Photo Information

Major O.J. Weiss (lower left), the operations officer for Marine Aircraft Group 31, demonstrates the effectiveness of the communication system at a remote site to Lt. Col. Nicholas Neimer (left), commanding officer of MAG-31 Headquarters squadron, and Lt. Col. Joseph Reedy (right), the executive officer of MAG-31 Headquarters Squadron, during MAG-31's Command Post Exercise (CPX) aboard Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, Feb. 7. The exercise was executed concurrent with Marine Division Tactics Course in order to test the capabilities of the group to conduct aviation operations from expeditionary sites and exercise tactical command and control. The ability to operate expeditiously promotes MAG-31's ability to act as the Aviation Command Element (ACE) of a Marine Air-Ground Task Force.

Photo by Sgt. Marcy Sanchez

MAG-31 CPX proves ACE capability

18 Feb 2014 | Sgt. Marcy Sanchez

The capability to operate expeditiously is a forte of the middleweight fighting force that is the Marine Corps. The size of a Marine Air-Ground Task Force varies but must be prepared to be in command.
To be prepared for the task, Marine Aircraft Group 31 executed a Command Post Exercise (CPX) to test their capabilities of operating from expeditionary sites to confirm they are capable of being the Aviation Command Element of a MAGTF aboard Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, Feb. 3-7.  
The exercise was conducted concurrent with the Marine Division Tactics Course with various elements of Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron 1, Marine Fighter Training Squadron 401 and Marine Wing Communications Squadron 28.
One of the key roles in the exercise was communications. To assist with communications, MAG-31 employed the Support Wide Area Network satellite permitting portable communications throughout the Command Operations Center.
“Ninety percent of the gear in here is communications, we’re providing internet both classified and unclassified with all our gear going into a SWAN which reaches back to Cherry Point,” said Gunnery Sgt. Christopher Jarr, MAG-31’s S-6 Chief. “The basis of the Marine Corps is accountability, if you don’t have the [communications] to conduct the accountability, whether its aircraft or personnel, that information is useless.”
Although communications was vital to the exercise, time was also a factor of the effectiveness of the exercise.
“The goal is to set up in 48 hours,” said Jarr, a native of Muscatine, Iowa. “This is the first time MAG-31 has done an exercise like this, taking over, setting everything up and using the assets that are fundamental to us.”
Marine Aircraft Group 31’s ability to take on the exercise proved their capacity in filling the headquarters aviation command element of a MAGTF, particularly the Marine Expeditionary Brigade.
“We set up in preparation for taking over if we need to as a Marine Expeditionary Brigade, Aviation Combat Element Headquarters,” said Maj. O.J. Weiss, the MAG-31 operations officer, native of Canton, N.Y. “We’re ready to support   that middleweight force whether it’s called upon for combat operations or crisis response; MAG-31 is ready to respond.”
Although the goal time to set up for an exercise of this scale is 48 hours, through lessons learned and practice the Group aims to set up a COC within 24 hours in the future.
“It’s a great opportunity for training. We have fully functioning data, telephone and radio communications all going through a satellite,” said Weiss. “We are a standalone element out here, we can pick this [Command Operations Center] up and move it anywhere in the world and be as functional as we are right here.”