Dawn Blitz 2017 Brings Realistic, Relevant Training to Navy-Marine Corps Team

Dawn Blitz 2017 was a scenario-driven amphibious exercise designed to train and integrate the staffs of Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG) 3 and 1st Marine Expeditionary Brigade (1st MEB). It provided realistic, relevant training necessary for the effective global crisis response expected of the Navy/Marine Corps team.

The exercise took place off the coast of Southern California, and involved participation from various ships homeported at Naval Base San Diego: amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD 2), amphibious transport dock USS Anchorage (LPD 23), amphibious dock landing ship USS Rushmore (LSD 47) and guided-missile destroyer USS Wayne E. Meyer (DDG 108). The ships integrated with 1st MEB and Coastal Riverine Group 1 (CRG 1) to demonstrate how U.S. forces are capable, interoperable and deployable on short notice, all 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," noted 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 consisted of various wartime events leading to the deployment of U.S. and allied forces against a hypothetical enemy. Forces planned and executed an amphibious assault, engaged in live-fire events, and established expeditionary-advanced bases in a land and maritime threat environment in order to improve naval amphibious core competencies.

"Dawn Blitz provides crucial training for our Navy-Marine Corps team. The capability to conduct prompt and sustained amphibious operations anywhere in the world is essential to our Navy and our nation," said Rear Adm. Cathal O'Connor, commander of ESG 3, during the exercise. "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, working with our international partners helps foster and sustain cooperative relationships that enhance regional security, stability and prosperity around the globe."


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

Unique to 2017's exercise was the integration of the F-35B Joint Strike Fighter and the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) conducting a sea-based strike. This allowed commanders to validate a capability with platforms not traditionally used at the Marine Expeditionary Unit/Amphibious Ready Group (MEU/ARG) level.

Additionally, demonstration of the composite warfare construct and other command and control arrangements helped 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," said Hoekstra. "The amphibious force has always been the vanguard of naval power in these qualities."

The Navy and the 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.

"Dawn Blitz 17 is an invaluable opportunity for I Marine Expeditionary Force (I MEF) and the 1st MEB to experiment with advanced maritime and naval warfighting concepts, as well as refine existing tactics, techniques and procedures," said Lt. Col. Thomas Savage, Operations Officer, 1st MEB leading into the exercise. "The exercise also reinforces the strong and enduring relationships between U.S. Third Fleet, ESG 3, I MEF and 1st MEB."

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

The exercise was an opportunity to meet the challenges of future conflicts, overseas contingency operations, humanitarian assistance/disaster response and homeland 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," said Savage. "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." Surface Warfare Magazine

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