NAVAL SUPPORT ACTIVITY, Bahrain --
In the early 80s, the Marine Corps began using prepositioning techniques in the Middle East. Shortly after, the established Near Term Prepositioning Force gave way to the techniques Marines use today – the Maritime Prepositioning Force program.
MPF consists of government owned, civilian operated ships that carry enough equipment to support a Marine Expeditionary Brigade (approximately 14,500 Marines), said Thomas J. Brinegar, the Logistics Preposition Analyst with U.S. Marine Corps Forces Central Command in Tampa, Fla. “What it brings the commander is a combat power that has a forward presence.”
In the Central Command area of responsibility, which includes countries such as Iraq, Afghanistan, Jordan, Syria, Bahrain and Yemen, combatant commanders have called on MPF ships to assist multiple times but there are more capabilities to be used.
We demonstrated the MPF capabilities historically in Desert Storm, [Operation Iraqi Freedom] I, and OIF II. In the CENTCOM area we have generally only used the MPF for combat missions, said Brinegar. “We’re trying to break the paradigm that the ships are used only in time of need.”
In May, Lt. Gen. Robert B. Neller, the commander of MARCENT, signed the second edition of the prepositioning strategy for his unit, and it included changes that could potentially highlight Marines’ expeditionary roots.
“The value of the Navy-Marine Corps team will be reaffirmed as we seek to reemphasize our naval character and capabilities,” Neller wrote in the strategy guide. “To ensure Marines remain relevant as a flexible, scalable and rapidly deployable force, it is necessary to make significant changes to the way the Marine Corps conducts prepositioning operations.”
MARCENT’s prepositioning strategy has three objectives: to rapidly reinforce deployed Marine Air-Ground Task Forces; to enable crisis response; and to be relevant across the range of military operations.
“As [Operation Enduring Freedom] moves into the final phase and the region transitions from an active theater-of-war to a ‘new normal’ of steady state operations, the nature of CENTCOM’s area of responsibility will shift from land-centric to maritime-focused operations,” Neller wrote to the Marines under his command.
Currently, the majority of MARCENT (Forward) forces operate out of Bahrain, so MPF specialists from different commands around the globe conducted a four-day MPF seminar for Marines with MARCENT (Fwd) Aug. 18-21.
“The first goal was to conduct a [class] on MPF operations – what it is, what it does,” said Brinegar. “Then we wanted to provide some presentations on seabasing concepts and platforms and walk the MARCENT FWD staff through a humanitarian assistance mission we developed where we would bring in MPF.”
In Joint Publication 3-02, the Department of Defense defines seabasing as “the deployment, assembly, command, projection, reconstitution, and reemployment of joint power from the sea without reliance on land bases within the operational area.”
MARCENT’s seabasing module consists of three ships: The T-AKE, a dry, temperature controlled cargo ship which provides logistical support – such as ammunition, spare vehicle parts, rations and medical services – to other station ships and forces nearby. The LMSR, which is the Large, Medium-Speed Roll-on/Roll-off, and provides equipment to sustain a MAGTF for up to 30 days and can discharge cargo in port or at sea using organic lighterage. And MLP, which is a Mobile Landing Platform and is intended to serve as a transfer station or floating pier at sea. The MLP will be available for tasking end of FY15.
“The afloat, forward deployed posture of MPF would be a MARCENT capability to enable crisis response,” said Brinegar. “The MARFORs identify operational requirements to employ MPF while a MEF conducts the tactical level execution of arrival and assembly operations. MPSRON-2 carries 69% of a MEB with the remainder of equipment arriving in your flow in echelon consisting of air and surface lift. Then you have our MARCENT (Fwd) that can enable that command and control of a follow on MAGTF.”
The equipment aboard a MPSRON offer many other capabilities beyond equipment sets to support the GCE, LCE, CE, and ACE of the MAGTF and include capability sets such as water, fuel, electrical, ammunition, force protection, and habitability to support low end spectrum missions such as humanitarian assistance, disaster relief, military-to-military engagements, non-combatant evacuation operations, and security cooperation.
“As CENTCOM’s expeditionary force in readiness, MARCENT will maintain the ability to respond to the demands of traditional and irregular combat operations across the full range of military operations while developing capabilities relevant to the current and emerging security environment,” wrote Neller to conclude his guidance.