NORFOLK (NNS) -- Commander, United States Fleet Forces Command hosted the second operational planning team conference (OPT) at Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek/Fort Story, the week of Nov. 14-18 for Exercise Bold Alligator 2012 (BA-12), scheduled to take place during January and February 2012.
Bold Alligator 2012 represents the Navy and Marine Corps' revitalization of the fundamentals of amphibious operations, strengthening their traditional role as fighters from the sea.
The focus of BA-12 is based on the common goal of Navy and Marine Corps leadership to revitalize, refine and strengthen core amphibious competencies, which are critical to maritime power projection and are a cost-effective option for a wide range of military operations.
History has shown the capabilities that allow the amphibious force to conduct a forced entry landing against an opposing military force are the same capabilities that make it the force of choice for crisis response and building partnerships.
"One of our goals with Bold Alligator is to demonstrate the capabilities amphibious operations bring to the table to a very large audience," said Rear Adm. Kevin Scott, commander of Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG 2). "We want to show the value the Navy/Marine Corps team brings to the Department of Defense and the nation. Another goal is to look at what works and what doesn't work and build a foundation for the future."
Bold Alligator 2012, to be conducted under the purview of U.S. Fleet Forces Command (USFF) and U.S. Marine Corps Forces Command (MARFORCOM), will be largest multinational naval amphibious exercise conducted in the past 10 years. It will focus on the planning and execution of a brigade-sized amphibious assault from a seabase in a medium threat environment. The underlying scenario of this exercise is designed to emphasize the Navy/Marine Corps capabilities in undeveloped and immature theaters of operations.
Scott said that after ten years of continuous combat operations ashore, the blue-green team is at risk of losing vital amphibious assault corporate knowledge.
"When we were getting ready to send USS Bataan (LHD 5) over to Libya during Operation Odyssey Dawn, I had the opportunity to meet and speak to a lot of the young Marines who embarked aboard, and I couldn't find very many of them that had been on a ship before," said Scott. "It's the flexibility that the amphibious Navy gives us that we can't live without. We were on the precipice of losing that corporate knowledge. We have to reinvigorate our tactics, techniques and procedures to align with our current force structure and technical innovations."
According to Brig. Gen. Chris Owens, Commander, 2d Marine Expeditionary Brigade, the Marines are also using BA 12 as a proof of concept to plan what the Marine force of tomorrow will look like.
"We've gotten very heavy during the last ten years of fighting land wars, so we need to look at lightening our load and take a hard look at what Marines are going to bring to the fight," said Owens.
A leaner, meaner Marine Corps also allows them to respond rapidly to a variety of missions.
"Amphibious forces are kind of like a Swiss Army knife," said Owens. "We're able to respond quickly to a variety of situations. Seabasing gives us the ability and the agility to reset quickly after each operation. BA-12 will allow us to explore all these capabilities in a complex but realistic scenario."
Expected to participate in the exercise are an amphibious task force (led by ESG-2) consisting of 10 amphibious ships and four to six combatants; a Marine expeditionary brigade-sized landing force (2d MEB); a carrier strike group (aircraft carrier, embarked air wing and four combatant ships); mine counter measure forces, Navy Expeditionary Combat Command (NECC) forces, Military Sealift Command (MSC) ships; coalition force elements from several allies, and other commands in the support of amphibious operations.
"Our current fiscal constants have been challenging, but we've been able to maximize our resources. Many of the ships participating in BA-12 are entering their pre-deployment cycles, so they were going to be at sea conducting training regardless," said Owens. "We were able to mesh their required training into our planning for BA-12. In addition to 20,000 Sailors and Marines participating in the live exercise, we are incorporating a number of synthetic scenarios that will broaden the amount of participation and training opportunities to a much wider audience.
"It's important to recognize that while our forces are fairly stressed after 10 years of continuous operations in the Middle East, we recognize that future operations are most likely to take place at sea. If we don't maintain and improve our amphibious capability, we are severely limiting the operational options we can offer the country. This really is the culmination of planning that began in 2007. The commandant of the Marine Corps recognized the need to get Marines back to sea and rebuild our amphibious capability, so this has been a long time coming," said Owens.
For more news from U.S. Fleet Forces Command, visit www.navy.mil/local/clf/.