As U.S. Draws Down, Military Hits 'Reset' Button

Marines, Army get back to pre-9/11 roots.

U.S. Marine Corps MV-22 Ospreys preparing for flight aboard the multipurpose amphibious assault ship USS Wasp in 2007.
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After more than a decade of fighting insurgents in the deserts of Iraq and mountains of Afghanistan, the Marine Corps is returning to its roots with training exercises that mimic the battles that made it a feared amphibious force more than half a century ago.

Marine Corps exercise Forager Fury 2012 begins this week in Guam and Tinian. Elements of Marine aviation and expeditionary forces will participate in the three-week exercise named after Operation Forager, an offensive the U.S. launched against Japanese forces during World War II in the western Pacific.

Forager Fury is designed to practice the choreography necessary to conduct a simultaneous air-ground assault. The MV-22 Osprey will be among the many vehicles used.

The training mission follows the conclusion of Exercise Keen Sword 2013, a regularly scheduled joint exercise between U.S. and Japanese forces at training locations throughout the Asian nation.

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Keen Sword, which ended on November 15, provides an opportunity for the Japanese Self-Defense Forces to witness how Marines conduct amphibious operations – the original purpose of the ground force that is a part of the Department of the Navy.

"Overall, I feel that the operations went smooth and showed how units from different countries, with different languages, can work together in a combined effort to accomplish any task," Master Sgt. Frank Edling tells Stars and Stripes.

"Both countries' forces displayed their ability to work as an integrated force in readiness," he says. "During the final day of the exercise, our Marines showed they are very capable of landing the surface assault element and their equipment in a single lift from a naval vessel to inland objectives."

Marines aren't the only U.S. troops returning to pre-September 11, 2001 training. More than 1,300 paratroopers from the U.S. Army's elite 82nd Airborne conducted a forcible-entry exercise at Fort Polk in Louisiana last month, according to the FayObserver.com.

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This marked the first time the Global Response Force, or any other unit stationed at Fort Bragg in North Carolina, had conducted such an exercise in more than a decade.

"It's the old full-spectrum operation," Maj. Keefe Savin, brigade spokesman, told The Fayetteville Observer.

The 82nd Airborne is infamous for its pledge to be able to deploy for any threat worldwide within 18 hours notice.

Like the Marines, the airborne troops had focused on counterinsurgency training to accommodate their work in Iraq and Afghanistan. Military leaders are beginning to "reset" their forces to prepare for what could follow withdrawing combat troops from Afghanistan in 2014.

"Counterinsurgency is really just a small subset of what we might be asked to do," said Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling at a breakfast meeting with reporters in October. Hertling, commander of U.S. Army Europe and Seventh Army, was at the time about to complete Exercise Saber Junction 2012, which brought together troops from 19 different countries to simulate a conventional ground war.

"It's an attempt to reset, to be most prepared, to be adaptable to any situation we might be asked to do," Hertling said. This includes 21st-century tactics, such as cybersecurity and counterterrorism.

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Paul D. Shinkman is a national security reporter for U.S. News & World Report. You can follow him on Twitter or reach him at pshinkman@usnews.com