AQABA FREE ZONE, Jordan, May 19, 2015 – The U.S. Navy and Marine Corps used this year’s Eager Lion exercise to experiment with a new evolution of sea-to-land command.
Eager Lion is an annual multinational military exercise ending today that’s hosted and led by the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.
For the first time, the exercise employed a single Coalition Forces Land and Maritime Component Command, or CFLMCC, combining what have long been separate commands overseeing land and maritime components respectively.
Traditionally, one component commander oversees U.S. forces up to a given shore and another one plots the course once boots touch earth.
The CFLMCC concept combines the littoral waters with the coastal land to create a seamless battle space under one commander.
In Eager Lion, U.S. Marine Corps Maj. Gen. Burke Whitman – working arm-in-arm with Brig. Gen. Khaled Al Sharah of Jordan’s King Talal 3rd Mechanized Brigade – served as CFLMCC.
Whitman said the CFLMCC approach personifies the U.S. Navy’s and Marine Corps’ commitment to working as an integrated sea-land force after several years in which the global political landscape forced the two historically close branches to often work apart.
The experimentation comes as a natural response to the call for greater interoperability included in the maritime services’ recently published Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century Seapower and the Marine Corps Expeditionary Force 21, as well as the Marine Corps’ 36th Commandant’s Planning Guidance.
Less officially, the exercise continues the Marine Corps and Navy’s long tradition of workshopping new approaches and concepts to best stay prepared for the next crisis.
“Over the last decade or more, we’ve been involved with the longest-ever land campaign for the Marine Corps, in Iraq and Afghanistan,” Whitman said. “We have an opportunity now to get back to our naval roots and enhance integration initiatives.
“A great, great percentage of the world’s population is in places that we can easily reach from the sea,” he continued. “What we’re doing with the CFLMCC is really just one great tangible implementation of a return to much more intense and regular Navy and Marine Corps naval integration.”
During Eager Lion 2015, Whitman and Al Sharah have been able to see what that integration looks like across a range of simulated scenarios involving a fictitious enemy force. The exercise took place in multiple locations throughout Jordan, where the allied forces face challenges to border security, command and control, cyber defense and battle space management.
With CFLMCC orchestrating, multiple joint forces acted in concert across wide expanses of varied terrains in response to simulated crises. While members of the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit countered an armed incursion by fictitious invaders in one area, members of the Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force embarked on an embassy reinforcement and possible non-combatant evacuation in another.
Meanwhile, Commander, Task Force 56, under U.S. Navy Capt. Jeffrey McCauley, worked with the Royal Jordanian Navy to control the Port of Aqaba, countering piracy and maintaining lines of supply and communication for the CFLMCC operation by sea.
“This makes us a much more powerful leverage tool for the president and for the combatant commanders to use,” Whitman said. “We need to be a fluid team at all levels: from Marines living aboard ships and Navy guns firing in response to Marine calls, all the way up to the component staff level.”
U.S. Marine Corps Col. Stephen Lewallen, deputy commander of Marine Forces Central Command and the CFLMCC chief of staff during Eager Lion, said the expansion of the component command battle space into the littorals “enhances flexibility” and allows a single commander to quickly maneuver forces as necessary on approach to shore.
“What we’re doing is the next logical step toward improving naval integration between the Marine Corps and Navy,” Lewallen said.
About 10,000 total military personnel participated in the exercise. In addition to Jordan and the U.S., other nations participating in Eager Lion include: Australia, Bahrain, Belgium, Canada, Egypt, France, Iraq, Italy, Kuwait, Lebanon, Pakistan, Poland, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and the United Kingdom.