Forward Deployed U.S. Marine Task Force Begin Drills with Indonesia

November 29, 2023 6:40 PM - Updated: December 15, 2023 2:04 PM
U.S. Marines with Marine Rotational Force-Southeast Asia, I Marine Expeditionary Force and Indonesian marines with 4th Marine Infantry Brigade, Pasmar 1, participate in the Keris Marine Exercise opening ceremony at Piabung Training Area in Sukabumi, West Java, Indonesia, Nov. 23, 2023. US Marine Corps Photo

After training in the Philippines since October, a forward-positioned Marine Corps task force kicked off another exercise in Indonesia last week.

From Nov 23. to Dec. 11, around 300 U.S. and Indonesian Marines are slated to train around western Java in Keris Marine Exercise (MAREX) 2023. The two forces will hold various activities aimed at enhancing their interoperability and capabilities in conducting maritime domain awareness, coastal defense, joint fires and operating small unmanned aerial systems.

Returning to Indonesia to lead the U.S. contingent in the exercise is Marine Rotational Force-Southeast Asia (MRF-SEA), which previously led last year’s Keris MAREX. MRF-SEA, which is composed of elements of the I Marine Expeditionary Force, was activated last year to train with partners in the region, develop FD 2030 concepts and position Marines west of the international date line via Southeast Asia.

Keris MAREX is only one of the exercises that MRF-SEA will participate in during its second deployment to the region. The task force has held back-to-back training activities similar to last year’s inaugural deployment. For 2023, MRF-SEA has trained or is slated to train with Philippine, Indonesian and Malaysian forces through exercises such as Sama Sama, KAMANDAG, Keris MAREX and MTA Malaysia.

MRF-SEA’s concentration on enhancing the Marine Corps relationship with allies and partners in the region was highlighted by its commanding officer Col. Siverts, who said in a press release that Keris MAREX “is more than a training opportunity; it’s a chance to strengthen our relationship with the Indonesian Marines and enhance our mutual capabilities.”

The Indonesian Marine Corps voiced a similar sentiment, with Col. Bambang Dillanto saying in a press release that the exercise was a “very exciting training situation.”

“We need to make the most of this valuable opportunity. We hope that the relationship between our Marine Corps will be stronger to support each other in facing complex problems in the future,” Bambang said.

U.S. Marines with Marine Rotational Force-Southeast Asia (MRF-SEA), I Marine Expeditionary Force employ the off-the-shelf commercial radar SIMRAD, during Keris Marine Exercise (MAREX) 23 at 7th Infantry Battalion Base, Lampung, Indonesia, Nov. 23, 2022. US Marine Corps Photo

Capt. Larry Boyd, communication strategy and operations director with Marine Rotational Force-Southeast Asia, told USNI News that MRF-SEA is seeking “more of the same, increased interoperability in jungle training and survival” with Indonesian forces that they had during Keris MAREX 2022.
Boyd also highlighted that this year’s exercise will have more of a focus on jungle and urban warfare.

“The notable activity for this Keris MAREX is the urban operations. KORMAR (Indonesian Marine Corps) has coordinated with a local village to use their facilities, homes, and streets as a simulated training area for real-world scenarios rather than an empty training area,” Boyd said.

Following on from its deployment in the Philippines, MRF-SEA will continue to deploy the U.S. Army’s Tactical Intelligence Targeting Access Node (TITAN) in coastal defense and maritime sensing drills at Keris MAREX. According to the Army, its next-generation Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance ground station is set to be the first of its kind to use artificial intelligence and machine learning, which in turn will reduce the burden on intelligence analysts and speed up the kill chain.

Aaron-Matthew Lariosa

Aaron-Matthew Lariosa

Aaron-Matthew Lariosa is a freelance defense journalist based in Washington, D.C.

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