U.S. Marines and Sailors with Marine Rotational Force-Europe 21.1 enhanced their warfighting ability above the Arctic Circle during exercise Arctic Littoral Strike in Northern Norway from March 11-31.
“This exercise demonstrated the battalion’s capability to operate inside actively contested maritime spaces, in this case arctic littoral spaces, and to provide support to joint fleet operations,” said Lt. Col. Ryan Gordinier, the MRF-E battalion commander. “The Marine Corps has demonstrated an interest in developing expeditionary advance basing capabilities in the Pacific, and we took advantage of the opportunity to exercise those concepts in the Arctic.”
Exercise Arctic Littoral Strike enabled elements from MRF-E 21.1 to experiment with emerging defense concepts and to confront the challenges of anti-access, area-denial capabilities posed by a notional peer adversary. The Camp Lejeune-based Marines and Sailors of 3rd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment conducted experimentation of the future force by supporting simulated sea-denial operations in arctic littoral terrain.
“Our ability to conduct this training has shown not just 2nd Marine Division, but the Marine Corps writ large, that we can fight and win in any clime and place.” Capt. John McNamara, Lima Company Commander
“I’m satisfied that our allies have achieved success on their training while in Norway,” said Maj. Gen. Lars Lervik, chief of the Norwegian Army. “A complex exercise like this, including other Norwegian branches as well, will always increase the alliance’s ability to implement complex operations and strengthen the collective defense of NATO.”
Joint naval integration was the first focus of the four-stage exercise. Exercise Arctic Littoral Strike enhanced sea-denial capabilities by pairing mobile MRF-E elements with Norwegian naval forces in the Arctic fjords.
MRF-E’s Light-Armored Reconnaissance Company received a training mission that required the unit to “secure the bridge” by observing along routes that could be used by an adversary, and then reporting their observations in order to allow a Norwegian submarine the ability to move without being impeded by notional enemy forces. MRF-E’s LAR Company conducted integrated training with the Norwegian Submarine Command Course that enhanced their interoperability with combined naval forces.
“Because of the terrain, the tactical scenario placed the Norwegian submarine in a position of vulnerability,” said Capt. Joe Tortorici, LAR company commander. “Our efforts to conduct effective over-watch were critical to the survival of not only our Marines, but also to the joint force’s ability to operate within the adversary’s weapons engagement zones. Our ability to do that in the future will ultimately enable us to integrate directly with naval assets, as we have done in this exercise with the Norwegian submarine, and support larger naval campaigns.”
Photo by Cpl. Patrick King
The exercise culminated with a second focus: company reinforced live-fire attacks simulating the isolation and destruction of a notional, adversary integrated air defense system. Both day and night, the Marine contingent exercised a combined-arms approach, integrating Javelin anti-tank missiles, tube-launched optically-tracked wire-guided missiles, artillery, explosive ordnance, and heavy machine guns with maneuver elements.
Lima Company Commander, Capt. John McNamara, explained how this exercise demonstrated the battalion’s commitment to training in “any clime or place”.
“A combat-credible force is a company that can conduct a company-reinforced, non-illuminated live-fire attack anywhere they are deployed,” said McNamara.
The battalion’s strategic location in the U.S. European Command area of responsibility, especially along Northern Norway’s arctic coastline, offers unique opportunities for the Marine contingent to apply concepts from the U.S. Marine Corps Commandant’s force design, which 2nd Marine Division’s training objectives support.
Photo by Cpl. Patrick King
“Our ability to conduct this training has shown not just 2nd Marine Division, but the Marine Corps writ large, that we can fight and win in any clime and place,” McNamara added.
Exercise Arctic Littoral Strike followed a sequence of arctic cold weather training events led by Norwegian instructors. The Marine contingent spent weeks leading up to the exercise honing their ability to live, thrive, and fight in the Arctic.
“We appreciate the graciousness of the Kingdom of Norway in allowing us access to the training facilities,” said Gordinier. “The battalion benefited greatly from the instruction of our Norwegian Armed Forces instructors and this exercise would not have been a success without them. They are truly among the best in the world in arctic cold weather training. This opportunity to continue to build relationships with our allies has been exceptional.”
MRF-E focuses on regional engagements throughout Europe by conducting various exercises, arctic cold-weather and mountain warfare training, and military-to-military engagements, which enhance overall interoperability of the U.S. Marine Corps with allies and partners.