In what promises to be the largest such exercise in 10 years, Marines from multiple duty stations in Southern California are participating in a massive set of drills this week, intended to approximate combat scenarios Marines may face all around the globe, including at home.

Two different sets of exercises, elements from the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing’s “Winter Fury” and the 1st Marine Division’s “Steel Knight,” are both conducted on an annual basis, but this year marks the first time they’ve been combined into a single large-scale event in a decade.  The 1st Marine Division will field more than 20,000 Marines in the series of drills, with 600 more Marine aviators, along with their crews, participating from the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing.

Although the drills in themselves are not out of the ordinary, the decision to blend them toward interoperability training is in keeping with a force-wide transition in training objectives over recent months.  The intent of many such training events has shifted toward developing the ability to coordinate large-scale offensive and defensive operations between multiple units and even nations, and perhaps more tellingly, a shift toward preparing for conventional warfare against peer-level opponents… even on American soil.

We are setting up a full command structure within the wing that will command and control all our assets flying in the air space that is real and virtual,” said Col. Michael Borgschulte, assistant Wing Commander for the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, which has units at Camp Pendleton, Miramar and Marine Corps Air Station Yuma in Arizona.  “We are doing command and control integration with the 1st Marine Division.”