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Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. James T. Conway meets with the press following his presentation at this year's Expeditionary Warfare Conference Oct. 5, 2010. Conway delivered four specific challenges to military and industry participants: to develop lighter-weight armor, vehicles, personal equipment, and weapons systems; discover better ways to become energy self-sufficient; find innovative ways to manage waste; and to bolster America's support for Marines, sailors, airmen and soldiers.

Photo by Ron Newsome

Expeditionary Warfare Conference speakers focus on challenge

8 Oct 2010 | Dan Broadstreet, NSWC PCD Public Affairs

Commander, U.S. Fleet Forces Command, Admiral John C. Harvey presented his opening night speech Oct. 4, 2010 at the Expeditionary Warfare Conference (EWC) illustrating how America’s expeditionary forces could be crippled without adequate Mine Countermeasures support.

Describing losses during the U.S. Navy’s attempt to conduct a forcible entry into the port of Wonson in 1950, Harvey quoted the Commander of Task Force 95, Rear Adm. Alan E. Smith from his ‘After-Action Report.

“Rear Adm. Alan E. Smith wrote, ‘We have lost control of the seas to a nation without a navy, using pre-World War I weapons, laid by vessels that were utilized at the time of the birth of Christ.’”

The EWC was held at the Bay Point Marriott Golf Resort, Panama City Beach, Fla., Oct. 4-7 just four miles away from the Naval Sea Systems Command, Naval Surface Warfare Center Panama City Division (NSWC PCD). NSWC PCD’s researchers are the nation’s leaders in expeditionary warfare and mine countermeasures.

Harvey went on to further characterize the United States’ adversaries.

“So in 2010, sixty years later, what do we learn from our Navy’s experiences at Wonson in 1950? The Wonson incident is just one grim reminder that our enemies are truly thinking enemies. Like us, they will do whatever it takes to achieve their goals limited only by the technology available to them and their moral code,” Harvey said.

The conference’s theme was titled, “Expeditionary Operations – What’s Next?” And with presentation titles such as “Resourcing Expeditionary Warfare in a Decade of Shrinking Budgets,” keynote speakers challenged industry and military to consider every feasible solution to maintain America’s forward presence and ensure America’s access to the world’s sea lanes.

Special guest speaker, Under Secretary of the Navy, the Honorable Robert O. Work, delivered a presentation on "Amphibious Landings in the 21st Century" and discussed the importance of the Navy and Marine Corps team. Work said the Department of the Navy has a major role in winning "the battle for access" in the 21st century.  He also explained that the Department needs to rethink its approach to amphibious assaults due to changes in anticipated threat tactics and available technologies. "It's as important to our Navy as it is to our Marine Corps," Work said.

Work also spoke about how America's advances in unmanned and automated systems are going to change the look of the future.

"A lot will depend on the exploration and the discoveries that we have," Work said, while addressing the local press. "But without question, we are going to have more unmanned systems in the future and more automated battle systems. But we never, never want to lose the human element in our thinking about our war fighting because that is what I believe makes this force so special, the capability of our Sailors and Marines."

Commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. James T. Conway acknowledged that his audience was, in fact, made up of the very scientists, engineers and researchers responsible for the development of such modern advances. Hence, he did not hesitate to present attendees with four specific challenges.

“I’ll give you three to four areas where you can help us. First, we need light weight. Now you fill in the blank….  It can be armor, vehicles, personal equipment, weapons systems…. Secondly, think energy. Energy self sufficiency is increasingly important to us.”

Conway’s third concern was finding an innovative way for Marines to manage waste.

“What is there about a base camp that is considered excess….Take a look at what we consider waste and ask yourself, ‘Can we miniaturize it or convert it into a catalytic gear to heat our tents at night?’”

And finally Conway concluded by challenging attendees to try and reverse what he called a disturbing trend he said he was detecting in public opinion polls.

“I’m starting to see where, in the general public, there appears to be a growing loss of support for our great young Marines and Sailors, Airmen and Soldiers in our current fight. Talk to your fellow Americans and point out to them what it’s going to look like if we simply walk away,” Conway said. “Because, I don’t think the world can afford for us to do that in this day and age.”

Headquarters Marine Corps