MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. -- Marines and sailors with 1st Marine Division completed a massive, two-week command and control exercise here, April 23 to May 6.
During Exercise Desert Scimitar, 1st Marine Division conducted 24-hour simulated combat operations in a conventional defense and offense deep in the Mojave Desert training area of the Combat Center.
More than 4,000 Marines and sailors throughout 1st Marine Division participated, including elements from 1st Marine Logistics Group and 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing.
For the first time in approximately a decade, the division deployed to the field as a complete headquarters element, or division main, said Maj. Gen. Ronald L. Bailey, 1stMarDiv commanding general.
Desert Scimitar allowed the division to establish and operate a command post in an austere environment without hard structures, said Sgt. Maj. David L. Jobe, 1stMarDiv sergeant major. The exercise was a significant departure from operating in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"For the last 10 years, we have occupied a standing hard structure with an establish infrastructure of communication networks and facilities," said Jobe, a native of Burleson, Texas. "Desert Scimitar allowed us to focus on fighting lightly, carrying all our equipment and being self-sufficient."
Marines from throughout the division set up tents, antennas, satellite dishes, power generators, showers, laundry facilities, a field kitchen and several command posts with computers, projectors, mapping software, printers and telephones as early as April 23.
After a week in the field, the division staff conducted simulated defensive and offensive operations. They coordinated movements and fire support with 1st, 5th, and 11th Marine Regiments, 1st and 3rd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalions, 1st Reconnaissance Battalion, 1st Tank Battalion, 1st Combat Engineer Battalion, as well as flight and support squadrons from 3rd MAW.
"You have a lot of moving parts, and that requires synchronization," said Maj. Gen. Bailey, a native of St. Augustine, Fla. "That's the challenge in itself, to ensure all elements have come together."
Coordination was critical to the success, and the division came together as a team to complete the exercise, said Maj. Mark C. Brown, the 1stMarDiv current operations officer. While many members of the staff arrived from different units and had little experience working with each other, they remained focused on getting the job done.
"We didn't have a lot of continuity," said Brown, a native of Lafayette, Ind. "You had people who were able to take their experiences from their units and bring that expertise to the team. To have that many officers and staff (noncommissioned officers) with many different backgrounds come together in a fluid environment and not have any confrontations, it's remarkable."
Brown said the staff worked together best once they started simulated offensive operations, May 3. The offensive mindset is a critical part of being a Marine, and the staff functioned best in an offensive role.
"Even in the defense, the offense is gospel," Brown said. "Every Marine knows to close with and destroy the enemy. The offense is our bread and butter."
By coordinating the offensive, the 1st Marine Division staff reoriented themselves with conventional warfighting skills, including combined arms fire and maneuver. Exercise Desert Scimitar prepared them to lead the division wherever it is needed.
"As the ground combat element of the Marine Expeditionary Force, it's important that we get out and exercise those skill sets that will allow us to be a part of the Marine Air Ground Task Force," Maj. Gen. Bailey said. "The 1st Marine Division is always ready to go and always ready to respond to any contingency. We stand ready to take on that challenge."