353rd SOG deploys alongside Marines at RIMPAC 2016

  • Published
  • By 2nd Lt. Jaclyn Pienkowski
  • 1st Special Operations Wing Public Affairs
The 353rd Special Operations Group and III Marine Expeditionary Force joined forces July 8 to deploy approximately 22 Special Tactics Airmen and eight Marines to integrate into the world's largest international warfare exercise here.

From June 30 to Aug. 4, Special Tactics Airmen and Force Reconnaissance Marines are teaming up to train in a complex, multinational environment during Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2016. This exercise sets the stage for the valuable partnership between Air Force Special Operations Command, theater special operations forces, and III MEF, as their units each bring unique skills to a joint effort. These skills, together, optimize the capability of the U.S. military to provide an immediate, joint response to contingencies within the Pacific Command theater.

"Over the next two weeks, RIMPAC will test our capabilities to provide humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, infiltrate and control the air inside a complex environment, recover personnel, and provide close-air-support operations with a fire control center," said U.S. Air Force Capt. John Rulien, 353rd SOG mission commander for RIMPAC.

Although this is not their first time working together, these units will use their specialized skillsets to showcase the partnership between conventional forces and SOF and their ability to band together to produce desired effects in a crisis.

According to U.S. Marine Corps Capt. Joshua Winters, platoon commander of 2nd Platoon, Force Reconnaissance Company, III MEF, the difference between being able to respond rapidly, as a mutually-known entity, or having to restart from the ground up every time is established by building a sustainable relationship before a crisis begins. Although the exposure to this partnership has been limited, their relationship provides a textbook example of the benefits of a conventional force and a SOF enterprise.

"Combining our efforts as a joint task force at a major exercise allows us to bring greater exposure to what we've been doing for over a year, which is demonstrating the best possible outcome of joint conventional force and SOF integration," Winters said.

During RIMPAC, Air Force combat controllers from the 353rd SOG will apply their extensive experience in responding to international crises by opening an expeditionary airfield in a remote location and practicing their expertise in air traffic control, as well as aiding communities with humanitarian efforts. In addition, pararescuemen, some of the most highly trained emergency trauma specialists in the military, will practice skills honed in rapid-response personnel recovery and combat trauma medicine.

Force Reconnaissance Marines from the III MEF offer area reconnaissance in far reaching austere locations to shape the battlefield during some of these major exercise events, providing the mission commander with timely information, and amplifying the knowledge about potential areas of operation.

Winters and Rulien said exercises like this will build a bridge between the reconnaissance and SOF communities and by coupling reconnaissance Marines' ability to gather information with the unique capabilities of special operators, the range of operations for mission commanders throughout the armed forces will expand.

"This exercise enables us to showcase our partnership to geographic combatant commanders, regardless of their uniform, the capabilities available at their fingertips that they can tap into to shape the battlespace," Winters said. "By using resources from a wide variety of sources, be it in their home area of operations or in an environment where a different branch of the military is the primary stakeholder, commanders have various options to achieve a desired end-state."

Using RIMPAC as an opportunity to showcase their partnership, Special Tactics Airmen and Force Recon hope to continue to build their relationship and work together in joint operations.

“A responsibility of every leader is to find adaptive, innovative ways to improve one’s organization,” Rulien said. “Our service component leaders have identified the importance of conventional force and SOF relationships; now it is on us to innovate concepts that are successful across the range of military operations.”

Twenty-six nations, more than 40 ships and submarines, more than 200 aircraft and 25,000 personnel are participating in RIMPAC in and around the Hawaiian Islands and Southern California. The world's largest international maritime exercise, RIMPAC provides a unique training opportunity that helps participants foster and sustain the cooperative relationships that are critical to ensuring the safety of sea lanes and security on the world's oceans. RIMPAC 2016 is the 25th exercise in the series that began in 1971.