7th Fleet, Marines forge tighter bonds
Naval Operations Concept will mean improved communication between the branches, colonel says

By Allison Batdorff, Stars and Stripes
Pacific edition, Friday, October 6, 2006

YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — What does the new Naval Operations Concept mean for the 7th Fleet sailor?

More sailors able to recognize a Marine uniform, Col. Rick De Guzman said Wednesday aboard the USS Blue Ridge.

“In the future we may have more Marines on ships,” De Guzman said. “And the sailors won’t be wondering what that uniform is all about.”

The Naval Operations Concept — signed Sept. 1 by the chief of Naval Operations and commandant of the Marine Corps — is the latest update in 230 years of teamwork between the two branches, De Guzman said.

Due to the resources pushed toward the war on terror, the Navy and Marines have been tasked with “eliminating redundancies” and “forging greater interdependence” through improved communication.

In the Pacific, this means synchronizing more than watches, said De Guzman, who exemplifies the concept as both 7th Fleet Marine officer and the fleet’s Plans/Theater Security Cooperation officer — a position usually filled by a sailor.

“Before, the Navy would have an objective and the Marine Corps would have an objective, and we’d tell each other how we fit in,” De Guzman said. “Now we’d talk to each other first.”

The NOC, which replaces a similar document from 2002, is built on three principles: leveraging historic ties between the two services, consultation before any unilateral action, and open discussion and debate with a common goal.

“We understand this discourse may become passionate,” wrote CNO Adm. Mike Mullen and Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Mike Hagee in the NOC’s preface. But given Operation Iraqi Freedom, the services have to use the resources they have “to the best extent possible,” De Guzman said.

In practice, this means inviting a senior Marine officer to weigh in at 7th Fleet’s upcoming scheduling conference on when and where to send ships. The 7th Fleet and the III Marine Expeditionary Force will hold staff talks on Okinawa.

The 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit and 7th Fleet also will align forces at Talon Vision, an exercise in the Philippines.

The Forward Deployment Naval Forces already have a history of teamwork going back at least as far as the Korean War, De Guzman said.

NOC efforts are hoped to help the FDNF combat terrorism, De Guzman said.

“This is a faceless enemy that doesn’t show as a government or nation. We have to be ready to react all the time,” he said, adding that North Korea — which announced Tuesday it intends to test a nuclear weapon — also presents a threat.

Of the NOC concept, De Guzman said: “Someone once said that ‘a ship without Marines is like a garment without buttons.’ We want to make sure our friends, allies and enemies see the full garment.”