News: 26th MEU Marines conduct staff exercise
Story by Lance Cpl. Joshua Brown
MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. — “A certain force in an uncertain world” is the motto of the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU). The unit specializes in rapid response expeditionary missions and, as Master Gunnery Sgt. Jeffrey N. Davis, the operations chief for the 26th MEU, said, speeding up the planning process is the key to mission success.
The Staff-Ex, or staff exercise, is designed to allow the staffs of various units that comprise a Marine Air Ground Task Force (MAGTF) to work together in order to refine and maximize effective planning during the critical stages of mission development. The 26th MEU conducted a Staff-Ex April 28 through 30, 2014.
“We pull together the staffs of the ground combat element (GCE), air combat element (ACE), logistics combat element (LCE), and command element (CE),” said Major Brock A. Houghton, the 26th MEU assistant air officer. “They’re given a scenario and they must cooperate to determine the capabilities they have and deliver options to the commanding officer.”
The GCE, ACE, LCE, and CE together comprise a MAGTF. The staffs of each element provide different functions and capabilities that help make expeditionary endeavors possible.
“Each element’s staff approaches the mission from their own angle,” said Houghton. “The mission depends on the staff coming up with different courses of action through cooperation with the other staffs to present information the commander can use to meet his intended goals.”
A mock scenario was presented to the elements during the Staff-Ex. The participant’s skills were tested in this manner. The scenario was given to gauge the effectiveness of the staffs abilities to plan and execute should a crisis or situation arise that would require them to function in a similar fashion.
“It allowed us to work together as a team,” said Davis. “It also allowed us to prepare ourselves by challenging our critical thinking skills.”
The critical thinking involved in the exercise covered a variety of issues associated with deployments which included risk analysis, logistics, mission prioritizing and resources available.
“It prepared us for the uncertainties in our area of operation,” said Davis. “It showed us how we can perform better and improve our planning speed.”
Missions may require fast response times and inefficient planning can delay the response of a force. The Staff-Ex helps identify these challenges so they can be resolved and avoided in real situations.
“It’s important because it gives the primary and special staff an opportunity to refine their skills,” said Davis. “They work together to formulate a plan that provides flexible options for the commander.”
A mission can change depending on events that happen in the MEU’s area of operation. This requires flexibility in the plans the staffs develop, so the commander can make a decision without hurting the overall capability of his forces involved in other missions.
“We want to do the best job we can and determine the most effective plan possible,” said Davis. “It helps us determine what’s the right thing to do for the Marine Corps, what’s best for the mission, and give the commander options so he can make an effective and informed decision.”