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Navy Expeditionary Combat Command (NECC)

Navy Expeditionary Combat Forces Lead Joint Expeditionary Advanced Base Operations During Fleet Battle Problem 22-1

by Lt. Brittany Stephens and Chief Mass Communication Specialist Kim Martinez Explosive Ordnance Disposal Group Two Public Affairs and Navy Expeditionary Combat Command Public Affairs
21 March 2022 CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. - Navy Expeditionary Combat Forces (NECF) operated alongside the United States Marine Corps (USMC) off the coast of Camp Lejeune to conduct Fleet Battle Problem (FBP) 22-1 March 16-21.
Fleet Battle Problems occur multiple times a year to test coordinated Fleet capabilities.  During FBP 22-1, Navy Expeditionary Combat Command (NECC) exercised command and control of multiple land and sea assets across the Navy and USMC.

“We have to consider the very strong and capable command and control capability of the expeditionary forces. It doesn’t matter who you send to work with us, we are going to achieve the commander’s objectives,” said Rear Admiral Joseph DiGuardo, commander, NECC.

DiGuardo is the mission commander for the battle staff during the exercise where Sailors and Marines from the NECF, Amphibious Ready Group-Marine Expeditionary Unit (ARG -MEU), Naval Special Warfare Group Two, and Marines demonstrate critical sea-based and littoral operations in a real-world platform.  

“We are executing the same tasks for C2 that we have executed in the past; just the conditions are just different this time,” Diguardo added. “We are not in the desert, we are in the maritime environment, but that doesn’t mean the tasks are different and doesn’t mean we are any less prepared.”

FBP 22-1 also tested the Navy’s ability to integrate USMC, and Navy Special Warfare (NSW) to execute effective operations in a contested environment. The Navy’s ability to diversify the types of units that lead mission command and control ensures the Navy maintains maritime superiority and excel in joint, integrated operations during this era of strategic competition.

“Expeditionary Combat Force is where the Navy and Marines come together,” said Navy Capt. Chuck Eckhart, commander, Explosive Ordnance (EOD) Group 2 and deputy commander for Fleet Battle Problem 22-1. “The Navy Expeditionary Combat Force is uniquely equipped to lead Fleet Battle Problem because we have the flexibility to deploy in austere environments and push command and control forward to enable Distributed Maritime Operations,” said Eckhart.

During FBP 22-1, the battle staff served as the bridge between ships at sea and Sailors and Marines operating in the littorals, by communicating opportunities and threats to freedom of navigation within the mission space.

“The Navy Expeditionary Force is a part of strategic competition, and the way it is part of strategic competition may be a little bit different from what you see in other weapons, payloads, and platforms in the United States Navy,” said DiGuardo. “We enhance our capability by doing this – by running C2 in a way that’s never been done before and it is very effective.”

“The pros to having a Navy Expeditionary Combat Force-led C2 battle staff is that we can push forward into an area without an established presence or an area with a smaller footprint and setup base very quickly,” said Lt. Cmdr. Bruce Batteson, NECC’s future operations officer. “We can operate out of any structure available to us and are more mobile than many other entities.”

While expressing the value in having the Navy’s expeditionary force leading this integrated team, Batteson also stated the importance of leveraging the strengths of each service within the Department of Defense.

“From a national defense picture, we can’t win without joint integration and the capabilities that brings to the table,” said Batteson. “FBP 22-1 is an opportunity to use fully-trained, fully-ready units to push the boundaries and execute in real-world environments.”

As part of FBP 22-1, Sailors and Marines conducted unmanned underwater vehicle operations, integrate underwater and airborne passive and active sensors, and test anti-swarm and point defense at the Expeditionary Advanced Base and aboard the ARG-MEU, building upon their expertise gained over many years of global operations and past FBPs.

“What the Navy’s expeditionary force has learned in the past 20 years of global war on terrorism, is absolutely applicable in the maritime fight. The keyword in expeditionary Sailors is “Sailor,” so of course the Sailors of the expeditionary forces are who we need to enable the access, reach, and lethality that the Navy will need in the maritime fight,” said NECC Force Master Chief Rick Straney.

NECC is located in Virginia Beach, Virginia, with a mission to man, train, equip and sustain Navy Expeditionary Combat Forces.  NECC Sailors clear the battlespace of hazards; secure critical terrain; build infrastructure and logistics chains; and protect the Fleet, facilities and forces. FBP 22-1 integrated naval capabilities to support special operations, provide defense ashore and at sea, and develop the use of unmanned underwater vehicles.