PEARL HARBOR, Hawaii – As adversaries attempt to disrupt rules-based international order in the vast Indo-Pacific region, a small group of Reserve Marines were on station at Pearl Harbor as part of Exercise Keen Edge to hone air dominance by advising the Joint Force commander on Marine Corps aviation capabilities that can be brought to bear.
They are the Aviation Command and Control Team (AC2T), and this capability can only be found in the Marine Corps Reserve.
AC2T is a 4th Marine Aircraft Wing (MAW) capability based at Great Lakes, Illinois, and comprised of 33 Selected Marine Corps Reserve (SMCR) Officers and one Active Reserve enlisted Marine. AC2T coordinates, manages and assigns professional aviation liaison officers to Joint commands worldwide as subject matter experts of Marine Air Ground Task Force (MAGTF) equities available to support the Joint Force.
“Our mission is to provide professionally trained Marine aviation liaisons to the Joint Force Air Component Commander (JFACC) to monitor, coordinate, advise and assist Marine Air Ground Task Force employment and service integration in support of multi-domain operations,” said Col. Randy Park, director of AC2T.
“As Marines, we are unique and we employ a wide spectrum of battlefield capabilities, to include logistical support, aviation combat capabilities and land combat capabilities,” said Col. Benjamin W. Malmanger, a Marine liaison officer with AC2T. “In every theater, we plug into Air Operations Centers (AOC) and serve as the personal representative to the Marine commander in that theater. We sit amongst and within the Joint Force Air Component Commander’s staff. We have a seat at that table to best represent the Marine commander’s equities.”
AC2T possesses the same capabilities of an active duty liaison officer, but also bring additional skill sets from their civilian sector training and experiences, which include everything from civilian pilots to logistic managers, data-mining experts, lawyers, consultants, financial advisors and business owners.
Furthermore, many of the AC2T Marines have about 11 years of active duty service before they transitioned to the Reserve Component. As a force multiplier, they carry a wealth of knowledge and proficiency for Joint Force planning and execution to enhance the overall capabilities and synchronicity of U.S. forces abroad.
AC2T Marines travel worldwide to support of exercises and real-world operations. With constant rotations for Marines to work as liaisons in any combatant command, AC2T Marines activate to Central Command’s AOC in Qatar, as well as participate in exercises such as PANAMAX, Austere Challenge, Combined Command Post Training (CCPT), Pacific Sentry and, most recently, Keen Edge, supporting Southern Command, European Command and Indo-Pacific Command, respectively.
Exercise Keen Edge is a joint and bilateral command post exercise that practices and improves interagency coordination, combat readiness, and interoperability of Japanese and U.S. Allies in the Indo-Pacific Command region.
“The Marines as a functional component command had a heavy responsibility within Exercise Keen Edge,” said Malmanger, a native of Tenafly, New Jersey. “Our mission as the MARLE [Marine Liaison Element] during this exercise was to understand the scheme of maneuvers and scheme of fires and then integrate those concepts within the Air Operations Centers to leverage Joint capabilities that best support the Marine commander’s scheme of maneuvers and scheme of fires.”
“They advised the JFACC to solve problems at the AOC,” said Park, a native of Plainfield, Illinois. “They do it for the MAGTF, not just the MAW. MARLOs [Marine Liaison Officers] spend all day and night at the AOC. The purpose of AC2T is to make sure that as Marine aviation integrates into the Joint fight that it is well represented and the MAGTF commander who owns the aircraft has their equities serviced.”
This unique MARFORRES capability directly increases Marine Corps participation in Joint missions by clearly articulating MAGTF assets, capabilities, and opportunities in support of the JFACC’s objectives.