US, South Korean generals command Marine forces from sea
USS BLUE RIDGE, off the coast of the Republic of Korea -- The commanding general of III Marine Expeditionary Force embarked the USS Blue Ridge Aug. 25 for his command’s annual joint and combined warfighting exercise, Ulchi Freedom Guardian 2013.
Lt. Gen. John Wissler embarked the USS Blue Ridge in his role as commander of the Combined Marine Component Command, Combined Forces Command (Wartime), for the exercise. The CMCC incorporates Marine Corps and selected naval forces of the U.S. and the Republic of Korea, as well as sending states’ amphibious forces, under one organization established in the event of a crisis on the Korean peninsula.
Out of respect for the Republic of Korea Marine motto and acknowledgement of the superb relationship between US and Republic of Korea Marines, Wissler stated, “We are one, invincible Marines!
“As a combined command, incorporating both U.S. and Korean Marine Corps forces, we bring unity of effort to a potential crisis on the peninsula. Our combined team brings the best each force has to offer, giving the theater commander an expeditionary capability and an asymmetric advantage to respond to emergent crises.”
Aboard the USS Blue Ridge, the commander of CMCC commands joint and combined operations, and executes command and control from the sea, closer to a potential operation than other land-based locations, and with the inherent advantage of sea-based movement.
“The added value of operating from sea gives us opportunity to further integrate with naval forces,” added Wissler. “This exercise showcases both the operational and tactical capabilities of the Navy and Marine Corps team and our critical role in the defense strategic guidance.”
The embarked Marines work closely with the Combined Naval Component Command, also headquartered aboard the USS Blue Ridge at sea, and led by Vice Adm. Robert L. Thomas, commander, 7th Fleet and commander, CNCC.
“Our greatest strengths are combined and joint capabilities,” said Thomas. “There are approximately 100 U.S. and 20 Republic of Korea Marines embarked the USS Blue Ridge for the exercise, including planners, liaison officers, and command and control elements.”
Wissler and Thomas were visited aboard USS Blue Ridge by Lt. Gen. Ho-Yeon Lee, commandant, Republic of Korea Marine Corps, to review force integration, receive briefings, and continue planning.
Maj. Gen. Sang-Hoon Lee, assistant commandant, Republic of Korea Marine Corps, partnered with Wissler in the planning and execution of CMCC deterrence, and ultimately combat operations, during the exercise.
“Ulchi Freedom Guardian, with combined operations, is a critical exercise for our defense alliance,” said Republic of Korea Marine Corps Col. Cha-Sung Jung, operations officer, CMCC. “U.S. and Korean Marine forces serving side-by-side gives us both opportunities to increase our readiness, rehearse our amphibious planning skills, and to work together maintaining peace and stability in this region.”
Other service members with III MEF are participating in UFG from multiple locations across Japan and the Republic of Korea, as well as sending states, including a French battalion landing team cell.
Thousands of III MEF Marines and sailors have spent countless hours preparing for UFG in anticipation of showcasing Navy-Marine Corps amphibious capability and building relationships with their U.S. joint partners, and most importantly their Republic of Korea brothers-in-arms.
“Just coming into command, this serves as a great opportunity to better understand the warfighting capabilities of this great joint-combined Navy-Marine Corps team,” said Wissler, who assumed command of III MEF on July 19.
UFG is an annual training event, not tied to current events, and designed to ensure readiness to defend the Republic of Korea and sustain the capabilities that strengthen the alliance.
Approximately 3,000 personnel from the U.S. and bases in the Pacific region are participating in the ongoing exercise, and join more than 28,500 U.S. forces already stationed on the peninsula.
UFG is executed in support of the Republic of Korea and U.S. Mutual Defense Treaty signed on Oct. 1, 1953. This exercise furthers military training and enhances the Republic of Korea military’s abilities to take the lead of the combined defense of the Republic of Korea in 2015.
III MEF and Republic of Korea Marines train together almost monthly in preparation for the 2015 transition of operational control from U.S. to Korean-led operations.