In the summer of 2020, Gen. David H. Berger, ret., introduced the Marine Corps to Force Design 2030, a 10-year plan to prepare the force to operate inside actively contested maritime spaces in support of fleet operations. The concept directed the transformation of traditional naval and expeditionary formations, facilitating the Marine Corps’ return to its amphibious roots. III Marine Expeditionary Force, headquartered in Okinawa, Japan, was identified as the ideal Fleet Marine Force for Force Design 2030’s modernization efforts to take place. One such effort was the creation of the Marine Littoral Regiment, a naval formation capable of conducting several mission-sets that support and enable the joint force across multiple domains. The MLR would be able to execute stand in force operations and provide 3d Marine Division and III MEF with a mobile, low-signature, and persistent presence inside the adversary’s Weapons Engagement Zone.
In March of 2022, a redesignation ceremony presided over by Commanding Officer Col. Timothy S. Brady, Jr., on Marine Corps Base Hawaii marked the transition of 3d Marines, a traditional infantry regiment, to 3d Marine Littoral Regiment – the first of its kind. Over the next year, 3d MLR would adopt three subordinate battalions – 3d Littoral Combat Team, 3d Littoral Logistics Battalion, and 3d Littoral Anti-Air Battalion. The unit’s unique construct was designed with potential adversaries in mind. 3d Littoral Combat Team – redesignated from 1st Battalion, 3d Marines – adopted Force Design 2030’s restructuring of the infantry battalion. More lightweight and maneuverable than the legacy model, 3d LCT adopted lessons learned from Infantry Battalion Experimentation 2030 and employs three rifle companies, a headquarters company, and a medium-range missile battery. 3d Littoral Logistics Battalion – redesignated from Combat Logistics Battalion 3 under 3d Marine Logistics Group – is organized and trained to provide 3d MLR with tactical logistics and explosive ordnance disposal support. The reactivation of 3d Littoral Anti-Air Battalion was a historic milestone, as the unit inherited the lineage of 3d Light Anti-Aircraft Battalion – a decorated unit with history dating back to World War II. While 3d LAAB’s mission is not new to the Marine Corps, the unit’s alignment under 3d MLR reflects the formation’s innovative way of employing air defense, air surveillance early warning, and air control to increase the commander’s overall battlespace awareness.
Immediately following redesignation, 3d MLR executed its inaugural deployment to the Philippines to train shoulder-to-shoulder with the Armed Forces of the Philippines during exercise Balikatan 22. The exercise tested 3d MLR’s ability to command and control multiple expeditionary sites while conducting distributed operations in an austere environment. Following its successful execution of Balikatan, 3d MLR returned to Marine Corps Base Hawaii in time to establish a combat operations center in support of Rim of the Pacific 2022 – the world’s largest international maritime exercise. RIMPAC culminated with a multinational amphibious demonstration during which 3d MLR conducted a naval strike missile raid in support of combined-joint maritime force maneuver – another first for the formation.
3d MLR’s second joint training opportunity came in October of 2022, when the regiment deployed to various training locations around the island of Oahu to conduct stand in force operations for the Army’s annual Joint Pacific Multinational Readiness Center exercise. JPMRC was key for 3d MLR’s rehearsal of expeditionary advanced base operations prior to Marine Littoral Regiment Training Exercise. MLR-TE took place in February of 2023 in Twentynine Palms, Calif. It was the first time the inaugural Marine Littoral Regiment operated as a Task Element under 3d Marine Division supporting sea control and denial objectives. By testing the unit’s employment of its “fight now” capabilities in a simulated combat environment, the exercise enabled 3d MLR to refine its standard operating procedures and advanced operating concepts.
Upon its return from MLR-TE, 3d MLR geared up for its second deployment to the Philippines for Balikatan 23. The regiment’s second iteration of the exercise marked 3d MLR’s first overseas deployment as a fully-formed unit – the first iteration having taken place prior to the redesignation and realignment of 1st Battalion, 3d Marines and Combat Logistics Battalion 3. The focus of Balikatan 23 was to bolster enhance civil-military relations and enhance the collective security and defensive capabilities of the alliance. When 3d MLR returned to the Philippines for Marine Aviation Support Activity 23 in July, the regiment shifted focus to integrating into the command-and-control node of any unit in the Fleet Marine Force in support of Marine Air/Ground Task Force operations alongside the Armed Forces of the Philippines. After demonstrating the ability to rapidly deliver tailored capabilities from the third island chain to the first island chain, the forward deployed Marines and Sailors of 3d MLR made their way back to Marine Corps Base Hawaii to begin staff planning in support of exercise Pololu Strike. Pololu Strike gave the battalions one final opportunity to refine their training and readiness standards in a field environment before executing the culminating exercise of fiscal year 2023 – Force Design Integration Exercise.
Led by U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Pacific, Force Design Integration Exercise validated the concepts outlined in Force Design 2030 by integrating surface, sub-surface, ground, and air-based capabilities on and around the Hawaiian Islands of Oahu and Kauai. During Force Design Integration Exercise, 3d MLR conducted stand in force operations, enabling its Pacific Marines and Joint counterparts through the establishment of multiple fires and sensing expeditionary advanced bases across disparate training areas. Through the successful execution of Force Design 2030-enabled capabilities, 3d MLR allowed the force to sense the battlespace, seize and hold key maritime terrain, and conduct reconnaissance and counter-reconnaissance. The successful execution of Force Design Integration Exercise by 3d MLR and participating units demonstrated the Pacific Marines’ firm grasp of Force Design 2030’s operating concepts.
The formation’s ability to conduct distributed operations while enabling the joint force is fundamental to the future employment of the Fleet Marine Force in the Indo-Pacific region. As 3d MLR remains fit to serve the needs of its higher headquarters, 12th Marine Regiment prepares itself for redesignation. Based in Okinawa, Japan, 12th Marine Littoral Regiment is scheduled to activate on Nov. 15, 2023. The addition of a second Marine Littoral Regiment to the region will enhance the overall security of the Indo-Pacific, giving the Fleet Marine Force the ability to leverage the full spectrum of conflict in contested maritime domains.