As the United States and its allies shift their focus away from counter-terrorism operations and toward the looming possibility of near-peer level warfare, a massive series of war games is about to commence in the desert training grounds of Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center 29 Palms in California.
Ten thousand Marines, sailors, and troops from allied nations have descended upon the America’s largest military training area, making this the largest such exercise in decades. The idea isn’t just to pit these war fighters against one another, but to allow force on force training against opponents with comparable technological capabilities — a stark contrast from combat operations against poorly equipped insurgent groups that often hid among civilian populations. The drills are being called the Marine Air-Ground Task Force Warfighting Exercise, or MWX.
“An exercise of this scale – force-on-force, multi-regiment outfitted with significant information operations and [unmanned-aerial system] assets – hasn’t been conducted in the Marine Corps in my lifetime,” Maj. Gen. David Furness, 2nd Marine Division’s commanding general, said in the release.
These large exercises, then, are perfectly in keeping with statements made last year by 38th Commandant of the Marine Corps, General David H. Berger, who told reporters that he needs Marine leaders that can “think on their feet,” in order to win in a conflict with a nation-level opponent like China or Russia. While neither of these nations can match America’s global military capabilities, each represent significant threats to global stability, as well as regional threats to American interests and forces.
“MWX will be a true test of the Division’s ability to deploy and to operate at scale against a peer threat in a command-and-control denied and degraded environment – an environment where a thinking enemy is working hard to subvert all our efforts,” General Furness said.
Marines will be utilizing laser equipment that will notify them when they’re hit during these drills. Once hit, the Marine goes down as a casualty and will need to be treated and potentially transported by medical personnel also taking part in the exercises. In a very real sense, the intent behind these drills are to pit Marines against an equally capable force with similar technologies at their disposal. Using lasers to indicate hits will allow the troops and their leaders to see how Marines fair under these conditions, after decades of training to engage in a very different style of warfare.