The 3d Marine Littoral Regiment Headquarters conducted its inaugural deployment in the first island chain, working shoulder-to-shoulder with the Armed Forces of the Philippines during exercise Balikatan 22, which is scheduled to run March 28 to April 8.
BK22 is the 37th iteration of the Philippine-led bilateral exercise, which is designed to bolster the collective security and defensive capabilities of the alliance.
For the Marines and Sailors of 3rd MLR, the exercise commenced with combined amphibious landings in northern Luzon followed by coastal defense training, providing the newly redesignated unit with a valuable opportunity to deploy from Hawaii into the western Pacific to work alongside the Philippine Marine Corps and other AFP counterparts.
Upon arrival in the Philippines, the 3d MLR HQ linked up with 1st Battalion, 3rd Marines to integrate into the exercise with the PMC while pursuing Force Design 2030 experimentation.
“The inaugural deployment of 3d MLR is the next step towards reaching initial operational capability,” said Col. Timothy Brady, commanding officer of 3rd Marine Littoral Regiment. “Moving the MLR Headquarters into the first island chain to partner with the Armed Forces of the Philippines is a great opportunity to lay the framework for future employment of the MLR. Additionally, the lessons learned from this exercise will enable 3d MLR to refine and adapt to prepare for any potential adversary across the competition continuum.”
“The days of showing up to a fully established forward operating base are gone. To succeed in this environment, we have to rely on the individual Marine to be creative, take initiative, and work through dynamic problem sets.” Col. Timothy Brady, 3rd Marine Littoral Regiment commanding officer
The 3rd MLR’s logistics and ability to command and control were tested throughout the exercise as it established distributed and small expeditionary sites in austere environments. The Marines developed creative solutions to address the inherent challenges of operating in such locations. Conducting novel methods for expeditionary sustainment, the 3rd MLR worked with elements of the AFP and 3rd Marine Logistics Group to achieve effective solutions. Marines and Sailors with Combat Logistics Regiment 3 and 9th Engineer Support Battalion were critical to this success. CLR-3 served as the Marine Air-Ground Task Force command element, providing operational contracting support, and supported reception, staging, onward movement, and integration for all Marine forces. 9th ESB served as the logistics combat element, providing sustainment, 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 teamed up to establish a robust Role II medical facility at the Cagayan International Airport during BK22. Additionally, the Marines and Sailors partnered with AFP counterparts to ensure reinforce shock trauma care, laboratories, and emergency surgery in a tactical environment. This Role II facility was a key component to safely executing dynamic training in remote locations across northern Luzon.
“Adapting to change is not easy,” said Col. Brady. “The days of showing up to a fully established forward operating base are gone. To succeed in this environment, we have to rely on the individual Marine to be creative, take initiative, and work through dynamic problem sets. I am impressed with our team and excited to see the continued growth of the Marines, this unit, and our partnership with the AFP.”
In addition to elements from 1st Battalion, 3rd Marines, elements of the 3rd Littoral Anti-Air Battalion and the 3rd MLR Communication Company deployed to support distributed C2, experimentation with emerging capabilities and concepts, and strengthen partnerships and security within the region
Experimentation with sensors, fire support, and expeditionary advanced bases provided the framework for an integrated coastal defense with the AFP. Over the course of eight days, the 3rd MLR HQ partnered with the Philippine Marine Corps Coastal Defense Regiment and provided command and control over multiple EABs across northern Luzon. This coastal defense was further enhanced by two Patriot Missile Batteries from the U.S. Army’s 1st Battalion, 1st Air Defense Artillery Regiment. The U.S. Navy also played a key role with divers, ship-to-shore connectors, and sealift from the USS Ashland.
Photo by Cpl. Joshua Brittenham
A platoon of High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems from 3rd Battalion, 12th Marines also integrated into the coastal defense. The HIMARS platoon received real-time targeting data from the 3rd Marine Littoral Regiment combat operations center to prosecute simulated fire missions during the training. The HIMARS provided a ground-based precision fires capability in support of counter-landing operations and served as a surrogate for the future employment of the Navy Marine Expeditionary Ship Interdiction System. The coastal defense scenario enabled the 3rd MLR fires and intelligence sections to integrate with the joint network of sensors and develop a clear common operational picture. At the same time, a small element of the 3rd Littoral Anti-Air Battalion assisted with the de-confliction of land, air, and maritime traffic to ensure a safe flight path for the simulated missile. This combined interoperability event brought the U.S. Marine Corps and Philippine Marine Corps together with a shared mission to bolster 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 necessary to conduct joint and combined littoral operations with our Philippine partners.
“III MEF is experimenting and exercising with new concepts and capabilities, as well as refining concepts already in development,” said Maj. John Mueller, team lead with MCWL. “As we continue to learn … through the exercise, experimentation, and feedback process; we use the successes for the baseline for the next set of exercises. Once we have a final outcome, we release it to the Fleet for final experimentation and inclusion into Force Design 2030.”
Although the 3d MLR is not planned to be fully operational for several years, BK22 provided many lessons learned and opportunities to strengthen critical relationships with the Philippine Marine Corps and joint partners while expanding the collective defensive capabilities of the U.S.-Philippine alliance.
The MLR will command and control three subordinate battalions: a Littoral Combat Team, Littoral Anti-Air Battalion, and Combat Logistics Battalion. The MLR will exercise command and control over these units via a robust regimental headquarters and communications company with enhanced signals and human intelligence, reconnaissance, communications, logistics planning, civil affairs, cyber, and information operations capabilities. Each of the elements of the MLR will be capable of training and operating with our allies and partners.