In the Mojave Desert plains of Twentynine Palms, California, a disparate collection of Marine-centric, sibling-service and NATO-ally forces – more than 10,000 strong – are preparing to conduct the first Marine Corps division-level, unscripted, force-on-force exercise in more than 30 years.

Dubbed MWX 1-20, short for Marine Air-Ground Task Force (MAGTF) Warfighting Exercise 1-20, it is a multi-regimental exercise in which 2nd Marine Division (2DMARDIV), commanded by Maj. Gen. David Furness, will serve as the Ground Combat Element (GCE) for a notional Joint Task Force (JTF) higher headquarters, represented by MAGTF Training Command (MAGTF-TC).

All elements of the MAGTF will participate in MWX across the sprawling ranges of Twentynine Palms. The exercise will include significant numbers of troop transport vehicles, ordnance and small-arms. It will provide 2dMARDIV an opportunity to better understand and modulate its signature whether that be physical or across the electromagnetic spectrum as well as measure and better understand our own signature, how it looks from an adversary’s perspective and how we can effectively command and control while minimizing our footprint.

According to Maj. Gen. Furness, while MWX 1-20 is both large and complex, improving the Division’s warfighting competencies against peer- and near-peer competitors is paramount. So too is testing the Division’s logistical reach by moving a division’s worth of manpower and materiel from coast to coast. Achieving these goals reinforces key elements in both the National Military Strategy- and Commandant of the Marine Corps-mandated objectives to improve warfighting readiness for major conventional operations.

“MAGTF Warfighting Exercise 1-20 is aligned with priorities at every level of the chain of command, up to and beyond the Department of Defense, to prepare for the future fight, to improve combat readiness and to modernize the force,” said Furness.

“Because of our Global Force Management commitments, and to a lesser degree the limited nature of the training space at Camp Lejeune to support division-level force-on-force training, we are long overdue for an exercise like MWX 1-20. It’s been more than 30 years in the making. In the exercise design, we will encounter a free-thinking ‘adversary force’ with tactics and capabilities as good as our own. We will employ and test some technologically advanced equipment, such as a much more accurate laser acquisition and targeting equipment set designed to make force-on-force training more realistic, all with an eye on modernizing our force. We will also conduct complex maneuver warfare training on a plethora of disparate and geographically-disbursed ranges in order to challenge and improve our command and control (C2) capabilities.”

MWX 1-20 will unfold in early November, and while there are sure to be lessons learned at the operational and tactical levels, success may well be defined by getting the division, and all the personnel and material that that entails, the 3,000 miles required to prosecute the battle. The rest is Marines and Sailors doing what they do – overcoming all obstacles to accomplish the mission.