Monday, October 23, 2017

Dawn Blitz 2017: Realistic and Relevant Amphibious Training

By Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Sean Gallagher, Expeditionary Strike Group Three

SAN DIEGO, Oct. 23, 2017 — The Navy’s Expeditionary Strike Group 3 and the Marine Corps’ 1st Marine Expeditionary Brigade kicked off the joint amphibious exercise Dawn Blitz here Oct. 20.

Dawn Blitz is an annual scenario-driven amphibious exercise designed to train and integrate the staffs of ESG-3 and 1st MEB. It provides the realistic, relevant training necessary for the effective global crisis response expected of the Navy and Marine Corps team.

The exercise takes place at sea off the coast of Southern California and will involve participation from ships homeported at Naval Base San Diego including the amphibious assault ship USS Essex, the amphibious transport dock USS Anchorage, the amphibious dock landing ship USS Rushmore and the guided missile destroyer USS Wayne E. Meyer. These ships will integrate with 1st MEB and Coastal Riverine Group 1 to demonstrate how U.S. forces are capable, interoperable and deployable on short notice while being fully combat ready.

“Dawn Blitz 2017 is an excellent opportunity to operationalize concepts the Navy and Marine Corps services have been discussing for some time,” said Navy Cmdr. Matthew Hoekstra, director of maritime operations for ESG-3 and lead exercise planner for Dawn Blitz. “While others continue to talk, wargame or tabletop future concepts, we are executing with live forces afloat and ashore.”

The exercise consists of various wartime events leading to the deployment of U.S. and allied forces against a hypothetical enemy. Forces will plan and execute an amphibious assault, engage in live-fire events, and establish expeditionary advanced bases in a land and maritime threat environment to improve naval amphibious core competencies.

Crucial Joint Training

“Dawn Blitz provides crucial training for our Navy-Marine Corps team,” said Navy Rear Adm. Cathal O'Connor, the commander of ESG-3. “The capability to conduct prompt and sustained amphibious operations anywhere in the world is essential to our Navy and our nation. The amphibious force's capabilities range from high-end warfighting to the disaster response capabilities our East Coast sailors and Marines are demonstrating today.”

“Since this is a multinational exercise,” he said, “working with our international partners helps foster and sustain cooperative relationships that enhance regional security, stability and prosperity around the globe.”

Dawn Blitz 2017 builds upon previous iterations of the exercise and affords the Navy and Marine Corps team the opportunity to capture lessons learned, develop amphibious staff expertise and test new capabilities and equipment for the future fight.

New to this year’s exercise is the integration of the F-35B Lighting II joint strike fighter and the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System to conduct a sea-based strike. This will allow commanders to validate a capability with platforms not traditionally used at this level.

Additionally, demonstration of the composite warfare construct and other command and control arrangements will help to promote unity of effort in littoral warfare.

"Our experiment in command and control structure is designed to provide the commander with greater flexibility and speed to employ assigned forces,” Hoekstra said. “The amphibious force has always been the vanguard of naval power in these qualities."

The Navy and Marine Corps enjoy a close working relationship based on past tradition, present requirements and future necessity to project power ashore. Leadership of both services share a common goal to refine and strengthen core amphibious competencies critical to maritime power projection.

Experiment, Refine Concepts

"Dawn Blitz 17 is an invaluable opportunity for I Marine Expeditionary Force and the 1st MEB to experiment with advanced maritime and naval warfighting concepts, as well as refine existing tactics, techniques and procedures,” said Marine Corps Lt. Col. Thomas Savage, the 1st MEB operations officer. “The exercise also reinforces the strong and enduring relationships between U.S. Third Fleet, Expeditionary Strike Group 3, I MEF and 1st MEB.”

An infantry company from the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force will also participate along with observers from Chile, Peru, Colombia and Mexico. The coordination with international partners will help foster and maintain critical relationships to preserve peace and promote stability.

This year’s exercise is an opportunity to meet the challenges of future conflicts, overseas contingency operations, humanitarian assistance and disaster response and national defense. The lessons learned are expected to improve the lethality and mission effectiveness of U.S. maritime forces.

“The experimentation results from Dawn Blitz 17 directly affect both the Navy and Marine Corps' future lethality and ability to fight and win in the future operating environment,” Savage said. “Although the path ahead may be a challenging one as we seek to operationalize concepts, shape force capabilities, and integrate future systems, the lessons learned leading up to and during exercise execution promise the naval force sound security as one of our nation's principal means to project power from the sea to all domains of the battlefield."

Face of Defense: Marine Heavy Equipment Operator Supports Relief Efforts

By Marine Corps Cpl. Melanie A Kilcline, U.S. Marine Corps Forces, South

MELVILLE HALL, Dominica, Oct. 23, 2017 — When he packed his bags to deploy in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma, 28-year-old Marine Corps Cpl. Michael A. Fleenor had no idea that he and his forklift driving skills would be playing such an important role in U.S. Southern Command’s response to hurricanes Irma and Maria.

“The people on the two different islands where I’ve been sent are in desperate need of resources,” said Fleenor, a heavy equipment operator with Joint Task Force Leeward Islands, which has been supporting the U.S. Agency for International Development in its hurricane response efforts in the eastern Caribbean. “My position has given me the unique ability to work with not only the locals, but also the other aiding countries in providing these people with the resources they need.”

Forklifts give Marines the ability to move heavy pallets of gear, a key capability in a disaster response situation. Fleenor’s forklift speeds up loading and unloading times, making the response much more efficient.

“I’ve been working from sunup to sundown here on Dominica, and it’s beneficial work because of how much it’s helping the local population,” Fleenor said. “In total, I’ve moved a combined total of 3.5 million pounds of supplies at the very least.”

He also helped the airport staff clear the runway at Douglas-Charles Airport in Melville Hall, Dominica, which facilitated its reopening to civilian aircraft ahead of schedule.

“His first day here he went through almost a half tank of fuel [because] there was so many calls for his services,” said Patrick Long, a logistics representative with the U.S. Agency for International Development. “The forklift came at a critical time for the response and it made all the difference. Corporal Fleenor is unwavering in his commitment to offload every aircraft that parks on the ramp here and he does it with smiles and thumbs up.”

Because of his efforts, more than 62,000 people in St. Martin and Dominica received vitally needed aid, including hygiene kits, kitchen sets, water containers, blankets, tarps, food and potable water.

Combined Effort

“Working with different nations has been great. I’ve gotten to see how other nations’ flight crews operate and also see how quickly we can come together and help those in need,” Fleenor said. “These last three weeks have given me a new perspective on the importance of a heavy equipment operator and forklift capability, especially in a disaster, to be able to provide quick and efficient aid to the local populace.”

JTF-LI evacuated more than 170 American citizens from Dominica, taking them to safe havens on nearby islands. Working from these locations, other members of the task force have coordinated with USAID and international partners to support humanitarian assistance and disaster relief to the islands of St. Martin and Dominica.

The task force is a U.S. military unit composed of Marines, soldiers, sailors and airmen, and represents U.S. Southern Command’s primary response to both hurricanes Irma and Maria.

“Over the course of the last two weeks, JTF-LI provided lifesaving support to the people of Dominica, delivering over 75 metric tons of relief supplies, logistical support to the humanitarian community and sustainment support to the [Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance] response team,” said Tim Callaghan, senior regional advisor with USAID. “In particular, the forklift provided to Charles-Douglas Airport was absolutely critical to increasing the throughput of life saving humanitarian supplies."

“Fleenor is truly one of the unsung heroes of this response,” Callaghan added. “His tireless efforts, while perhaps not the most visible, were certainly among the most critical and were of immeasurable value to the entire humanitarian community.”

Fleenor also received a certificate of appreciation from the Royal Canadian Air Force for his outstanding devotion and professionalism in support of ongoing operations.

“This has been an awesome experience,” he said. “Joining nations together to provide humanitarian aid to people who have lost essentially everything, during one of the biggest storms recorded in history, is going to help restart these location on a firm footing to rebuild their countries.”

Mattis in Philippines to Strengthen Ties with ASEAN, Discuss North Korea

By Jim Garamone DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, Oct. 23, 2017 — Strengthening ties with allies, increasing defense capabilities in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region and discussions about the threat of North Korea are among the topics Defense Secretary Jim Mattis will contend with on his trip to the region, he told reporters traveling with him yesterday.

The secretary arrived in the Philippines this morning Washington time. He laid out his agenda for the trip during an in-flight news conference.

Mattis will meet with Philippine officials before taking part in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations defense ministerial set for Oct. 23-25. That meeting is at the former Clark Air Base.

“One of the first things I’m going to do when I get there is commend the Philippine military for liberating Marawi from the terrorists,” he told reporters. It was a very tough fight, as you know, in southern Mindanao. And I think the Philippine military sends a very strong message to the terrorists.”

The Armed Forces of the Philippines battled forces allied under the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria in Marawi. Coalition forces helped the Philippine troops with intelligence, advice and logistic support. While small pockets of terrorists remain, the government declared the city liberated Oct. 17.


The association has been in existence for almost 50 years and is a force promoting peace and stability in the region. It is a forum for the nations to discuss issues among themselves and hash out ways to cooperate that brings prosperity to the region, Mattis said. The meeting also marks 40 years of friendship and cooperation between ASEAN and the United States.

“ASEAN provides an international venue, giving voice to those who want relations between states to be based on respect, not on predatory economics or on the size of militaries,” he said. “ASEAN nations have demonstrated that they can listen to one another, they identify opportunities to increase defense cooperation for their own security and seek shared solutions to shared concerns. The U.S. remains unambiguously committed to supporting ASEAN.”

The secretary will take advantage of his time at the meeting to visit with his regional counterparts, he said. In addition to meeting Philippine counterparts, Mattis is scheduled to meet with representatives of Japan, South Korea, India, Indonesia and Malaysia.

He will also hold trilateral talks with Japanese and South Korean defense officials.

North Korea

Mattis said the regional distubances created by North Korea will be on the agenda at ASEAN. He said will also emphasize the shared values the nations of the alliance have, the territorial sovereignty of the nations and the need for “freedom of navigation through historically international waters and fair and reciprocal trade.”

At the conclusion of the meeting, Mattis will lead the official U.S. delegation to the funeral of Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who died in October 2016. The royal cremation rite ends the period of mourning for the country -- one of America’s treaty allies in the region. “He was understandably beloved by his people and a proponent of our strong Thailand-United States relationship,” the defense secretary said.

After the ASEAN meeting ends, Mattis will move on to Seoul, where he and South Korea’s Dfense Minister Song Young-moo will co-chair the 49th annual Security Consultative Meeting. “There, we will underscore our ironclad commitment to each other,” Mattis said.

North Korea is a threat to the region and globally, defense officials have said. Two unanimous U.N. Security Council resolutions have isolated the state from the rest of the world. The U.N. acted after North Korea detonated nuclear devices and flew an intercontinental ballistic missile over Japan. During his meetings in South Korea, the secretary said he will discuss reinforcing diplomatic efforts to return to a denuclearized Korean peninsula.

The defense leaders will also discuss “how we are going to maintain peace by keeping our militaries alert while our diplomats -- Japanese, South Korean and U.S. -- work with all nations to denuclearize the Korean peninsula,” Mattis said.