MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. -- Natural disasters and terrorist attacks are examples of the unfortunate reality we face in an uncertain world, but Marines are always ready to answer the call in the face of that reality.
The Marine Corps prides itself as America’s “911 force,” and they have an Alert Contingency Battalion to support that notion. The ACB’s job seems simple: be ready to deploy within 48 hours, to a contingency. However, the job of quickly moving several hundred Marines and sailors from a small base in eastern North Carolina to a crisis zone across the globe is easier said than done.
Alert Contingency Battalion duty rotates through the various battalions within the 2nd Marine Division, based at Camp Lejeune, N.C.
India Company, 3rd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, conducted an activation and personnel movement drill to Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point Oct. 18, in order to test readiness and incorporate lessons learned into their training packages and to improve efficiency for future training.
The exercise was designed to demonstrate II Marine Expeditionary Force and 2nd Marine Division’s focus on providing U.S. based alert forces capable of quickly responding to crisis around the globe. The ACB is a restoration of the Marine Corps’ business practices prior to operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom.
Lieutenant Col. James Ryans, the battalion commander of 3rd Bn., 6th Marines, explained his battalion needs to be ready to deploy in a short period of time to handle any number of contingencies.
“We’re going back to how the Marine Corps was when I joined,” Ryans said. “We advertised being able to get somewhere in a couple of days. That’s the thought pattern with the (ACB). When (we’re notified), we want to make sure we get there in days, not weeks.”
The ACB is a part of the Marine Corps’ philosophy of being most ready when the nation is least ready. As such, they prepare to execute the agility and flexibility expected of America’s principal crisis response force.
“Think more than contingency,” Ryans said. “Think of it as (responding to) a crisis.”
He listed off a number of reasons the ACB could be activated, including humanitarian relief, defense support to civil authorities, fixed-site security and embassy reinforcement.
“The common denominator is the need for manpower,” Ryans said. “That’s what we need to be ready to provide. A Marine who is well-trained and prepared to deploy should be able to flex between any of those tasks, as long as we provide the tools to execute.”
Since the battalion needs to be ready to deploy at a moment’s notice, there are specific requirements the unit needs to maintain. Everything from legal paperwork to sustaining a high state of medical and dental readiness ensures the Marines can leave without any issues.
“In my mind, the (ACB) defines the Marines being always ready,” said 2nd Lt. Michael Tipton, the adjutant for 3rd Bn., 6th Marines. “The Marine Corps has told the nation for years we are always the most ready.”
The ACB demonstrates the Marine Corps’ commitment to the prevention of conflict and to responding to it. Nowadays, security challenges require expansion of global engagement to promote collective approaches to addressing common security concerns.
Being part of the ACB is a unique experience for the Marines in the battalion.
“The Marines and sailors are excited to be a part of this,” Tipton said. “We’re excited to be the contingency force focused on rapid deployment. We’ll go to work and do what we need to do to accomplish the mission. We don’t know what they’re going to ask us to do, but we’re excited and ready to do whatever they require.”