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Nellis Airmen, joint partners prep Marines for Afghanistan

Marine Light Armored Vehicles were used as part of the command and control structure employed at exercise Spartan Resolve. (U.S. Marine photo/Casey Bain)

Marine Light Armored Vehicles were used as part of the command and control structure employed at exercise Spartan Resolve. (U.S. Marine photo/Casey Bain)

CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. (AFNS) -- U.S. Joint Forces Command joint fires experts joined Marine Corps Tactics and Operations Group and other joint enablers during a mission rehearsal exercise here to prepare Marine Corps Regimental Combat Team-8 for its upcoming deployment to Afghanistan.

Exercise Spartan Resolve, led by MCTOG officials with support from USJFCOM Joint Fires Integration and Interoperability Team and the 505th Operations Squadron Joint Integration Team from Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., included academic instruction, a command post exercise and a live-fire event.

"The training exercise focused on integrating joint, coalition and interagency partners in a live, virtual and constructive environment replicating conditions commanders and staffs will experience once deployed," said Marine Lt. Col. James Szepesy, the MCTOG aviation integration lead. "The JFIIT, 505th (OS) and MCTOG team provided the training audience with a combat-like experience that will pay important dividends to the entire unit."

The 505th OS JIT provided MCTOG officials with a fully functional theater battle management core system, replicating the capabilities the Marines will have when deployed to Afghanistan.

"Our air tasking order technicians ensured Marine ground forces are familiar with the complex computer systems that will help them to properly request Air Force airborne intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance assets," said Lt. Col. Denny Lewis, from the 505th OS JIT. "This capability will also enable the Marines to monitor the real-time execution of these assets in support of their ground mission."

The 505th Command and Control Wing at Hurlburt Field, Fla., provides a multitude of joint and coalition command and control training opportunities. This training helps Marines and Soldiers understand how to request and how to use airpower in real-world situations.

The JIT also provided remotely piloted aircraft mission intelligence coordinators to help train the RCT-8 staff on important tactics, techniques and procedures for employing RPAs like the MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper.

"Our goal is to ensure the regimental staff understands the capabilities and limitations of assets like the (MQ-1) Predator and (MQ-9) Reaper that will be at their disposal while they're in Afghanistan," said Lisa Jalbert, an RPA mission intelligence coordinator from the 505th OS JIT. "These important assets will provide the overwatch and extra set of eyes for the ground commander while they conduct their combat mission."

Part of JFIIT's mission during this exercise was to enhance the RCT-8 staff's ability to employ and integrate joint fires assets similar to what they will have in theater.

"Our primary purpose was to help MCTOG provide a joint experience for the training audience that replicates current theater operations and improve the unit's ability to leverage its joint fires capabilities," said Craig Berryman, a JFIIT senior analyst. "This was the deploying unit's best opportunity to receive this type of mission-essential training before they're in combat."

Supporting Spartan Resolve and MCTOG is an important part of the organization's mission to improve the integration and interoperability of joint fires at the tactical level, JFIIT leaders said.

"MCTOG does an excellent job of integrating joint assets to replicate a near-real-world environment," said Army Lt. Col. Alfonso Plummer, the JFIIT exercise lead. "Our mission was to help integrate joint fire enablers to improve the unit's targeting process and reinforce vital (tactics, techniques and procedures) that will shorten the unit's learning curve once in country as well as enhance their combat effectiveness and ultimately save lives.

"This kind of predeployment training is an absolute necessity for any unit that expects to fight and win on today's battlefield," Colonel Plummer said. "The operational environment today demands warfighters fully understand and employ crucial joint capabilities that couldn't have been imagined a few short years ago. Spartan Resolve is an excellent example of providing that mission-like experience to our leaders and staffs that prepares them for success downrange."

According to exercise participants, MCTOG's using TBMCS provided them with an important opportunity to learn how to leverage a system that's available to units in Afghanistan.

"The ability to train with systems like TBMCS is an important part of what we need before we deploy," said Army Lt. Col. Dean Hagadorn, an air future operations planner. "This is the system we will be using in theater to get our aviation requirements on the air tasking order, and we can't afford to wait until we're deployed to figure it out."

"This has been excellent training and allowed all of us, regardless of the uniform we're wearing, to work with this system and learn how we can use it properly so we can more effectively accomplish our mission," said Marine Maj. Mike Swingler, a 2nd Marine Logistics Group air officer. "It's a critical part of the foundation we need before we deploy."

The importance of this exercise to the deploying unit was very clear.

"Spartan Resolve allowed us to hone our staff processes with important joint partners and other enablers to ensure we're prepared to provide coherent and comprehensive command and control throughout our battlespace," said Marine Maj. James Ryans, a RCT-8 operations officer. "We will be better prepared for our deployment and be able to maximize the use of all the available assets in theater because of this training."

MCTOG officials will continue providing a realistic training environment that is based on current doctrine, TTPs and best practices employed in theater by working together with organizations like JFIIT and the 505th Operations Squadron, Colonel Szepesy said.

"Spartan Resolve and our exercise partners provide an incredible resource to our training audience that better prepares our battalion and regimental staffs for the challenges of combat," Colonel Szepesy added. "Together, we provide the creative solutions necessary to defeat this irregular warfare threat."

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