1st Marine Expeditionary Brigade ready to become future of the Corps

25 Jul 2011 | Staff Sgt. Brian Buckwalter

There’s no other force in the world that can do what a Marine Expeditionary Brigade can do, according to 1st MEB’s commanding general.

Major Gen. Melvin G. Spiese said a MEB is a middleweight fighting force that can adapt and respond rapidly to any crisis that may arise.

“I think what we’re able to do is buy time and space for decision makers,” he said, referring to defense officials and combatant commanders. “We can move quickly. We can start getting forces in a position to either be a presence or start being engaged in a particular crisis. And I think we can hold until bigger decisions are made, and larger forces have to move.”

Spiese said a historical example is Task Force 58 moving into Afghanistan nearly a decade ago. Then-Brig. Gen. James Mattis took a MEB-sized force, configured on-the-fly, into the country to hold ground while top-level decisions were made and larger follow-on forces were able to mobilize.

The need for a middleweight force isn’t going away, rather, it’s growing, said Spiese. The world and threats are evolving, opening a gap in military capability. That’s where the MEB comes in, he said.

“We will fill in that gap, not just within the Marine Corps, but for the nation,” he said of 1st MEB.

It’s not just about the size of the force, Spiese said, the flexibility inherent to a MEB’s structure allows it to do anything anywhere. A MEB is able to cherry pick assets as needed. Spiese noted that 1st MEB can provide everything from fighter jets to assault rifles.

“We’re not tied to a standard organization where we’re going to force things into a deployment and a mission that have no role. We would only take those things that are absolutely needed, and those things that are not needed are left behind,” Spiese said.

The 1st MEB’s assets, including Marines, come from I Marine Expeditionary Force and its subordinate elements.

Spiese said developing a capable MEB element began when Lt. Gen. Joseph F. Dunford took command of I MEF in 2009. His previous assignment was as Deputy Commandant for Plans, Policies and Operations under then-commandant, Gen. James T. Conway. The commandant’s strategic vision recognized the need for a middleweight force, and Dunford brought that vision with him to the MEF. The current commanding general, Lt. Gen. Thomas D. Waldhauser, also recognizes that need.

Currently, 1st MEB’s command element is participating in Javelin Thrust 2011, working with 4th Marine Division assets to exercise what Spiese said is the final piece in ensuring the MEB is able “to go anywhere and do anything.” The staff, he said, will come away with solid standard operating procedures and a training plan for the next two years.

Javelin Thrust is the third major training event for 1st MEB in the past year. Previous exercises were Dawn Blitz 2010, which enhanced the ability to conduct an amphibious landing, and Pacific Horizon in March, which refined the ability to operate from the sea. This exercise leads into the final piece of combat operations in setting up a forward command center in austere conditions.

Spiese said the annual training events provide a continuity of exercises which allows 1st MEB to maintain a high level of proficiency so they can deploy on a moment’s notice.

Spiese said he’s pleased with what 1st MEB has accomplished at Javelin Thrust so far - establishing a self-sufficient combat operations center in a remote environment complete with long-haul communications and command over the participating subordinate units.