and provide structure and stability, but was altered to accommodate the participating Marines' injuries. "I chose to take the course because I plan on staying in the Corps," said Cpl. Rory Hamill, who sustained injuries to his right leg while deployed to Afghanistan with 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment. "I love this organization. Being here and all the help I received, even after my injury, has motivated me even more. This is my family and I love it." During the course, the Marines are reminded why they had joined the Corps and motivated them to continue their career in the Corps.
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SIXTY YEARS LATER, MARINE RECEIVES PROMOTION


Six decades after Staff Sgt. William Denny Weisgerber was medically discharged from the Marine Corps, he will finally be promoted to gunnery sergeant. Weisgerber served during the Korean War and was on track for a promotion when he lost his leg. He was awarded the Navy Cross and the Purple Heart for his actions, but the title of gunnery sergeant remained out of reach due to his retirement. Since the rules have been changed regarding honorary promotions, Weisgerber will become a gunnery sergeant at a ceremony on Jan. 28 in San Jose, Calif.
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DEPLOYED MARINE WATCHES BIRTH OF CHILD OVER INTERNET


From a USO center in Helmand province, Afghanistan, Cpl. Nicholas Lambert was able to witness the birth of his first child in North Carolina. Lambert supported his wife, Jessica, during the delivery via Skype. Although he was not able to travel home, he was granted the day off to be with his wife on the Internet. "This is something that I will never forget, and I think this experience has only made our family stronger," he said. The couple met online in the spring of 2010 and married in March 2011. Shortly after that, the couple received the news he was being deployed and she was expecting. Lambert will be returning from Afghanistan in May and looks forward to seeing his baby girl in person.
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DEFENSE DEPARTMENT LAUNCHES WEBSITE FOR MILITARY CHILDREN


The Defense Department launched www.MilitaryKidsConnect.org, a new website for children experiencing the challenges of deployments. Psychologists at the DoD's National Center for Telehealth and Technology (T2) created the interactive website to help children of deployed parents cope with the stress and changes they encounter. "Since 2001, an estimated 2 million children have said goodbye to a parent headed to deployments in Iraq, Afghanistan, other places around the globe, and on ships at sea," explained Kelly Blasko, a T2 psychologist. "Military children are deeply affected by the separation of their parents deployment." The site offers videos, educational tools and activities for three age groups: 6 to 8, 9 to 12 and 13 to 17. Users also have access to an online social network forum where they can share their experiences with deployments.
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