Cyber Defense

Marine Information Group created to bring cyber, information warfare support to frontlines

Twenty-four hours from now, the I Marine Expeditionary Force (MEF) Headquarters Group will become the I MEF Information Group, according to Col. Roberta L. Shea, outgoing Commander of the I MEF Headquarters Group.

The I MEF Information Group will remain based at Camp Pendleton, California. However, its task will now be to keep the commanding general of the MEF informed on the security of the command and control networks, and electromagnetic spectrum and cyberspace operations and vulnerabilities, according to I MEF official statements.

Some 150 Marines will be added to the I MEF Information Group, along with a new commander, Col. Dawn R. Alonso. The group will focus on recruiting marines who have cyber and electronic warfare (EW) experience. The more cyber and EW trained units reach the frontlines, the greater the Marine Corps’ ability to conduct information warfare against near-peer competitors, said the service.

Examples of this capability are “the military police officer who is exploiting a cellphone somebody left on the battlefield, one of my intelligence Marines analyzing images he’s getting from assets up in space, [and] an electronic warfare Marine who’s trying to deny the enemy the ability to use a handheld radio,” explained Col. Shea.

The information warfare initiative covers both defensive and offensive cyber and EW operations.

A new Military Occupational Specialty for cyber warfare has been introduced by the Marine Corps so that specially trained Marines can support the frontlines by disrupting and infiltrating adversary networks.

The I MEF Headquarters Group, which included about 1,200 Marines and sailors in the headquarters element, will also gain a new battalion. The new sixth battalion will act as a logistics support unit and join the existing 1st Air-Naval Gunfire Liaison Company, 1st Intelligence Battalion, 1st Radio Battalion, 9th Communications Battalion, and 1st Law Enforcement Battalion, according to Marine Corps statements.

“Our perspective is now broadening in terms of additional capabilities that we would need when going force-on-force and being able to counter some of the [electronic warfare] capabilities that our adversaries are developing. We’re…seeing the nexus of cyber and EW, and it’s about providing the equipment that allows you to do that, but also now, the organization that gives you that capability,” said Lt. Gen. Gary Thomas Deputy Commandant for Programs and Resources of the Marine Corps, at House Armed Services Subcommittee hearing in March.

When the I MEF Headquarters Group becomes the I MEF Information Group on Thursday, it will be the first of the original three Marine expeditionary forces, I MEF at Camp Pendleton, II MEF at Camp Lejeune, and III MEF in Okinawa, Japan, to be re-designated.

About the Author

Katherine Owens is a freelance reporter for Defense Systems

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