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Thread: Optimizing the Marine Corps for small wars

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    Default Optimizing the Marine Corps for small wars

    I'm sure this idea has been floated by folks both smarter and much more experienced than me, but I can't remember an SWC thread on it. With the ongoing debate about how to prepare the ground forces for both the full spectrum of small wars and the threat of major conventional war, how about letting the Marines focus on small wars, with maybe amphibious/forced entry as a secondary field? I'm in the Van Creveld camp, that nuclear weapons have virtually ended the threat of great power war, but I think it's a small camp, and even if he's right there are plenty of other possibilities for conventional war (Korea). The Army could maintain it's greatly enhanced small wars knowledge, but make that a secondary mission, in the background but not forgotten.

    Letting the Marines focus on small wars would also seem to do away with the need for an Army Advisory Corps, the Marines could carry out that function, maybe dispersed more widely throughout Marine ground combat arms. If we're not listening to Steve Metz and we get caught in another big small war like Iraq, the Marines would be there first and serve as mentors of sorts to Army troops joining the fight.

    Thoughts, negatives?

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    I remember reading a historian describe the Marine Corps as the ultimate force for fighting "non-Western enemies." Basically saying that both in the Corps' history and their current organization, they were optimized for light-infantry war against non-mechanized enemies in difficult or urban terrain. To a degree, this is true - even with the Abrams tank and the AAV or EFV "maneuver element" a MarDiv still does not and will not have the TO&E designed to fight an enemy mechanized division. It probably could do so within the MAGTF concept, but that's not what it's optimized for.

    This is an interesting idea, but I don't think it's going anywhere, because of (as Ken White would say) parochialism and turf wars. That Vietnam attitude of "it ain't much of a war, but it's the only one we got" means that everyone will want to get their piece of the pie, even if a service isn't optimized for it (see the AF and COIN operations). The Army wouldn't stand on the sidelines if a pair of MEUs conducted ops in Somalia, say, and the Marine Corps wouldn't allow itself to stand on the sidelines if the Army had to fight the North Koreans. No service will willingly relinquish a particular mission, particularly one so currently important as IW/COIN because it means loss of pride/prestige and loss of funds.

    Nonetheless, the advantages are numerous:

    -minimizes capability and mission redundancy between USA and USMC
    -takes advantage of MAGTF concept and MEU deployability
    -would institutionalize small wars within an entire service, and perhaps shape training, equipment procurement, and doctrine towards those missions
    among others. . .

    The disadvantages I see include massive increased strain on Marine Corps deployment schedules (as such crises requiring intervention could be a constant fixture of the geopolitical landscape), encouraging the Army to ignore COIN and prepare for the "big war," and potentially weakening the Marine Corps ability to prepare for high-intensity conflicts like a forced entry or Korea-style conflict.

    The main concern I have is that I think the US has too many interests and too many potential conflict scenarios to afford the luxury of optimizing a 200,000 man force specifically for IW/COIN. We must keep shaping and molding our GP forces, allowing them to be jacks-of-all-trades (and masters of none) rather than risk being caught flat-footed and unprepared for a particular threat.

    The Army and Marine Corps will forever complement each other's capabilities, and that isn't a bad thing.

    Matt
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    Not the thinking of the current CMC. Most of what we are hearing out of that office tends towards the "forget Iraq and COIN, let's get back to our kinetic, expeditionary, amphibious warfare role."

    Also the USMC is the smallest service and frankly is unable to provide the number of "boots on the ground" required to take the lead role in any major counterinsurgency campaign involving a nation of any size.

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    Quote Originally Posted by tequila View Post
    Not the thinking of the current CMC. Most of what we are hearing out of that office tends towards the "forget Iraq and COIN, let's get back to our kinetic, expeditionary, amphibious warfare role."

    Also the USMC is the smallest service and frankly is unable to provide the number of "boots on the ground" required to take the lead role in any major counterinsurgency campaign involving a nation of any size.
    Question for you. Do you think that Gen. Conway's nixed proposal to take the Corps to Afghanistan and play whack-a-mole (to appropriate Eden's term) with the Taliban is rooted in an aversion to COIN and an affinity for "kinetic, expeditionary" operations?

    Because while fighting Taliban guerillas may be more kinetic than patrolling the streets of al-Anbar and collecting garbage, I think it's still very much a COIN operation. . .

    Matt
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    Granite State posted: With the ongoing debate about how to prepare the ground forces for both the full spectrum of small wars and the threat of major conventional war, how about letting the Marines focus on small wars, with maybe amphibious/forced entry as a secondary field?
    Steve Metz and Frank Hoffman wrote a piece that laid out a number of options re the roles and missions of the Army and the MC. This was one of the options. One of the others was they divide up R&M regionally (I think the suggestion was the Corps take the Pacific). Again, my memory fails me as to where they published this and a very quick troll through my files did not locate it (but I have it somewhere, probably in electronic form) - Steve will be able to help on this piece.

    I think MattC86 is right when he says that such a suggestion will not get very far, to quote him, 'because of (as Ken White would say) parochialism and turf wars'. I find it difficult to conceive of the Corps giving up its high end conflict capability (as a light infrantry) to focus solely on COIN, or perhaps more to the point, irregular warfare (but they have established a Center for Irregular Warfare, info about which you can find if you check the SW Blogs).

    Tequila posted: Not the thinking of the current CMC. Most of what we are hearing out of that office tends towards the "forget Iraq and COIN, let's get back to our kinetic, expeditionary, amphibious warfare role."
    Tequila, I had not considered this as a 'reason' for what Conway said in those several public speeches a couple of months back. His point was that the Corps was getting 'too heavy' (Conway reportedly specifically pointed to the growing number of MRAPs) and needed to return to its expeditionary, amphibious roots (not sure about the 'kinetic' part - see http://newsblaze.com/story/200710161...p-Stories.html
    a link which I hope still works.)

    Conway's speeches did make me smile quietly to myself (SQTM - see, even academics can come up with acronyms ) as what he was saying sounded pretty much like what the Corps was saying when it started to pull out of Vietnam in 1969. Though I suspect that the attitude Conway expressed, while undoubtedly shared by many within the USMC, was more a default (ie organizational culture) response than it was a hard and fast, well thought through, 'this is the future of the Corps' observation. In the least, Conway's articulation of these issues may be seen as a way to forestall the Corps being pressured into being solely a COIN/irregular war force. At bottom, the Corps would, and will always, fight tooth and nail to retain its expeditionary, amphibious character, lest it become seen as a second army, whatever its missions and roles.

    The future of the Corps, I would suggest, is more likely - but not necessarily - to lay in preparing for what they term 'Hybrid Wars'. Hybrid Wars are a mix of conventional and irregular warfare, so yes, their future will be to work on being a light, expeditionary force that has the capability to fight across the 'Three Block War'. [On hybrid war, see Mattis and Hoffman, Proceedings, Nov 2005 and Hoffman, Preparing the Marine Corps for Hybrid War, at http://www.armedforcesjournal.com/st...F=1445694_0306
    There may also, possibly, be an emphasis on urban ops within this, given the Corps past emphasis on urban warfare that goes back to 1995 under Gen. Krulak (Krulak, Operational Maneuver from the Sea, Proceedings, Nov 97 - I think this is right). Though I expect an urban emphasis may be a hard sell within the Corps (this emphasis lapsed for a number of years after Krulak retired in '99), even though we can likely expect conflict to occur in towns, cities and megacities (which is what OMFTS suggested would be the case in the 21st Century).

    MattC86 posted: Do you think that Gen. Conway's nixed proposal to take the Corps to Afghanistan and play whack-a-mole (to appropriate Eden's term) with the Taliban is rooted in an aversion to COIN and an affinity for "kinetic, expeditionary" operations?
    Hmm. I have heard other reasons, such as it makes rotations and logistics easier, planning easier, predeployment training and exercising easier (I do not mean 'easy' easy, just easier than dealing with two different wars). Being a bit of a cynic (okay, more than 'a bit' of a cynic), I personally wondered whether there was an element of 'lets get out of Iraq while we can, before it all goes pear-shaped and we get blamed, and let's instead go where the possibilities of success are greater'. They were the first out of Vietnam, and seemed to not be tarred by what happened there in the same way the Army was. But I do not really think this was a reason - my default position is 'cynicism'.

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    Default The few, the proud,...

    The Corps’ raison d'être pretty much since the Spanish-American War has been to be a service of the “kick down the door and lay waste to all we see” variety. Not that Marines haven’t performed well in COIN (witness the CAP program in Vietnam). Yet, while the “Small Wars Manual” has gotten a lot of attention as of late, it was written based on the experience in very different era of the United State’s overseas force projection (the use of Marines in the “Banana Wars” was seen as an alternative to the cost of deploying and sustaining “heavy” Army units on what was essentially “colonial” duty).

    The Corps often touts the “lean mean fighting machine” image and inculcates in Marines an offensive esprit de corps that is not always conducive to the more subtle application of force required by COIN.
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    Default Optimizing the Marine Corps for small wars - A radical approach?

    Quote Originally Posted by Granite_State View Post
    I'm sure this idea has been floated by folks both smarter and much more experienced than me, but I can't remember an SWC thread on it. With the ongoing debate about how to prepare the ground forces for both the full spectrum of small wars and the threat of major conventional war, how about letting the Marines focus on small wars, with maybe amphibious/forced entry as a secondary field? I'm in the Van Creveld camp, that nuclear weapons have virtually ended the threat of great power war, but I think it's a small camp, and even if he's right there are plenty of other possibilities for conventional war (Korea). The Army could maintain it's greatly enhanced small wars knowledge, but make that a secondary mission, in the background but not forgotten.

    Letting the Marines focus on small wars would also seem to do away with the need for an Army Advisory Corps, the Marines could carry out that function, maybe dispersed more widely throughout Marine ground combat arms. If we're not listening to Steve Metz and we get caught in another big small war like Iraq, the Marines would be there first and serve as mentors of sorts to Army troops joining the fight.

    Thoughts, negatives?

    Ah… the debate regarding the role of the Marine Corps; a debate since 1775! Lieutenant General Victor H. Krulak (USMC ret.) wrote an excellent book titled First to Fight: An Inside View of the U.S. Marine Corps, which has become a must read for every Marine and highly recommended for all others! For reasons outlined in this book and others, the Marine Corps will never allow itself to be relegated to focusing on a specific type of war or battlefield. History has shown us that no war is alike. The Marine Corps must focus on the full spectrum of warfare in order “To be ready when the nation is least ready.” It is just as important for the Marine Corps to focus on amphibious operations, as mandated by law, as those “such other duties as the President may direct”, i.e. small wars. Just because we are currently engaged in a COIN environment, we can not lose sight of the fact that the next war may be on the opposite end of the spectrum. Can the Marine Corps do better at small wars? Is it likely that in the foreseeable future we will find ourselves engaged in COIN/small war operations globally? Absolutely to both questions. I do believe the Marine Corps “sensitive paranoia”, as General Krulak wrote in his book as a distinguishing characteristic; will drive a new generation of “thinkers” to better prepare the Corps for future small wars.

    Personally, I believe the Corps knows how to forge our nation’s sons and daughters into warriors on the battlefield and into respectable citizens in OUR society. Herein lies the challenge. How do we better prepare the Marine for small wars, where too much force may equate to lost ground, where cultural beliefs and practices may not mirror ours? Where the enemy hides amongst the populace? How do we prepare the iPod and internet generations to operate in an environment where there the people know no such technological luxuries? How do we develop Marines to understand, operate, and positively influence what Robert Tomes writes in Relearning Counterinsurgency Warfare; as the “central tenant of counterinsurgency warfare: winning the allegiance of the indigenous population”?

    Our current training methods of developing Mission Essential Tasks and instruction through Enabling and Terminal Learning Objectives are great for instructing a Marine how to operate a piece of equipment, handle ordnance, assault a fortified position, etc. This type of instruction can be taught in a classroom and then applied in a field setting. We have excellent Professional Military Education (PME) that teach general military and/or service specific doctrine to our Staff Non-Commissioned Officers and Officers. Our junior Non-Commissioned Officers learn topics such as drill, military customs and courtesies, and may get some basic field skills training such as land navigation or patrolling. This education and training is all very relevant to winning in a small war, but what is lacking in our development revolves around what Tomes cites Lieutenant Colonel Roger Trinquier as concluding in Modern Warfare: A French View of Counterinsurgency; “that the guerrilla’s greatest advantages are his perfect knowledge of an area…and the support given him by the inhabitants…this total dependence upon terrain and population is also the guerilla’s weak point.” It is the ‘terrain and populations’ Marines must master in order to succeed in future small wars.

    I will argue that we learn best through exposure. Can we ‘expose’ our Marines to environments where they will gain understanding of both terrain and people? Our military has units that can deploy and ‘train’ both developed and underdeveloped nations. How about we establish a special PME program, a study-abroad, where we send small ‘learning’ cadres to various regions around the globe to learn and at least come close to mastering both people and terrain of a specific region or area. These cadres would consist of Marines from all rank and file. They would eat what the locals eat, shop where the locals shop, and basically live as the locals live. Cadre members would consist of Marines from various occupational specialties. The cadre would learn terrain, not just from a geographical perspective, but from an infrastructure point of view. How does this society move around? How do they get electricity? Water? Who enforces laws and how? Who are the influential members of the society? How do they communicate? This is a very small snap shot of what a cadre would seek to learn. Then what? Cadres would be the nucleus to any larger organization should the need ever arise whether it be a conventional, small war, or humanitarian mission. Cadre members could come from specific standing units or handpicked from across the Marine Corps. These Marines would need to spend at least 6 months in this capacity and potentially return periodically as a refresher. Our goal would be to have most Marines, not just a select few, knowledgeable in one or several regions. Their experiences would be collected, their acquired skills and knowledge retrievable in a crisis. The objective being; the establishment and accumulation of knowledge and understanding of people and terrain on a global scale that will allow us to exploit the social and environmental conditions to our advantage across the spectrum of conflict.

    Will geo-political and sovereignty issues become obstacles in addition to a mountain of other challenges? Sure. Expensive? Possibly. Easier said than done? Maybe. But I’m sure that the same was said to Earl “Pete” Ellis in 1920 when he first envisioned amphibious means in the Pacific against Japan that would come to fruition some twenty-one years later. But then again, I am no Pete Ellis.

    Thoughts?
    Nomad
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nomad View Post
    @ How do we develop Marines to understand, operate, and positively influence what Robert Tomes writes in Relearning Counterinsurgency Warfare; as the “central tenant of counterinsurgency warfare: winning the allegiance of the indigenous population”?

    @ This education and training is all very relevant to winning in a small war, but what is lacking in our development revolves around what Tomes cites Lieutenant Colonel Roger Trinquier as concluding in Modern Warfare: A French View of Counterinsurgency; “that the guerrilla’s greatest advantages are his perfect knowledge of an area…and the support given him by the inhabitants…this total dependence upon terrain and population is also the guerilla’s weak point.” It is the ‘terrain and populations’ Marines must master in order to succeed in future small wars.
    @ I would suggest that this is view is at best simplistic and confuses means with aims. It's WHY the allegiance is necessary, not that gaining it is a pre-requisite. 7% of Thailand's population is Muslim and a minute part of that is effectively sustaining a very bloody insurgency. It could be argued that US and Southern Irish support for the IRA, in the 1970's, was way more effective than that of the local Republicans.

    @ If that's a direct quote, could you cite it for me. It might just save me a bunch of work!
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    William,

    Here's the citation.

    Tomes, Robert R. "Relearning Counterinsurgency Warfare". Proceedings. 34-1(2004):16-28.

    You might be able to find the article on the internet as well. Enjoy. I would be interested to hear your views on Granite States post.
    Nomad
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nomad View Post
    I would be interested to hear your views on Granite States post.
    ...that you are interested, humbles me to a crippling degree.

    In all honesty, I have no view on the matter, other than to suggest that the idea of Small Wars is not an accurate enough criteria, on which to base force development.

    In some ways the USMC already is and was a security force/colonial police, in terms of it fleet protection, Evacuation, and Embassy security functions.

    Get the description of the mission right and that may be some use, but you'll still end up defining things that you don't want the USMC to do, and that may not be useful.
    Infinity Journal "I don't care if this works in practice. I want to see it work in theory!"

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    - If we can double the ratio of kills per contact, we will soon put an end to the shooting in Malaya.
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    Default Commandant Conway and the Corps' priorities

    Abu Muqawama has a couple of posts on this and the current commandant, whose attitudes have been mentioned here:

    http://abumuqawama.blogspot.com/2007...ot-get-it.html

    http://abumuqawama.blogspot.com/2007/12/cmc.html

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    What about that: Disband both Marines and Army and resurrect them as "Ground Forces", operating under Unified Theatre Commands. And MCAir goes to a unified "Tactical Aviation Corps". I feel that the old services structure is coming to an end (for various reasons) - with the UCCs it's already halfway dead, anyway.

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    Default That ain't happnin!

    There is periodic talk of dismembering the USMC under the rational that it's redundant. But it will not happen for a number of reasons:

    Tradition: The USMC dates back to 1775, as does the Army and Navy.

    Patronage: The Marines seem to have friends in high places (i.e. Congress).

    Money: Typically Marine operations are cheaper.

    Patience: Who else would sit on a boat (okay ship) for weeks upon weeks off shore just waiting to see if it's going to be an amphibious landing or just another NEO.

    Heritage: Marines suck it up (dumbest thing IMO the Army ever did was to get rid of the regimental system).

    Esprit-d'corps: Marines love being Marines, and they have the best uniforms!
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    Council Member Geoff's Avatar
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    Default Looking backwards, falling forwards

    I tend to shudder when I hear phrases like optimise, mission specific function and other generalities. Armed Forces are just that, they are designed to protect and project force, to do so they need to be capable of functioning in a wide variety of environments.

    Specialisation is necessary to promote mastery of a skill, but it tends to lead to an inward focus of that specialism - let's not share our knowledge etc, this then becomes a bargaining chip in the ever increasing race for resouces (money) and creates a friction that does not need to exist.

    Each part of the Armed Forces has a function, they must be mutually supporting and complementary. What we need is to re-think the whole budget system so that we do not have bureaucrats and people removed from the actual business of conducting war, being in total control of the process, they must be part of it, but not all of it.

    Using Mission Command as an analogy, the politicians should state clearly what they expect of their Armed Forces, a Mission Analysis is conducted and the bill is presented, the politicians either pay or explain to the country why they did not & let the public decide if they agree.

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    Hi Geoff, welcome to SWC. So what are you doing living in Detroit? The beer must be pretty good there, unless you're living out in Bloomfield or Grosse Pointe, and the beer may just be a secondary consideration. Good to see another Commonwealth soldier here, and a man from Transport - someone who knows about the pitfalls of a thankless but vital job. If you haven't already done so, Introduce yourself formally to the SWC on this thread, and tell us about yourself.

    -----------------------------------------------------------------------

    Other than providing the time and resources to bring all USMC infantry battalions up to standards approaching those of the Battalions selected and trained as SOC MEU's, I would imagine that the Corps probably doesn't need to do terribly much to match itself to the demands of Small Wars. I mean, they wrote the book on it, literally, and while other Armies certainly have encountered lessons that the Marines have or can take heed of, the Marines are fairly solid compared to a lot of Armies, and have their own fair share of lessons to teach to others. Other than improving individual and sub-unit training a little bit (and to a lesser extent Unit-level training as well), the Marines don't really need to do too much probably.

    Disbanding the USMC is not just politically impractical, it's militarily unsound. Not only is the USMC a potent fighting force, fit and able to fight just about anywhere (well, maybe not so much in Arctic areas if they have to rent heavy equipment from the locals) in just about any kind of war or conflict, but chopping them to the Army would effectively deprive the Navy of its ability to establish and secure overseas naval bases and provide boarding parties for naval vessels - something the Army isn't in much of a position to do properly, even if it absorbed the Marines. And the Marine Air Wings would probably be absorbed by the Air Force!(say good-bye to Marine CAS then - everyone loves Marine Air)...

    Sure, Amphibious Operations at the Operational-Level can and should (if necessary) be performed by the Army, like in North Africa and Europe in WWII. But the Marines are ideally placed to handle this, given their Maritime role, and they largely wrote the book on it anyway. Why fix somethin' that ain't broke - and it relieves much of the pressure on the Army to come up with a few more Divisions for major Amphibious Ops when they're already down to just 10 active Divs themselves.

    Besides, those Dress Blues (the old No. 2 Dress Uniform in the Commonwealth) sure do look good.
    Last edited by Norfolk; 01-23-2008 at 12:07 AM.

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    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default Yes 'they' should...

    Quote Originally Posted by Geoff View Post
    . . .
    Using Mission Command as an analogy, the politicians should state clearly what they expect of their Armed Forces, a Mission Analysis is conducted and the bill is presented, the politicians either pay or explain to the country why they did not & let the public decide if they agree.
    Pity they don't...

    Channeling Norfolk, I've heard that the Marines are headed towards an MEU-SOC like effort for the BLTs; each destined for a small war or COIN locale will get specialized training and a certification of some sort.

    Sounds like a good plan to me...

    A guy -- or a unit that can fight a big war can fight a small one, a simple shifting of gears is all that's needed.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken White View Post
    Channeling Norfolk, I've heard that the Marines are headed towards an MEU-SOC like effort for the BLTs; each destined for a small war or COIN locale will get specialized training and a certification of some sort.

    Sounds like a good plan to me...
    You know, with all this "channeling" goin' on here lately at the SWC, it sounds to me like I'm surrounded by psychics or somethin'...I think it's high time for me to invest some coin in a high-quality Tin-Foil Hat, or somein'.
    Last edited by Norfolk; 01-24-2008 at 01:04 AM.

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    Nomad posted - "But I’m sure that the same was said to Earl “Pete” Ellis in 1920 when he first envisioned amphibious means in the Pacific against Japan that would come to fruition some twenty-one years later. But then again, I am no Pete Ellis."

    "Thoughts?"

    The Corps has that "Prior Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance Parameters" as a genitic pattern in its long view planners.

    Vertical Envleopment for instance was not an Air Force or Army vision in the 60's, but a Marine one that was developing in the 50's. As a Ronnie Recon type in 1960 my unit was tasked to develop ambush tactics to lure and trap choppers into landing kill zones.

    Captured me a Battalion Lt. Col. one time! Brute Krulak was the ADC of the 2nd MarDiv at the time. He thought it was very funny!

    The "Anabar Awakening" seems a product of the Marine Forces in Anabar developing a friendly assist attitude and going along with Sheiks who thought that some of the sunni insurgents who were hand and glove with al Qaeda could be brought in and turned against the enemy.

    In the Pacific War the Corps had 6 Divisions and 4 Air Wings and did the bulk of the Island hopping conquests.

    The bulk of the Army was focused on North Africa, the Med and Europe.

    The Pacific was by its nature an amphibous war stretched out over vast distances and fell to the naval service to take the lead.

    Given the money and logistical support the Corps could bulk up for the multi small wars that will more than likely be the near future mode of modern warfare.

    I guess the question still is , Does it wan't to belarger than 3 Divisions and Air Wings again?
    Last edited by RJ; 02-06-2008 at 04:12 PM.

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    Default More than my jobs worth mate!

    RJ you make an excellent point.

    However if we optimise forces for a specific function, rather than train them for the wide spectrum of operations which the modern day soldier has to undertake? What happens when the COIN war is sucking up all the trained personnel? What about spreading the love (& knowledge)

    Would it not be better to have specialists embedded within units, by actually incorporating different operations as part of the education and development process. Not saying that every unit must have a mountain warfare specialist, an OBUA specialist etc, but a ready pool of people who can be used in preparation for these operations and deploy to cement those lessons learnt. These individuals could then form a conduit for passing lessons learnt on the ground back to the widerarmed forces, rather than waiting for an armchair general like me to pontificate, CNN to advise and the inertial mass of bureaucracy to get in gear?

    I must confess I do have a bias against too much specialisation, yes we need experts, but we should use them to spread knowledge, not hold them close and subject them to internal political wrangles - which would happen.

    I feel that we need to ensure greater clarity from the political masters, not likely in my lifetime, but also the military hierarchy needs to be more forthright in its capabilities and endurance. It has been known for ages that warfighting has an increased wear and tear on men and materiel - why don't we seem to factor that in our plans? Off point but still pertinent.

    Cheers

    Geoff

  20. #20
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    Check out the article in the Marine Corps Times entitled

    Marine Corps to get back to its expeditionary roots

    [I've included the lead in paragraphs but this is a long article and y'all should down load it. It addresses some of the items and concerns discussed in this thread.] RJ


    By Kimberly Johnson - Staff writer
    Posted : Friday Feb 8, 2008 18:12:13 EST



    The Corps is creating a new pre-emptive strike force unit that will put more Marines back aboard ships.

    The plan, which includes creating new Security Cooperation Marine Air-Ground Task Forces, is a road map for how the service plans to fight future irregular wars and was reportedly signed off on by Commandant Gen. James Conway the week of Jan. 28.

    For Marines, it means new advisory missions on top of existing requirements. And for sailors, it will mean a steady reliance on the amphibious fleet.

    In recent years, with Marines committed to a long-term presence in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Navy’s gator force has, at times, deployed without Marines on unique missions, such as chasing pirates off Africa or using a big-deck amphib as a floating health clinic in Asia.

    But that may soon be adjusted under the new operational concept, known informally as “The Long War” brief.
    The emerging “long war” will put new demands on the Corps, Conway said in the report.

    “Paramount among these demands will be the requirement for Marines to train and mentor the security forces of partner nations in a manner that empowers their governments to secure their own countries,” he said.
    Based on threat assessments projected through 2015, Marines face a spectrum of operations, the report said: stability and support; small wars and counterinsurgency; humanitarian assistance, disaster relief and nation-building; peacekeeping operations; combating terrorism; counterproliferation and nonproliferation; combating drug trafficking and crime; and non-combatant evacuation operations.

    “There will be fewer high-spectrum combat operations that require our Marines to bring the full force of our combined arms capabilities to bear,” according to the report.
    Under the “Long War” plan, Marine expeditionary units will continue to be the “vanguard” first responders of the Corps. The Corps also will forward-deploy more Marines in the Western Pacific through a combination of permanently forward-based forces and forces sourced through the re-establishment of the Unit Deployment Program.

    Central to Conway’s plan is the creation of the new units — the SC MAGTFs — to handle the building of partner-nation capacity, including requirements for civil-military operations and training less-developed military forces, the plan said. The unit will be “‘eyes forward’ in areas not previously accessible to U.S. military forces,” and will be used as an operational reconnaissance asset capable of taking on some special-operations missions.

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