New Marine Training Plan Emphasizes Technology to Prepare for Modern Conflict

THE PENTAGON – The Marine Corps laid out a plan Tuesday for transforming training and education of the force through advancements in technology and a focus on critical thinking that will better shape Marines for future operations. Training and Education 2030 is the latest strategy document produced by the Marine Corps as part of its […]

Recruits with Bravo Company, 1st Recruit Training Battalion, initiate the Crucible with a hike at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C, Jan. 12, 2023. US Marine Corps Photo

THE PENTAGON – The Marine Corps laid out a plan Tuesday for transforming training and education of the force through advancements in technology and a focus on critical thinking that will better shape Marines for future operations.

Training and Education 2030 is the latest strategy document produced by the Marine Corps as part of its Force Design 2030 effort to reshape the service for modern conflict. Training and Education 2030 is a companion policy to Talent Management 2030 released last year.

Under the new plan, the Marine Corps aims to move away from some of the repetitive training and replace it with exercises that require critical thinking to help young Marines learn to make battlefield decisions, said Lt. Gen. Kevin Iiams, commanding general of Training and Education.

“There’s a sacred process to making a Marine,” Iiams said. “That’s not going to change.”
The critical thinking piece is going to allow the Marines to prepare for what the Marine Corps leaders predict the future will hold as well as unknowns, he told reporters during a roundtable on Tuesday.

The document, which lays out a number of objectives and areas of further study, along with deadlines for each, also formalizes the commanding general of Training and Education as a new deputy commandant.

Training and Education 2030 will build on the core legacy of the Marine Corps, through more integration and abilities provided by technology not previously available or used.

“They want to talk,” Iiams said. “They want to be part of solutions. They want to be thinkers and what we’re doing is we’re just unchaining them, they have capability well beyond anything that we ever imagined. And this is just us recognizing that and finding a ways and a means to unleash it.”

The focus on critical thinking is one way that the Marine Corps can mature the force without just bringing in and retaining older Marines, said Col. Joseph Farley, assistant chief of staff for Training and Education Command.

The training program also lays out some new standards for the Marines, including an emphasis on swimming.

For the past 20 years, the Marine Corps was focused on the Middle East, with operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. With the change of focus to the Indo-Pacific, Marines need to be better equipped to be in the water, said Col. Eric Quehl, director of the policy and standards division in the Training and Education Command.

A U.S. Marine with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit Maritime Raid Force prepares to breach and entrance during a limited scale raid as part of Realistic Urban Training Exercise 23.1 on Marine Corps Base Hawaii, Jan. 11, 2023. US Marine Corps Photo

One aspect of the training plan is Project Tripoli, which will eventually allow for integrated training across the globe through the use of simulations. The idea behind Project Tripoli is that different units will be able to train together even when not in the same place through a combination of live and simulated training.

As an example, Iiams said a situation under Project Tripoli is a lance corporal using a blended reality system to train at Twentynine Palms, Calif., with an F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter pilot using the same training system in a simulator from the East Coast.

“So the airplane doesn’t exist, he sees it as an avatar as being flown by a pilot on the East Coast, that pilot looks down and can actually see the entire grand scheme of maneuver, and can strike and employ in support of the forces,” he said. “That simulator might also be flying in a formation with a live airplane, that live airplane looks over and actually sees its wingman avatar.”

Tripoli also helps to address the lack of long ranges that are required for training on long-range precision missiles or ranges that allow for Marines to test equipment like jammers, Iiams said.

With the use of virtual space, the Marines are able to do this type of training within the space the service already has.

It also allows for more real-time adjudication and feedback, Iiams said.

“We know that Marines learn, humans, learn, in real-time,” he said.

The virtual aspect can also help with safety around training, as it’ll allow for progressive training, said Col. Mark Smith, director of range training programs division under the Training and Education Command.

That sort of progressive training means that a Marine might be able to train on the basics before using live fires, Smith said. Or they can do training that would be considered riskier in a safe environment because of the virtual element.

It also allows Marines to train their critical thinking skills in an environment where they cannot get hurt, Farley said.

The Marine Corps has a mishap library from training exercises so Marines can see mistakes made by other units when training in order to learn and avoid making similar ones, Iiams said.

Aspects of the new training policy are already in effect. Training and Education 2030 lays out new standards and training for marksmanship with a new advanced rifle qualification course, Iiams said.

“[It is] more offensively minded,” Iiams said. “It’s combat related, it’s positional shooting, it’s talking about how they’re actually going to employ their [weapons], teaching them how they’re going to employ their weapons in combat, instead of just marksmanship.”

A U.S. Marine with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit Maritime Raid Force signals platoon to halt while on patrol during a limited scale raid as part of Realistic Urban Training Exercise 23.1 on Marine Corps Base Hawaii, Jan. 11, 2023. US Marine Corps Photo

Marksmanship is more than firing at static paper targets, Quehl said. Instead, the Marines are using training that requires service members to start at farther positions and progress toward the target to simulate a combat situation.

That’s already been rolled out in the fleet, but they are still working toward full operational capability, he said.

The Marine Corps is a learning organization, said Sgt. Maj. Stephen Griffin, command senior enlisted leader of Marine Corps Training and Education Command.

The document lays out the plan for how to modernize the force to be able to address future operations, Iiams said.

“And I think what’s really key here when we talk about the document, as much as we’re talking about new, is this document actually builds on the core legacy of high standards. It’s really, really rooted in our core values, our warfighting ethos, what we consider for our Marines, you know, a desire for a bias for action. And then, you know, really our cornerstone document, which is MCDP 1 Warfighting, and that’s all of the tenets of maneuver warfare.”

Chinese, Russian Surface Action Groups Operating Near Japan; U.S., Japan Ships Exercise Nearby

Chinese and Russian surface action groups have transited past Japan on their voyage home, while Chinese aircraft have transited in an out of the Pacific Ocean through the Miyako Strait, according to the Japanese Ministry of Defense. Meanwhile, the U.S. and Japan are in the midst of conducting multinational exercises around Japan, with one exercise […]

Russian Navy ships transiting near Japan.

Chinese and Russian surface action groups have transited past Japan on their voyage home, while Chinese aircraft have transited in an out of the Pacific Ocean through the Miyako Strait, according to the Japanese Ministry of Defense.

Meanwhile, the U.S. and Japan are in the midst of conducting multinational exercises around Japan, with one exercise ending today.

On Friday, a People’s Liberation Army Navy destroyer, frigate and replenishment were sighted sailing northeast in an area 220 kilometers southwest of Miyako Island, Joint Staff Office (JSO) of the Ministry of Defense said in a news release issued Monday. Images and pennant numbers identified the PLAN ships as destroyer CNS Suzhou (132), frigate CNS Nantong (533) and replenishment ship CNS Chaohu (890), which form the 41st Chinese Naval Escort Taskforce previously assigned to the Gulf of Aden to conduct anti-piracy escort missions there. On Saturday, the PLAN ships transited the Miyako Strait into the East China Sea, according to the release, which noted that the ships were previously sighted north of the Miyako Strait on May 19. The Japanese said Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force minesweeper JS Kuroshima (MSC-692) and JMSDF P-3C Orions Maritime Patrol Aircraft (MPA) of Fleet Air Wing 5 based at Naha Air Base, Okinawa, shadowed the PLAN ships.

The ships of the PLAN 41st Chinese Naval Escort Taskforce left their homebase of Zhoushan, Zhejiang on May 18 and returned on Tuesday, with the 42nd Chinese Naval Escort Taskforce of destroyer CNS Huainan (123), frigate CNS Rizhao (598) and replenishment ship CNS Kekexilihu (968) now on station in the Gulf of Aden carrying out the PLAN anti-piracy deployment that has been ongoing since the end of 2008.

Meanwhile, Japan sighted five Russian Navy ships – a cruiser, destroyer, two replenishment ships and a rescue tugboat – on Sunday sailing northeast in an area 80 kilometers south of Yonaguni Island, the JSO said in a second news release issued Monday. Images and information in the release identified the cruiser as RFS Varyag (011), the destroyer as RFS Admiral Tributs (564) and one of the replenishment ships as Boris Butoma and an unidentified Dubna-class replenishment ship. Varyag, Admiral Tributs and Boris Butoma left their homeport of Vladivostok on Dec. 29, 2021 for an extended deployment. The ships conducted a trilateral exercise with the PLAN and Iranian Navy in the Gulf of Oman in January before proceeding to the Mediterranean, where they operated until late October.

Chinese warships underway off Japan

The five Russian ships subsequently sailed northeast between Yonaguni Island and Iriomote Island into the East China Sea while JMSDF replenishment ship JS Towada (AOE-422) and a P-3C Orion MPA of Fleet Air Wing 5 monitored the Russian ships, according to the JSO. Varyag, Admiral Tributs and Boris Butoma had been sighted traveling southwest through the Tsushima Strait on Dec. 29 last year, the release noted.

From morning until afternoon on Monday, a Chinese BZK-005 unmanned air vehicle, a Y-9 electronic intelligence aircraft and a Y-9 maritime patrol aircraft flew in separately from the East China Sea and passed through the Miyako Strait into the Pacific Ocean, the JSO said in a third news release. After reaching an area east of Nawamoto Island, the aircraft turned around and flew back through the Miyako Strait into the East China Sea. Japan Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF) fighter aircraft scrambled in response to monitor these flights.

Meanwhile the nations of the Quad grouping – Australia, India, Japan and the United States – wrapped up Exercise Malabar on Tuesday. The drills started on Nov. 8 and took place in the sea and airspace south of Japan’s Kanto region on the main island of Honshu. Japan sent destroyer helicopter carrier JS Hyuga (DDH-181); destroyers JS Takanami (DD-110) and JS Shiranui (DD-120); landing ship tank JS Kunisaki (LST-4003); replenishment ship JS Oumi (AOE-426) and a submarine; along with a JMSDF P-1 MPA, a UP-3D Electronic Warfare trainer and the JMSDF Special Boarding Unit. The Indian Navy sent frigate INS Shivalik (F47) and corvette INS Kamorta (P28), along with a P-8I MPA and the Marine Commandoes unit. The U.S. sent carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76), cruiser USS Chancellorsville (CG-62), destroyer USS Milius (DDG-69), a P-8A Poseidon MPA and Navy Special Warfare forces. Australia sent HMAS Arunta (FFH151), replenishment ship HMAS Stalwart (A304) and submarine HMAS Farncomb (SSG74), along with a Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) P-8A Poseidon.

Reagan and Chancellorsville are now participating in Exercise Keen Sword 23, which began on Thursday and will continue in Japan through Saturday. A total of 36,000 personnel, 30 ships and 270 aircraft from Japan and the United States, along with the crews of four ships and three aircraft from Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom are involved in the drills. A complete list of ships taking part in the exercise has not been released, but the following ships from the countries involved are known to be taking part based on released images and reports:

USS Milius (DDG-69), front, steams in formation with Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) ship, JS Takanami (DDG-110), Royal Australian Navy (RAN) ship HMAS Arunta (FFH 151) and Indian Navy ship INS Kamorta (P 28) during Exercise Malabar 2022, in the Philippine Sea on Nov. 11, 2022. US Navy Photo

Royal Australian Navy (RAN):
Destroyer

  • HMAS Hobart (DDG39)

Royal Canadian Navy (RCN):
Frigates

  • HMCS Vancouver (FFH331)
  • HMCS Winnipeg (FFH338)

JMSDF:
Destroyer helicopter carrier

  • JS Izumo (DDH-183)

Destroyers

  • JS Atago (DDG-177)
  • JS Ashigara (DDG-178)
  • JS Setogiri (DD-156)
  • JS Yamagiri (DD-152)

Landing ship tanks

  • JS Shimokita (LST-4002)
  • JS Kunisaki (LST-4003)

Unidentified Submarine

U.K. Royal Navy (RN):
Offshore patrol vessel

  • HMS Spey (P234)

U.S. Navy:
Carrier

  • USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76)

Cruiser

  • USS Chancellorsville (CG-62)

Destroyer

  • USS Benfold (DDG-65)

Amphibious transport dock ship

  • USS New Orleans (LPD-18)

Replenishment ship

  • USNS Rappahannock (T-AO-204)

Japan Monitoring Russian, Chinese Ships Operating Near Japan

A Russian Navy Kilo-class submarine, along with two Russian Navy ships, transited La Pérouse Strait on Friday, according to a Friday Japanese Joint Staff Office release. A Russian Navy destroyer, submarine and submarine rescue ship were sighted 40 km northeast of Cape Soya, Hokkaido, 6 p.m. Thursday, according to the release. Hull numbers and images […]

Destroyer RFS Admiral Panteleyev (548), Kilo class submarine and submarine rescue vessel Igor Belousov. Japanese Joint Staff Office Photo

A Russian Navy Kilo-class submarine, along with two Russian Navy ships, transited La Pérouse Strait on Friday, according to a Friday Japanese Joint Staff Office release.

A Russian Navy destroyer, submarine and submarine rescue ship were sighted 40 km northeast of Cape Soya, Hokkaido, 6 p.m. Thursday, according to the release. Hull numbers and images identified them as destroyer RFS Admiral Panteleyev (548), a Kilo class submarine and the submarine rescue vessel Igor Belousov.

The Russian ships and submarine sailed westward through La Pérouse Strait into the Sea of Japan. The Russian vessels were monitored by fast attack craft JS Kumataka (PG-827) and JMSDF P-3C Orion MPAs of Fleet Air Wing 2, based at at JMSDF Hachinohe Air Base, Honshu, according to the release.

La Pérouse Strait is an international waterway which divides the Russian island of Sakhalin and Japan’s island of Hokkaido. The strait is routinely transited by Russian Pacific Fleet ships moving between the Sea of Japan and Sea of Okhotsk as both seas form part of the fleet’s operational areas.

People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) ships also continued to operate around Japan this week, although at a lower number and tempo.

A PLAN Dongdiao class surveillance ship carrying hull number 796 was spotted 100 km west from the coast of Aomori Prefecture, Honshu, around 5 a.m. Sunday, and sailed northeast towards the Tsugaru Strait between Honshu and Hokkaido, according to a Monday release from the Joint Staff Office (JSO) of Japan’s Ministry of Defense.

However, the ship turned around in an area 20km west of Cape Tappi and sailed southwest into the Sea of Japan. Multipurpose support ship JS Suo (AMS-4302) monitored the PLAN ship, according to the release.

A PLAN frigate was sighted sailing east in an area 50km north of Aguni Island, which is located northwest of Okinawa, around 8 a.m. Sunday, according to a second JSO release.

CNS Hengshui (572) Japanese Joint Staff Office Photo

Hull number and image provided identified the frigate as CNS Hengshui (572). The frigate then sailed north along the western side of the Nansei Islands, and on Monday, was sighted 90km southwest off Kusagaki Island where it turned west to sail into the East China Sea.

Destroyers JS Sazanami (DD-113) and JS Yugiri (DD-153) along with a JMSDF P-1 Maritime Patrol Aircraft (MPA) of Fleet Air Wing 1 stationed at JMSDF Kanoya Air Base, Kyushu, and a P-3C Orion MPA of Fleet Air Wing 5 stationed at Naha Air Base, Okinawa, conducted surveillance on the PLAN frigate.

On Tuesday the JSO issued a release updating the movements of Dongdiao 796, stating that at 5 p.m. Monday, the PLAN ship was spotted sailing southwest in an area 120 km north of the Oki Islands. On Tuesday, it sailed southwest through the Tsushima Strait into the East China Sea.

Dongdiao 796 Japanese Joint Staff Office Photo

Multipurpose support ship JS Hiuchi (AMS-4301) and fast attack craft JS Otaka (PG-826) ,along with JMSDF P-1 MPAs of Fleet Air Wing 4 stationed at Naval Air Facility Atsugi, monitored the PLAN ship.

Navy, Marines Set Up Experimental Task Force

A temporary joint Navy and Marine Corps command, Task Force 76/3, is carrying out an experimental period of operations in the Indo-Pacific region to determine the best way forward for an integrated Navy and Marines Corps command.

Task Force 76/3 was recently formed as a result of merging the staffs of the Navy’s Task Force 76, 7th Fleet, and 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade, III Marine Expeditionary Force, according to an Oct. 1 Marine Corps release. It started operations during Noble Fusion 22.2, which began Oct. 1.

“Merging the two staffs simply makes sense. It’s an idea that’s really well-suited to this region,” said Rear Adm. Derek Trinque, commander, Task Force 76/3, in the release. “A command that is truly a Navy and Marine Corps team provides the most capable and most ready force to commanders in the key maritime terrain of the Indo-Pacific.”

Task Force 76/3 is an experiment for proof of concept, and following the experimentation period, feedback will be provided back to senior Navy, Marine Corps and defense leaders with lessons learned and in order to determine the way forward.

Under Noble Fusion 22.2, Task Force will be experimenting, operating and evaluating naval integration concepts through operations at-sea and ashore and will concurrently participate in operations and exercises throughout the Indo-Pacific. TF 76/3 will support the 3rd Marine Division during Exercise Kamandag 6, which began Monday in the Philippines and will additionally participate in exercises and operations throughout the fall, according to the release.

There are currently 1,900 U.S. Marines in the Philippines conducting Exercise Kamandag 6 with 530 Philippine Marines and 100 personnel from the Philippine Navy and Air Force. The Republic of Korea sent 120 Marines for the exercise, joining 30 personnel from the Japan Ground Self Defense Force (JGSDF) Amphibious Rapid Deployment Brigade who will participate in some portions of the exercise, including parts that involve coastal defense, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, maritime security, combined arms, amphibious operations and special operations, according to a Marine Corps release .

Also participating in the exercise are a number of personnel from the JGSDF Central Nuclear Biological Chemical Defense Unit and JGSDF NBC (Nuclear, Biological, Chemical) Counter Medical Unit, who together with the U.S. Marine Corps and Philippines Marine Corps will conduct knowledge exchanges on Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear defense tactics, procedures and medical treatment.

U.S. Marine Corps units participating in Kamandag 6 include the 3rd Marine Division; 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU); elements of the 11th MEU; elements of 4th Marine Regiment; Combat Logistics Regiment 3; and 1st Battalion, 2nd Marines.

U.S. Marine Corps aircraft involved in Kamandag 6 will be primarily sourced from the 31st MEU and include the F-35B Lightning, MV-22B Osprey, CH-53E Super Stallion, AH-1Z Viper, UH-1Y Venom, and KC-130J Super Hercules.

Amphibious assault ship Tripoli (LHA-7) and amphibious transport dock USS New Orleans (LPD-18) are participating in the exercise. Both ships have 31st MEU units embarked, while Tripoli also has Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 262 (Reinforced) embarked on it with the squadron operating a mix of F-35Bs,MV-22B Ospreys and CH-53E Super Stallions.

The exercise is being across Luzon, Batanes and Palawan in the Philippines and includes a combined arms live-fire exercise in central Luzon featuring aircraft and High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS), as well as amphibious operations along the eastern and northern coasts of the Philippines. Exercise Kamandag 6 ends Oct. 14.

In Hokkaido, Japan, 1,400 JGSDF personnel from the 2nd Division, Northern Army and 1,600 U.S. Marines from across III Marine Expeditionary Force are conducting Exercise Resolute Dragon 22 which began on Oct. 1 and ends on Oct. 14.

“Today, as the security environment surrounding Japan becomes more turbulent, there is a need to further strengthen the deterrence and response capabilities of the Japan-U.S. Alliance,” said Gen. Yuichi Togashi, the JGSDF 2nd Division Commanding General in a Marine Corps release. “For this reason, we recognize that Resolute Dragon, the largest field training exercise with the U.S. Marine Corps in Japan, is extremely important in terms of further strengthening the cooperation between the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force and the U.S. Marine Corps. It is my hope that through this training, the Japanese and U.S. Forces will deepen mutual understanding, improve their tactical skills and joint response capabilities to the operational level, and, in turn, further strengthen the Japan-U.S. Alliance”.

U.S. Marine Corps units participating in Resolute Dragon 22 include the 12th Marine Regiment; 3rd Battalion, 12th Marines; 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marines; 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion and 3rd Transportation Battalion; and multiple squadrons from 1st Marine Aircraft Wing with MV-22B Ospreys, CH-53E Super Stallions, AH-1Z Vipers, UH-1Y Venoms, KC-130J Super Hercules and F/A-18 Hornets. A JGSDF release stated that USAF CV-22 Ospreys stationed in Japan at Yokota Air Base will also participate in the exercise.