News: Exercise Steel Knight Showcases MAGTF Supremacy
Story by Cpl. Michael Wick
MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. – Exercise Steel Knight is a synthesis of many different moving parts. There are many pieces in the puzzle, but all the pieces have a purpose in the overall mission of the I Marine Expeditionary Force.
These different entities continuously train amongst themselves, working hard to remain resilient and vigilant for future fights. It isn’t often, though, they get the opportunity to train with one another in an all-encompassing exercise. Once a year however, this opportunity presents itself, allowing units to train how they would fight, together and in unison.
Exercise Steel Knight is an annual, large-scale, combined arms, live fire exercise, which runs from Dec. 9 through 16. It allows Marines to hone their conventional warfighting skills, preparing them for employment as the United States’ premier response force.
Throughout the week and a half of training, 25,000 Marines from California bases including Camp Pendleton, Twentynine Palms and Miramar as well as Yuma, Ariz., will refine their warfighting tactics and train in accord.
Maj. Gen. Larry D. Nicholson, 1st Marine Division Commanding General, believes planning and training together across the board is one of the greatest opportunities that come from an exercise such as Steel Knight.
“Every unit in the Marine Corps works and trains on their own core skillsets,” he said. “A couple of times a year, you need to get everyone together to do a large scale exercise, to train the way we would fight, as a larger force.”
Another benefit of this large-scale exercise is the chance for higher command levels to plan and train together across the entire MEF, ensuring a high level of readiness across every staff function and capability.
“For the command, it is important to exercise control skills you can only execute when you get the whole team together,” said Maj. Gen. Nicholson. “This entire MEF will have learned many valuable skills you can only learn under an exercise of this size.”
As the Marine Corps restructures and reduces the size of it’s fighting force, it is also pushing more Marines into the Pacific region. Looking back in history, this is where Marines gained their reputation as America’s amphibious fighting force, but in recent years Marines have been out of their amphibious elements, taking the fight to extremists in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“We haven’t had the opportunity to do our core skillset that defines our Marine Corps, that is amphibious operations,” said Maj. Gen. Nicholson. “So every opportunity we have now, to put Amtrak’s and Marines back in the water, to simulate amphibious operations the best we can, is an important piece.”
The general also noted the importance of amphibious operations in the Philippines only a few weeks prior to Steel Knight.
“If you’ll look at just a few weeks ago, we had Marines, first responders from Okinawa, coming in ships and small boats, demonstrating amphibious operations are still very relevant and valuable to our operation,” he said.
All in all, the tough training Steel Knight brings to Marines allows them to meet current and future real-world operational demands.
“The training of such a large event is an invaluable opportunity, and you just don’t get the opportunity to get this size force together to get this type of training very often,” said Maj. Gen. Nicholson. “It’s great to be out here, and we’re looking forward to a good, tough week of training. I know the entire Marine expeditionary force, division, air wing and Marine logistics group will be better for it.”
Being such a flexible force, the Marine Corps has the distinct ability to gain access to critical areas anywhere in the world through their air, ground and maritime expertise. The training during Steel Knight enables Marines to better resolve conflicts, conduct humanitarian assistance and engage the nation’s enemies in remote, austere environments around the globe.