(TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. May 25, 2011) U.S. Joint Forces Command’s (USJFCOM) joint fires experts joined the Marine Corps Tactics and Operations Group (MCTOG) and other partners here during the Tactical Marine Air Ground Task Force Integration Course’s (TMIC) culminating command post exercise (CPX) that prepares Marine operations officers and non-commissioned officers for ground combat operations.

The two-week long exercise also included participation from several Army officers who were attending the Marine Corps Expeditionary Warfare School (EWS) in Quantico, Virginia.

The CPX, known as Spartan Advance, focused on offensive, defensive, amphibious, and stability operations. It was led by MCTOG and supported by USJFCOM’s Joint Fires Integration and Interoperability Team (JFIIT), the Air Force’s 505th Test Squadron’s Joint Integration Team (JIT), and others.

“The training exercise focused on integrating joint, coalition, special operations forces (SOF), and interagency partners by replicating a realistic combat scenario across the range of military operations,” said Marine Corps Maj. John D’Astoli, MCTOG current operations officer. “Joint enablers, like JFIIT and others, provided the training audience with a critical learning experience that will increase their ability to plan and execute ground combat operations at battalion and regimental levels.”

The 505th Test Squadron’s JIT, from Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., provided MCTOG with a fully-functional Theater Battle Management Core System (TBMCS) replicating the capabilities that Marine and Army planners would use when deployed in a combat theater.

“Our air tasking order technicians ensured Marine ground force planners are familiar with the complex computer systems that will help them properly request Air Force airborne intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) assets,” said Air Force Lt. Col. Denny Lewis, JIT commander. “This capability will also enable Marine and Army planners to monitor real-time execution of these assets in support of their ground mission.”

Part of JFIIT’s mission was to enhance the participants’ ability to employ and integrate joint fires assets similar to what Marine and Army maneuver forces would experience in combat.

“Our primary purpose was to help MCTOG provide a joint experience for the training audience that realistically replicates what they could expect while conducting a range of combat operations,” said Craig Berryman, JFIIT senior analyst. “We focused on enhancing the participant’s fundamental joint fires knowledge that will enable them to better plan, request, and execute air-ground assets in support of amphibious operations.”

Supporting Spartan Advance and MCTOG is an important part of JFIIT’s mission to improve the integration and interoperability of joint fires at the tactical level, according to JFIIT leadership.

“MCTOG does an excellent job of integrating joint assets to replicate a near-real-world environment across the spectrum of conflict,” said Army Lt. Col. Alfonso Plummer, JFIIT’s exercise lead. “Our mission was to help integrate joint fires enablers that will allow Marine and Army planners to more effectively plan and execute a realistic targeting process to defeat a range of threats.”

“This kind of training will enhance their understanding of crucial joint fires tactics, techniques, and procedures,” Plummer continued. “The experience they gained here will improve the combat effectiveness of Marine battalion and regimental ground forces and ultimately save lives.”

The exercise also included training on how a Navy expeditionary strike group would integrate and support a Marine expeditionary brigade while conducting amphibious operations.

“We wanted to teach the Marine and Army participants the most effective way to get combat power ashore,” said Navy Lt. Rosie Goscinski, Amphibious Squadron 8 operations officer from Norfolk, Virginia. “This exercise has been a great experience for the participants and also our Navy personnel who are helping to support the training.”

According to exercise participants, Spartan Advance provided them with the tools necessary to be a more effective operations planner on a battalion or regimental staff.

“The execution phase of the exercise emphasizes the bread-and-butter fundamentals we all need in order to be effective planners of complex battalion or regimental operations,” said Marine Corps Capt. Parker Consaul, a EWS student. “The exercise provided us with a very unique opportunity to both plan and execute missions like an amphibious operation…we don’t get that kind of training anywhere else.”

“The opportunity to integrate Navy and special operations forces in the exercise has been especially beneficial,” added Army Capt. Clayton Merkley, EWS student. “This experience has really taught me how the Navy, Marine Corps, and the Army integrate forces to accomplish a common objective. All in all, Spartan Advance has made me a better Army officer and I’ll be able to impart that knowledge to my operations staff in my next assignment.”

According to MCTOG leaders, the goal of the exercise is to provide advanced and standardized training in Marine Air Ground Task Force (MAGTF) operations to enhance the preparation and performance for ground combat elements.

“Spartan Advance is focused on emphasizing the core competencies of Marine ground combat operations: offensive, defensive, amphibious, and stability operations,” said Marine Corps Lt. Col. Robert Pritchard, MCTOG operations officer. “Our goal is to make this a comprehensive joint exercise that stresses the spectrum of combat and noncombat operations. We believe this training prepares our battalion and regimental operations officers and chiefs for the challenges of combat. Our ability to integrate joint partners in this exercise is an absolutely essential part of our success and is a great benefit to all those who train here.”