New base defense drills highlight asymmetric threats: ‘Homeland is not sanctuary’

New base defense drills highlight asymmetric threats: ‘Homeland is not sanctuary’

Marines stand guard during an exercise at Marine Corps Logistics Base (MCLB) – Barstow, April 25, marine corps pictures

CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. – U.S. military forces training and deploying at bases and posts in preparation for future conflicts and crises will likely face an increasingly diverse array of threats at home. Base intruders, drone swarms, civilian protests, cyber hackers, disinformation campaigns, natural disasters, and power outages can all disrupt or prevent troop training and deployment.

Scripted command post tabletop exercises have long been the norm for annual base exercises focused on counterterrorism and force protection. But officials at Marine Corps Base West in the Southwest are going on the offensive, in a bid to defend the country.

“Homeland is not a sanctuary,” Col. Philip Lane, MCI West chief of staff at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, said in a recent interview.

“We’re not ignoring that threat,” Lane said. What is our ability to defend state actors across multiple domains that also relate to asymmetric threats?”

Last month, Marine Corps Reservists played the roles of “enemies,” or insurgents, for the first time during five days of unscripted free play during MCI Western Region’s annual Exercise Semper-Duras. Adding operational forces to the operational scenarios of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force and the Joint Forces that deploy and project power overseas “represents a significant change in exercise planning and exercise objectives,” Lane said, adding that “the “We are forced to think and fight just to breathe.” adversary. ”

“We have to be put under pressure, put in unscripted positions and forced to grapple with issues. Simply put, can we compete?” he said.

“So how do we support that effort… and how do we protect it?” he added. “How do we enable and protect power projection against the combined multifaceted, multi-domain threats of state adversaries and the asymmetric threats of opportunistic organizations and political parties that exploit them? Is that so? That’s what’s different this year.”

MCI-West laid the groundwork last year with an exercise based on a “fight the base” mentality to support an I MEF induction scenario, and “this year, our attempt is to carry forward the key lessons learned,” he added.

While Marine Corps regions and installations conduct annual security drills, MCI-West officials are concerned with how installations remain prepared, whether during peacetime or during dynamic Marine Corps movements. , which is developing guides and standards for providing security and support to operational forces. crisis or conflict. Approximately 200,000 people live, work or are part of the MCI-West base community, officials said.

“We’re trying to establish proof of concept,” said training supervisor Jeff Williams, MCI-West’s director of operations and planning and a former officer. “We’re trying to share lessons and basically create a playbook.”

Williams said the regional commander’s after-action report will “allow us to address any sort of gaps or concerns he may have” and identify gaps or issues that will help build Semper Duras next year. “We want to learn from our mistakes, and we want to learn from the gaps and identify the gaps that we need to correct as an organization.”

He said he “hopes this will be a model” for annual exercises, noting that “no one has ever conducted a free-thinking adversary in a facility protection exercise.” This year’s practice did not include any live force-on-force plays, but that is a goal for the future, he added.

Observers for this year’s exercise included personnel from other territories and Marine Corps Installation Command, as well as local, state and federal agencies such as the FBI and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, officials said. “This is a more holistic approach to community defense,” Lane added.

Tackling threats and managing disruption

Marines, sailors and personnel from Marine Corps Installation West, Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, participate in an emergency operations center during exercise Semper Duras 24, April 24, 2024, at MCB Camp Pendleton, Calif. U.S. Marine Corps photo

Members of the 23rd Marine Regiment Headquarters, based in San Bruno, Calif., counter by providing a team of destroyers that poses a new threat to installations in the area, Camp Pendleton and Marine Corps Air Station Camp Pendleton. led the force. MCAS Miramar, California; MCAS Yuma, Arizona. Barstow, California and Marine Corps Logistics Base had to be addressed during a homeland defense mission scenario.

Using a living, breathing operational force rather than a scripted “red” team adds more realism and poses challenges for training troops and commanders, officials say. “The enemy’s mission is simply to disrupt the deployment of troops,” Williams said.

Live Ops not only injects a storyline that executes developer-created controls, but also different perspectives. “It’s just a new perspective, a new way to attack certain problems, attack bases, come up with different scenarios,” said John, a reserve and operations officer with the 23rd Marine Regiment. said Maj. James Curley, who commands one of the 23rd Marine Regiments. An operational force of reservists and active-duty Marines.

Their mission is to “provide ‘red blood cells’ to blackmail and attack the MCI-West facility, and they’re basically the bad guys,” Curley said during a lull in the exercise. . “Our objective is to think creatively about how to inject into the four bases how to attack the system and give them a different perspective on how to create chaos.”

He said the base can help facilities that must respond to and respond to threats from insurgents improve their planning and communications. “It gave them a different way of thinking to solve problems. So now the bad guy is someone who’s not from the base or from the organization, so it’s a thinking enemy for them.”

Last year, Semper Duras transformed the exercise into a five-day, 24/7 operation, requiring units and command staff in the Emergency Operations Center to respond to gate breaches, hospital power outages, hazardous materials spills, and communications outages.

Operational forces played a role in dispelling some of these threats. “We kind of caught them by surprise because we knew what was going on,” Curley said, adding that the 23rd Marines “escalated the situation in a phased approach.” He pointed out that order was born out of chaos.

“If they’re not getting what they need, we can raise the level and make it more difficult,” he said. “At the same time, if they’re struggling or having something, we can lower the intensity so they can catch up. If necessary, we can reset and start from scratch. You can redo the scenario.”

They brainstormed and developed scenarios, digging into their own military and civilian experiences to create scenarios of “what could realistically happen, with or without malicious actors,” he added. For example, cutting off power to a camp “creates secondary and tertiary effects on the base” that base commanders must address immediately in between other duties. In one scenario earlier that morning, a vehicle carrying hazardous materials crashed near the base’s water treatment facility, raising questions about water safety and health effects.

“I’m trying to test different aspects of the base and its response, so I’m not just focused on law enforcement, I’m not just focused on cyber,” Curley said. “I’m kind of casting a wide net.[ing] What I get.”

Williams said Semper Duras was conducted in a live, virtual, constructive training environment that combined real and “virtual” operational and exercise forces at regional bases. “This is… not a war game in the traditional sense,” he said.

The scenario had to be difficult yet manageable, as the training was conducted while the facility was simultaneously managing its actual day-to-day operations. “This provides the impetus to achieve training objectives while still ensuring safety,” Curley said.

“We have to make sure it’s a scenario that’s good enough to provide training, but we have to make sure it’s safe enough that no one gets hurt in any capacity,” he said. added.

Integration with the reserve forces

Marines from Camp Pendleton participate in the Emergency Operations Center during Exercise Semper Duras 24 at MCB Camp Pendleton, California, April 24, marine corps photo

One of MCI-West’s primary roles is to support operational forces, including the security, training, and deployment of I MEF forces and other units that use and pass through military bases in the Pacific and Southwest for global deployments. That’s it. This includes the Marine Corps Reserve and other units operating to deploy or augment regional forces. Officials said supporting regional security exercises also benefits reserve forces.

“It gives the regiment an opportunity to exercise the authority of a commander.” [and] Decide on the number of sets and reps,” Lane said.

“We want to support MCI-West. We want to achieve integration. We want to support the entire Marine Corps, that’s our first mission,” Curley said. “Going bad gives us a unique opportunity to do things we normally wouldn’t get to do…to think outside the box,” he added. “They’re getting the value of the training. And conversely, my small team is out there actually executing proper control and proper reconnaissance, so it’s a win-win for all stakeholders.”

“I’m trained in communications and command and control, and Marines receive real physical training from the lowest level to the highest level,” he said.

This training will help the 23rd Marines strengthen their command and control capabilities for future training and deployments this summer, including integrated training exercises with the 2nd Battalion and 23rd Marines, and regimental training during Marine Corps Air-Ground Task Force exercises. It’s also helpful in practice.Marine Corps Air-Ground Combat Center, Twentynine Palms, California

“We’ve never done anything like this… [for] It’s probably going to take eight years,” Curley said. “This allows us to execute C2 (command and control) at a much larger scale and faster.”

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