NORTHERN LUZON, Philippines --
3d Marine Littoral Regiment demonstrated its unique ability to get to the future fight and establish a forward presence during Marine Aviation Support Activity 23. In a matter of days, the inaugural MLR deployed its forces across the Pacific, established a fully operationally capable expeditionary advanced base in the vicinity of Northern Luzon, Philippines, and initiated communications with a reach-back cell based out of Marine Corps Base Hawaii. The exercise marked a historical demonstration of 3d MLR’s Fight Now capabilities.
MASA is a bilateral exercise between the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the U.S. Marine Corps, aimed at enhancing interoperability and coordination focused on aviation-related capabilities. Lead by I Marine Expeditionary Force, the exercise encompassed approximately twenty training evolutions and was participated in by units across the Fleet Marine Force and Armed Forces of the Philippines. During MASA 23, 3d MLR and detachments from each of its three subordinate units—3d Littoral Combat Team, 3d Littoral Logistics Battalion, and 3d Littoral Anti-Air Battalion—facilitated bilateral training evolutions at disparate locations across Northern Luzon. These included a simulated airfield seizure, air control, tactical combat casualty care, and subject matter expert exchanges across aviation, ground, and logistics capabilities.
In April, 3d MLR participated in Balikatan 2023, the 38th iteration of the annual bilateral exercise between the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the U.S. military focused on amphibious operations, command and control, humanitarian assistance, urban operations, and counterterrorism skills. During MASA 23, 3d MLR used the lessons learned from Balikatan and previous exercises to establish minimal footprint EABs within the first island chain. Total forces in the area of operations added up to less than 300 essential personnel, making it the MLR’s most light-weight, expeditionary deployment to date.
“MASA was a different package and a paradigm shift from Balikatan – from the way the MLR deployed to the way we did command and control to the headquarters we fell under,” said Lt. Col. David Palacio, fires support coordinator, 3d Marine Littoral Regiment. “We’re a learning organization and we quickly adapted post-Balikatan to provide a tailor-made package in support of I MEF by tying into elements of the MAGTF distributed throughout Northern Luzon. As 3d MLR’s first independent detachment, MASA validated that the MLR can tie into any headquarters in order to rapidly deliver tailored capabilities from the third island chain to the first island chain and accomplish the mission.”
3d MLR’s successful participation in MASA 23 provided proof of concept to Force Design 2030. The exercise demonstrated the ability of an MLR to operate independent of its parent command and to integrate into the command-and-control node of any unit in the Fleet Marine Force in support of Marine Air-Ground Task Force operations. As the inaugural MLR prepares to make room for a second MLR to operate within the first island chain, key takeaways from MASA 23 will enhance the Marine Corps’ understanding and utilization of the MLR’s full range of capabilities.