News: Expeditionary Training Group provides the expeditionary pulse for Bold Alligator
CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C -- As the Marines roared ashore at Camp Lejeune, Monday, Feb. 6, a Navy Expeditionary Force of sailors and Coastguardsmen was playing a new role in nearby waterways - providing sea echelon security for the amphibious landing force.
And in the center of everything expeditionary was Expeditionary Training Group - planning, controlling and evaluating the Navy Expeditionary Combat Command forces participating in Bold Alligator 2012, the largest naval amphibious exercise in the past 10 years.
“This was a great opportunity for NECC forces to show the capabilities we bring to amphibious operations,” said Capt. Michael Napolitano, ETG’s commanding officer and the officer conducting the exercise for NECC forces. “As the Navy/Marine Corps team redefines how amphibious operations are going to be done in the future, with a more agile, flexible force, I think we can see how expeditionary forces can play an integral role.”
In the exercise scenario, Navy expeditionary forces have been in the fictional country of Amberland for several months, protecting the nation’s waterways from smugglers and pirates, working with local security forces to deter insurgents, and providing humanitarian assistance to the local populace. In reality, the 350-person NEF had set up its forward operating base at Bogue Field, N.C., near Camp Lejeune, shortly before the exercise went live, Jan. 30.
ETG’s staff left its headquarters at Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story and joined the NEF in the field to control the expeditionary phases of the exercise and assess the deployment readiness of Riverine Group 1’s headquarters staff.
That assessment would be based on how well the RIVGRU 1 staff planned for and conducted a variety of missions for the exercise, including sea echelon security, intelligence gathering, theater security cooperation, maritime interdiction operations and humanitarian assistance. Each mission called on the RIVGRU 1 staff to communicate with higher and subordinate commands, process information from outside sources and then plan and conduct appropriate missions.
And watching every move was a cadre of ETG assessors with years of experience in Navy/Marine Corps operations around the world, who graded and, when necessary, gently coached the RIVGRU staff to keep the exercise moving forward.
The assessors followed a 430-event mission scenario event list, built by ETG’s exercise designers, to guide the NECC forces through the exercise and integrate the NEF’s adaptive force package into the broader amphibious operations.
“The design of the exercise is to replicate every aspect of what this staff would encounter if they were downrange as part of a forward-deployed task force,” said Scott Brinkman, ETG’s director of training.
Replicating “every aspect” included creating Amberland in North Carolina. ETG contracted to have an Amberland village set up right outside the FOB and included actors role playing as villagers. In addition, actors playing opposition forces were sprinkled throughout the operating area to add realism to the tactical events. That attention to detail and realism paid off, according to the mission commander.
“I think the realistic training has made a difference here,” said Capt. Christopher Halton, commander, RIVGRU 1 and the NEF commander. “I think the role players have been excellent. I think it has added realism and made this exercise much more robust.”
Halton added that interaction with role players forced his sailors to act as they would during a real deployment - and that acting out reinforced the lessons sailors needed to learn about dealing with people in a foreign country.
The realism encompassed everything from wardrobe to cultural behavior. With the exercise set in a fictitious Middle Eastern country, role players dressed and acted accordingly. During one of the key leader engagement scenarios, the officer in charge of the maritime civil affairs team met with the “local police chief” to discuss regional issues. As the team sat down on silky pillows in the police commissioner’s tent and started talking, one of the commissioner’s men offered water and tea, with the expectation the civil affairs team would follow the local custom and drink with the commissioner.
“This has been a really good exercise,” said Dan Riley, ETG’s exercise lead for Bold Alligator. “Our Intel guys have painted a really good picture and tied it into the exercise, and our vignettes really tied in with (the rest of Bold Alligator). From an exercise perspective, this is probably as smooth as I’ve ever seen it.”
The expeditionary portion of Bold Alligator is the largest exercise ETG has designed and conducted since the command was created in 2010. ETG designs exercises, assesses unit readiness for deployment overseas and conducts pre-deployment training in staff planning and operations center management for Navy expeditionary forces, including Riverines, Explosive Ordnance Disposal, Maritime Expeditionary Security Group and Navy Expeditionary Logistics Support Group.