USS Essex (LHD 2) departs San Diego, Oct. 20 for exercise Dawn Blitz. (U.S. Navy/MC2 Jesse Monford)

SAN DIEGO - Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG) 3 and 1st Marine Expeditionary Brigade (MEB) kicked off amphibious exercise Dawn Blitz 2017, Oct. 20.

Dawn Blitz 2017 is a scenario-driven amphibious exercise designed to train and integrate the staffs of ESG-3 and 1st MEB. It provides realistic, relevant training necessary for effective global crisis response expected of the Navy and Marine Corps team.

The exercise takes place at sea off the coast of Southern California and will involve participation from ships homeported at Naval Base San Diego including the amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD 2), the amphibious transport dock USS Anchorage (LPD 23), the amphibious dock landing ship USS Rushmore (LSD 47) and the guided-missile destroyer USS Wayne E. Meyer (DDG 108). These ships will integrate with 1st MEB and Coastal Riverine Group 1 to demonstrate how U.S. forces are capable, interoperable and deployable on short notice, while being fully combat ready.

"Dawn Blitz 2017 is an excellent opportunity to operationalize concepts the Navy and Marine Corps services have been discussing for some time," said Cmdr. Matthew Hoekstra, director of maritime operations for ESG-3 and lead exercise planner for Dawn Blitz. "While others continue to talk, wargame or tabletop future concepts, we are executing with live forces afloat and ashore."

The exercise consists of various wartime events leading to the deployment of U.S. and allied forces against a hypothetical enemy. Forces will plan and execute an amphibious assault, engage in live-fire events, and establish expeditionary advanced bases in a land and maritime threat environment to improve naval amphibious core competencies.

"Dawn Blitz provides crucial training for our Navy-Marine Corps team. The capability to conduct prompt and sustained amphibious operations anywhere in the world is essential to our Navy and our nation,” said Rear Adm. Cathal O'Connor, commander of Expeditionary Strike Group 3. “The amphibious force's capabilities range from high end warfighting to the disaster response capabilities our East Coast Sailors and Marines are demonstrating today. Since this is a multinational exercise, working with our international partners helps foster and sustain cooperative relationships that enhance regional security, stability and prosperity around the globe."

Dawn Blitz 2017 builds upon previous iterations of this exercise and affords the Navy/Marine Corps team the opportunity to capture lessons learned, develop Navy-Marine Corps amphibious staff expertise, and test new capabilities and equipment for the future fight.

Unique to this year’s exercise is the integration of the F-35B Joint Strike Fighter and the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) to conduct a sea-based strike. This will allow commanders to validate a capability with platforms not traditionally used at the MEU/ARG level.

Additionally, demonstration of the composite warfare construct and other command and control arrangements will help to promote unity of effort in littoral warfare.

"Our experiment in command and control structure is designed to provide the commander with greater flexibility and speed to employ assigned forces,” said Hoekstra. “The amphibious force has always been the vanguard of naval power in these qualities."

The Navy and Marine Corps enjoy a close working relationship based on past tradition, present requirements and future necessity to project power ashore. Leadership of both services share a common goal to refine and strengthen core amphibious competencies critical to maritime power projection.

"Dawn Blitz 17 is an invaluable opportunity for I Marine Expeditionary Force (I MEF) and the 1st MEB to experiment with advanced maritime and naval warfighting concepts, as well as refine existing tactics, techniques and procedures,” said Lt. Col. Thomas Savage, operations officer, 1st MEB. “The exercise also reinforces the strong and enduring relationships between U.S. Third Fleet, Expeditionary Strike Group Three, I MEF and 1st MEB.”

An infantry company from the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force will also participate along with observers from Chile, Peru, Colombia and Mexico. The coordination with our international partners will help foster and maintain critical relationships to preserve peace and promote stability.

This year’s exercise is an opportunity to meet the challenges of future conflicts, overseas contingency operations, humanitarian assistance/disaster response and homeland defense. The lessons learned are expected to improve the lethality and mission effectiveness of U.S. maritime forces.

“The experimentation results from Dawn Blitz 17 directly affect both the Navy and Marine Corps' future lethality and ability to fight and win in the future operating environment,” said Savage. “Although the path ahead may be a challenging one as we seek to operationalize concepts, shape force capabilities, and integrate future systems, the lessons learned leading up to and during exercise execution promise the naval force sound security as one of our nation's principal means to project power from the sea to all domains of the battlefield."

Marines from Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron (HMH) 361 depart a CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter after landing aboard USS Essex (LHD 2) during Dawn Blitz, Oct. 20. (U.S. Navy/MC3 Chandler Harrell)