Photo Information

Lieutenant Col. Thomas Freel, the future operations officer for 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, points out notional enemy locations on a terrain model for a rehearsal of concept drill during Exercise Desert Scimitar here, May 2, 2013. Desert Scimitar is a combined arms exercise focused on the training and preparation of 1st Marine Division for deployment as the ground combat element of a Marine Air-Ground Task Force. Freel, a native of Grosse Ile, Mich., said the exercise is a return to live-fire combined arms tactics training which has been overshadowed by the focus on counterinsurgency operations training throughout the past decade. The "Fighting Fifth" exercised traditional warfare command and control tactics over infantry, artillery and armored assets during Desert Scimitar.

Photo by Sgt. Alfred V. Lopez

Fighting Fifth conducts command, control tactics training during Exercise Desert Scimitar

8 May 2013 | Sgt. Alfred V. Lopez 1st Marine Division

Marines are known for adapting their training and strategies to overcome the challenges of war throughout their 237 years of existence

Marines have focused on counterinsurgency warfare throughout the past decade, during Operations Iraqi and Enduring Freedom. They have continuously and successfully adapted to the challenges of fighting a deceptive and dangerous enemy.

As the military continues to adapt to ever-changing conflicts throughout the world, the Marine Corps’ readiness directive shifts from counterinsurgency back to conventional, linear warfare. 

First Marine Division, the Corps’ largest division, kicked off Exercise Desert Scimitar, April 23 through May 6, focusing on commanding and controlling a Marine Air Ground Task Force.

The training exercise included units from ground combat, aviation, and logistics elements. Fifth Marine Regiment formed as a regimental combat team, focusing on practicing traditional warfare command and control tactics directing infantry, artillery and armored assets. 

“We’ve been involved in (counterinsurgency) operations for the past 10 years in Iraq and Afghanistan,” said Lt. Col. Thomas Freel, the future operations officer of 5th Marines, 1st Mar. Div. “Those kinds of command and control tactics are more focused on the factors that drive the populous to defeat the insurgency.”

During August 2012, the “Fighting Fifth” returned from Helmand province, Afghanistan, after a yearlong counterinsurgency fight in support of OEF.

“Certain skills have eroded, so we’re out here in Desert Scimitar,” said Freel, a native of Grosse Ile, Mich. “We’re employing all the tactics, techniques and procedures of combined arms.”

The regiment practiced delivering direct small and medium arms fire with infantrymen serving with 2nd Battalion, 5th Marines, and 1st Bn., 7th Marines; high-explosive indirect fires with the artillery of 2nd Bn., 11th Marines; armored support assets of 1st Tank Bn.; and 3rd Light Armored Reconnaissance Bn. during the exercise.

“As a regiment, we are the one who controls those battalions’ movements,” said Maj. Scott A. Gehris, the operations officer of 5th Marines. “It’s key to have to command and control (communications) systems, both data and voice, in order to control their actions of seizing objectives and maneuvering through the battlespace, and also to report and coordinate those movements to division.”

Live-fire command and control exercises like Desert Scimitar allows 5th Marines and subordinate units to sharpen their expeditionary fighting skills.

“In a kinetic fight, we have to be able to get up quickly and still maintain that command and control,” explained Gehris, a native of Kutztown, Pa.

The regiment’s headquarters element worked tirelessly day and night to meet the mission’s requirements. Due to the need of renewed emphasis on linear warfare, the regiment worked for five months to brush up their dormant skills. The staff spent hundreds of hours planning and conducting numerous rehearsal of concept drills as well as going through additional training programs to prepare for Desert Scimitar.

“We’ve put them in a tremendous strain in order to move an entire command post out here so we can control our subordinate units, and they’ve done an incredible job,” Freel said.

With the Corps’ evolving mission, the “Fighting Fifth” are ready to take the fight to any enemy or mission that may arise.

1st Marine Division