MARINE CORPS AIR STATION CHERRY POINT, N.C.- --
When the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing battle staff took to the field on May 9, 2016, to participate in Marine Expeditionary Force Exercise 16, commonly known as MEFEX, it didn't simply walk on the battlefield with a rifle, a laptop and a radio -- it was met by a side of the Wing that is rarely recognized for its ability to set up an air base away from home.
In this case, that finely tuned army was the Marines and Sailors of Marine Wing Headquarters Squadron 2, Marine Air Control Group 28, and Marine Wing Support Squadron 271, some of the many units that help make a Wing operate smoothly in the field.
"We were out here two weeks before the exercise started," said 1st Lt. Kevin Reeves, the camp commandant for MEFEX 16. "We set up the tents, computer assets and utilities to ensure that when everyone showed up on Day One, they would be able to get to work right away."
2nd MAW’s participation in MEFEX 16 supports combat development and is designed to train the higher level staff to mature and refine capabilities and deficiencies, specific to aviation operations within the future operating environment.
By conducting an exercise of this nature, planners are able to operate in a dynamic, risk-free environment with the ability to free flow ideas and capabilities, ultimately enabling innovation.
"Staff development began months ago with a six-week operational planning team dedicated to developing options for the commanding general, wargaming those decisions, and then producing combat orders," explained Maj. Jonathan Howard, the deputy operations officer for 2nd MAW during MEFEX. "The staff is now executing at a high level. Their performance has increased each day and we are consistently providing outstanding support to the MAGTF. We conduct numerous engagements with the MEF staff daily and each of those interactions have been positive. That exchange of information is crucial to achieve the synergy of the MEF."
Meanwhile, as camp commandant, Reeves is in charge of all necessary requirements to successfully run camp operations to include: billeting, showers, chow, and all other operational facilities and requirements – with a lot of help coming from MWSS-271. According to Reeves, without the efforts of every Marine on the camp staff, from cooks to drivers to electricians to engineers to everyone else who makes the camp livable and workable, operations would have been far less efficient.
"Everybody does their part," said Lance Cpl. Desiree Sanchez, a food service specialist for MEFEX 16. "It’s teamwork. Everyone is held to the same standard of excellence."
The planning that goes into an exercise of this magnitude requires time. The proper equipment, transportation for the equipment and set-up staff were arranged well before the exercise. For Sanchez, who has done multiple field training exercises with her unit, it is rewarding to see the planning pay off when Marines enjoy her food at the mess tent.
"When we’re doing field operations, it boosts morale for our Marines," said Sanchez. "When we see dirty Marines come to the mess tent after a long day, and set their eyes on the hot food, it's satisfying to give them something besides an MRE (meal-ready-to-eat)."
For the first week of the exercise, the weather ranged from stifling heat to drenching thunderstorms. The amenities provided a certain level of comfort for the Marines working in the unpredictable North Carolina conditions.
"They don’t really need a laundry or a shower tent, but it makes things easier," said Lance Cpl. Arron Kristof, utilities mechanic for MEFEX 16. "I work mostly with the power generators doing preventative maintenance. Without power, they wouldn‘t be able to do anything."
At the end of each day, the battle staff conducts an assessment of the pros and cons to reflect how well it went. With the amount of support provided by the camp commandant team, many of the cons were either eliminated or mitigated.
"If they weren’t out here doing what they do, morale would be low and the focus on their training would be degraded," said Reeves. "The support Marines are working behind the scenes to make the exercise run. They don’t always get the credit they deserve, but they’re out there night and day to make sure everyone is taken care of."