MCTOG helps Marines stay one step ahead of enemy

3/13/2009 By Lance Cpl. Nicholas M. Dunn , Marine Air Ground Task Force Training Command 29 Palms

MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER, TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. —The scope of the modern battlefield is constantly changing; new enemies, weapons, tactics and terrain are frequently encountered.

To successfully adapt to and counter the shifting threats, the Marine Corps has instituted a variety of training entities to keep deploying Marines and sailors proficient in modern warfare.

The Combat Center’s Marine Corps Tactics and Operations Group is equipped to train select Marines at the battalion and regimental levels to combat the enemy – an enemy who has also adapted to the rigors of the contemporary battlefield.

According to White Letter 04-08, published by the Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. James T. Conway May 27, 2008, MCTOG’s mission is to provide advanced and standardized training in Marine Air-Ground Task Force operations at the battalion and regimental levels, and to enhance the training and operational performance of Ground Combat Element units.

“Historical patterns and future trends point to potentially significant shifts in the character and forms of warfare, and the OTTP [Operations and Tactics Training Program] will maintain the balance of traditional and irregular warfighting skills and standards within the GCE,” Conway said in the letter. “I see the OTTP as absolutely critical as we shift our stance toward fighting and winning in the Long War while not losing the combined arms skills which have defined Marines for generations.”

The primary training program at MCTOG, known as the Operations and Tactics Instructor Course, begins with two weeks of academics where students learn skills in intelligence, counterinsurgency operations, amphibious operations, joint and interagency integration, and campaign planning, said Lt. Col. Tim Barrick, the MCTOG operations officer.

“We’re focused on training battle staff teams of battalions and regiments ranging from operations NCOs [noncommissioned officers] to operations officers,” Barrick said. “The goal is to increase proficiency in command and control, and the processes, systems and procedures of command and control.”

OTIC also features two full-length simulation exercises designed to put the Marines’ newly-acquired skills to the test, he said.

The first exercise, called the Combined Arms Network Exercise, applies the use of fire support coordination, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance management, and battle management, Barrick said.

Major Combat Operations, the second OTIC exercise, is set in the scenario of a Marine Expeditionary Brigade-level amphibious assault with complex urban operations, hybrid threat, and transition to counterinsurgency and stability operations similar to those conducted in Iraq and Afghanistan, he said.

Hybrid threat refers to activities such as those conducted by Hezbollah in southern Lebanon in 2006, in which they merged state-of-the-art weaponry with unconventional warfare tactics.

With a battle lab containing four battalion combat operations centers, a regimental COC, and company and MEB-level response cell networks, MCTOG instructors are training battalion and regimental battle staff teams to counter these hybrid threats, Barrick said.

Two OTICs have already been successfully completed, the first ran in March 2008 and the second in October 2008. The third course is scheduled to begin May 10. A fourth OTIC is slated to be held next spring.

For more information, or to enroll in OTIC, contact Gunnery Sgt. Julian Frank, the MCTOG resident course coordinator, via e-mail at julian.frank@usmc.mil.

Ellie