Members of Task Force 61 Naval Amphibious Forces Europe/2d Marine Division (TF-61/2), operating under U.S. Sixth Fleet, joined their Estonian counterparts to kick off Exercise Siil 22, also known in English as Exercise Hedgehog, in Tallinn, Estonia, May 16.
The Estonian-led Exercise Siil, designed to exercise command and control and security threat response while evaluating combat readiness of Estonian 2nd Infantry Brigade and Center of Strategic Communication, will consist of around 15,000 Estonian and Allied military members training alongside elements of the USS Kearsarge Amphibious Ready Group (ARG), 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) and forces from Task Group 61/2.4. The training between U.S. and Estonian forces is scheduled to last until May 30 and will take place in and around Pärnu, Saaremaa and Võru, Estonia.
“Hedgehog 22 is a fantastic opportunity for our Sailors and Marines to train alongside and learn with our Estonian Allies,” Col. Robert J. Hallett, Commanding Officer of Task Group 61/2.4 (RXR) and Deputy Commander, Task Force 61/2, said. “The Estonian military is incredibly professional and we have similar goals in enhancing regional Maritime Domain Awareness. We look forward to the success of this exercise as a testament to the strength of our relationship with our Estonian allies and Baltic partners and as a demonstration of our shared commitment to regional security and stability.”
The exercise scenario will consist of an amphibious landing followed by a multi-day force on force exercise, as well as the execution of a vertical assault raid. Training in the Baltics is an outstanding opportunity to integrate Marine Corps stand-in forces with not only the ARG and MEU, but with members of the Estonian military as well.
Since deploying from the East Coast in March, the ARG-MEU team has routinely worked alongside Allies and partners. Elements of the ARG-MEU participated in Exercise Northern Viking in Iceland and bilateral training with Norway in April and early May. The ARG-MEU team has also joined in the Greek-U.S. bilateral exercise Alexander the Great in Greece, with participating units including the San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock USS Arlington (LPD 24) and RXR Marines.
Task Force 61/2 aligns multiple existing deployed forces under the Naval Amphibious Force commander; deployed amphibious ready groups (ARG), Marine expeditionary units (MEU), and reconnaissance and counter-reconnaissance (RXR) forces. TF-61/2’s establishment under the Commander of Sixth Fleet embodies a shift in how the Marine Corps supports fleet and joint commander in accordance with Force Design. Operationalizing these integrated concepts, capabilities, and doctrine demonstrates Marines are a naval expeditionary force-in-readiness, capable of identifying and deterring malign behavior and, when necessary, fighting inside our adversary’s engagement zone to support numbered fleet commanders’ operations.
Beyond command-and-control synchronization within the fleet, the task force operationalizes Marine Corps forces critical new concepts through training and experimentation, providing naval and joint force commanders with dedicated multi-domain reconnaissance and counter-reconnaissance (RXR) capabilities. TF-61/2 is executing the Commandant of the Marine Corps’ Concept for Stand-in Forces (SIF) to generate small, highly versatile units that integrate Marine Corps and Navy forces.
U.S. Sixth Fleet, headquartered in Naples, Italy, conducts the full spectrum of joint and naval operations, often in concert with Allied and interagency Partners, in order to advance U.S. national interests and security and stability throughout Europe and Africa.