Testing EABO Concepts On South Pacific Island
by U.S. Marine Corps Capt. Joseph DiPietro and Cpl. Emeline Molla
September 22, 2022
Marine Rotational Force-Darwin (MRF-D) 22 completed Expeditionary Advanced Base Operations Exercise, or EABOEX, to practice and refine expeditionary concepts in a realistic, South Pacific island environment from August 31 – September 4, 2022.
Led by India Company, 3d Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment (3/7), MRF-D Marines and Sailors traveled from Darwin to South Goulburn Island in the Arafura Sea and conducted a series of force-on-force events to simulate seizing and holding key terrain in an expeditionary posture. The exercise force included the 3/7 Marines and Sailors along with a low altitude air defense (LAAD) platoon, an electronic warfare (EW) section, a water purification team, and other enablers to reinforce and sustain the team.
“EABOEX started with a company air assault to seize key terrain which allowed LAAD to establish coastal air defense,” said Captain Erik Glynn, the India Company Commander and officer-in-charge of the exercise force for EABOEX.
While official doctrine is still under construction, MRF-D utilized concepts laid out in the tentative manual for EABO to conduct the exercise. With the intent to maintain a low-signature, easily-sustained force capable of conducting area denial, the MRF-D team established a security posture on the remote Australian island following an MV-22 insert.
Once inserted, the exercise force worked to establish aerial ambush sites utilizing LAAD to target simulated enemy aircraft. In the future, sea lane ambush sites utilizing sea-denial weapons and capability will be integrated into the exercise design, allowing the forward Marines to identify, target, and engage hostile surface combatants threatening to encroach on regional sovereignty.
U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Jonathan Fabian (left) and Cpl. John Schoob, team leaders with 3d Low Altitude Air Defense (LAAD) Battalion, Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 268 reinforced, Aviation Combat Element, Marine Rotational Force-Darwin 22, aim a field handling trainer at a U.S. Marine Corps MV-22 Osprey acting as red air during Expeditionary Advanced Base Operations exercise 22 at South Goulburn Island, Australia, September 3, 2022. LAAD interdicted enemy air, simulated by MV-22 Ospreys, to clear air space in preparation for aerial resupply. (Image created by USA Patriotism! from U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Emeline Molla.)
“EABO support the projection of naval power by integrating with and supporting the larger naval campaign,” reads the tentative manual for EABO. “Missions of EABO include to support sea control operations, conduct sea denial operations within the littorals, and contribute to maritime domain awareness.”
Along with practicing air denial and preparing for future sea denial training, EABOEX allowed the MAGTF to work through long-range logistics and communications in a low-signature and minimally-supported environment. South Goulburn Island, located approximately 170 miles from Darwin, maintains extremely limited infrastructure as the island is only home to a population of 450, and offered the perfect training area to establish logistics and communications lines of support under remote conditions.
Utilizing various S4 and S6 personnel, equipment, and techniques, the exercise force successfully sustained themselves and maintained consistent communication to the MAGTF leadership back in Darwin. While not under a realistic threat, or operating under hostile EW conditions, the exercise force laid a tremendous foundation into future EABO training in and around northern Australia.
"One of our primary goals with EABOEX is to open unique training opportunities for future MRF-D iterations, and allow them to progress service-level initiatives," explained Colonel Chris Steele, the MRF-D 22 commanding officer. "We know we will make some tactical mistakes, but that is good so we can learn from those mistakes and refine our TTPs.”
Some of the primary lessons learned included sustainment, medical care, and communications on an island almost 200 miles away from the home station in Darwin.
U.S. Marines with India Co., 3d Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, Ground Combat Element, Marine Rotational Force-Darwin (MRF-D) 22, move simulated casualties during casualty evacuation drills as part of Expeditionary Advanced Base Operations exercise (EABO Ex) at South Goulburn Island, Australia, September 1, 2022. EABO Ex was a force-on-force training that exercised the MRF-D’s ability to forward deploy and establish expeditionary advanced bases. (Image created by USA Patriotism! from U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Emeline Molla)
"We conducted unique operations involving water purification and prolonged casualty care to self-sustain for four days,” added Captain Glynn.
The training would not be possible without tremendous support from our Australian allies, specifically members of the Regional Force Surveillance Group (RFSG). The RFSG, whose roots dig back to the World War II Coastwatcher program, serves as the connecting tissue to MRF-D and the local leaders. In this case, RFSG helped coordinate with the South Goulburn Island leaders and paved the way for MRF-D 22 and future iterations to train in a unique and expeditionary environment.
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