Move 2: Humanitarian Assistance

For background information on Expeditionary Warrior 2010, go to: Sorry, only accessible for CAC users, we’re working on it!

Move 2: Humanitarian Assistance, 2022. After a couple years recovering from the 2020 severe flooding, the host country is hit again with an even more severe rainy season, requiring the international community’s help.

To answer a comment about the Marine Corps in 2022: The Marine Corps Warfighting Lab is currently experimenting with something called Enhanced Marine Air-Ground Task Force Operations. Basically, in EMO, the lowest level independently operating Marine Corps unit will shift from a reinforced battalion, as we see in a Marine Expeditionary Unit, to a reinforced company. MCWL is experimenting with the additional comms, fire-support and transportation that will be needed to support platoons operating 40 miles from a ship, and 10 miles from each other. A Company Landing Team (COLT) is pretty cool, because it creates a small amphibious operations capability that could fit on one ship, potentially increasing the reach of U.S. forces around the world.

Another answer to a comment: There will be partners, and there will be other countries with competing interests. We have discussed the difficulty in relief operations if someone like an Iran, Russia, China, Venezuela brings a cargo ship or frigate and says, “We’re here to help.” The basic answer from the ambassadors, admirals and generals helping the game is: “It depends.”

The wargame is looking into the advantages and disadvantages of using a seabase in various scenarios, Move 2 requires a humanitarian assistance operation.

First of all: it’s all about relationships and agreements. The Embassy is key in starting an HA operation, the first thing the seabase commander needs to do is check in with the embassy. The HA operation needs to be run as truly a supporting operation to the host nation, and not a “we’re in charge” kind of operation.

Environment, to run HA, we need a benign environment, with no threat other than a few criminals and looters. HA won’t be effective if we need to attack the village before we bring in water. This is applicable from a seabase or not, but it was an interesting nugget from the gray hairs in the room.

Advantages of the seabase in HA: A HA operation will require a lot of heavy equipment. Water purification, power, road building, other engineering equipment is all heavy. Ships are great for transporting heavy stuff, and LCU’s, and LCAC’s to some extent are great for taking that heavy stuff ashore, where a port facility might be damaged. (Like Haiti in 2010)

Basing your HA operation from a seabase reduces your footprint ashore, which is good to reduce the support required ashore, and helps your security situation as well. (During tsunami relief in Thailand, the US forces kept only a couple dozen on shore at night.)

But there are disadvantages to a seabase too: A seabase is slow to respond, in comparison to human suffering. A seabase will not be there in time to be a first responder and tend to the dying or bleeding. In fact, a seabase may not even be there to prevent suffering or death from a lack of water or food in the first 72 hours. During the wargame, we looked at a week to ten days as a reasonable window in which we could respond to a disaster with a seabase. So, the seabaase won’t be there first.

Another disadvantage to a seabase is a reduced effectiveness if the ship-to-ship connectors cannot mate up to all ships in the base. Currently, the Army and the Navy both have ship-to-ship and ship-to-shore connectors, as well as our own service MPF ships. The connectors need to work together. Maybe only buy one LCU for the whole DoD, or one LCAC; commonality, incredible concept.

In 2022, we assumed MPF ships have a ramp (Vehicle Transfer System) that they can roll vehicles to another ship or floating dock. We also assumed a ship called a Mobile Landing Platform (MLP) exists. An MLP will be able to accept the rolling vehicle from the VTS/MPF ship, and will have a lot of deck space for docking LCAC’s and LCU’s.

This link might answer some ship and connector questions:

Afternoon. Move 3 

Move 3: Non-combatant Evacuation Operation

The situation ashore has deteriorated. The assassination of the opposing political party’s leader has thrown the host nation into an armed conflict between the government and the opposing party. The embassy has requested military assistance to evacuate non-combatants.

The combatant commander has assembled a seabase composed of Joint High Speed Vessels, a Mobile Landing Platform, MPF ships (T-AKE and LMSR’s), and a MEU on a 3-ship ARG. Once they decide who’s in charge, we conducted the NEO in this game, with command and control functions staying on ship. Amphibious big decks and carriers have great communications capabilities and flag staff spaces, so they were very useful for this move.

The majority of American and allied nation citizens that are to be evacuated live in a port city, so evacuating by sea, as slow as ships may go, was seen as a good option. This also reduced crowding in the few airfields that are still serviceable after a few seasons of flood.

A couple ships we will have in 2023, the Joint High Speed Vessel, and the Mobile Landing Platform were invaluable in conducting the NEO. The JHSV was used to ferry evacuees to a nearby port with a working airport. The MLP was used in much the same manner. The JHSV can carry a few hundred (in seats and troop berthing) for a matter of hours. The MLP can carry upwards of 1,100 for a matter of days (troop berthing) if it didn’t carry soldiers or Marines into theater.

During the NEO, we didn’t see as much a need to play nice with others as we did in the previous HA move, we saw the NEO as a clear mission that U.S. forces would conduct, and U.S. forces would be in charge of the U.S. evacuation of U.S. citizens.

Another invaluable tool for the NEO was the ability to connect the shore to the ship, and not have to rely on a serviceable port. Again..we are operating from a multi-billion dollar seabase with state-of-the-art aircraft and communications, and the most useful tool was the 65 year old LCU! It’s tough to carry people on an LCAC, and it’s tough to carry thousands of people on helos. LCU’s to the rescue!

In general, the seabase was very useful in the NEO, but it was a stepping stone in the evacuation process. You can’t just impress the evacuees to be a new crew of the ship, we’ve eventually got to get them home, and the evacuees will probably want to go faster than 15 knots across the ocean. So using the seabase’s ships as ferries and a base of operations was valuable, but it didn’t complete the whole mission by itself, we’ll need to get the evacuees to an airport.

Stay tuned, tomorrow we will conduct stability operations from a seabase.

Posted by LtCol Roger Galbraith, USMCR in Marine Corps
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  • Keith Midgette

    Were you at the same war game I am in? Several of the points you made were not briefed nor discussed in the daily debriefs.

  • CJCreamer

    I am a supporter of the Seabasing but with this last move, I question the evacuation process. With the country’s leader assassinated and warring factions running amok, the ports and airfields would be the first places these two groups would move towards. Evacuating our people would risk putting them directly into the crossfire when they are at their most exposed. Docking the ships and loading thousands of evacuees takes time – what forces would be available to protect the civilians during this process? Would an adequate protective force also limit the number of civilians that could be evacuated?

  • Fester Clock

    Creamer poses a good question. Not only does the offensive flexibility of the Seabase afford great maneuverability, it has to protect itself, and all the dimensions of the operation at hand. The movement of forces ashore is extremely complex and NEOs are particularly challenging. I was wondering if there is focus on the transitions from one phase to the other?

    Also Roger said: “A couple ships we will have in 2023, the Joint High Speed Vessel, and the Mobile Landing Platform were invaluable in conducting the NEO. The JHSV was used to ferry evacuees to a nearby port with a working airport. The MLP was used in much the same manner. The JHSV can carry a few hundred (in seats and troop berthing) for a matter of hours.”

    Is the HSV being considered as an insertion capability as well, i.e. getting Marine rifle platoons ashore quickly overtly or covertly?


    Just a thought. If you are only carrying as many evacuees as seats on the JHSV on short trips (say less than 48hrs), you are probably slowing the process. If the danger to the evacuees is severe, you can easily load the ship to the plimsol marks (probably 3000 plus on a JHSV). Although against regulations, it can be done with the authorization of the theater commander. It will be a little tight but is has worked in the past. When I worked on RSOI in Korea, we estimated we could get over 30,000 people on a LMSR for short trips. If the alternative is the evacuees being under artillery fire, the risk of a series accident at sea and the worst maritime disaster in history doesn’t look quite so bad.
    CJCreamer: The whole benefit of the seabase is that you don’t have to use the port or airport! So you find a nice quiet, or at least less occupied with people trying to kill themselves, area and conduct the evacuation from there. By moving away from the population areas and critical infrastructure where fighting is likely, you can enhance security and reduce the possibility of escalation. You still have the issue of getting the people to the staging area but you had that problem anyway.

  • LtCol Roger Galbraith

    Thanks for your comments.

    We didn’t really look at using the JHSV/HSV as an insertion platform. You still need a dock or helo’s, so those vessels can’t directly drop forces off.

    The advantage of LCAC/LCU/LCM-8 boats is that they can use any stretch of beach as a port. Pick a spot that is defensible and conduct your NEO, you don’t have to be constrained by port or pier.

    Yes, we went with the book aswers for carrying evacuees. In extremis capacities would be much greater.