"Rethinking Army-Marine Corps Roles"

Supporting Material

Although Joint Force Quarterly added numerous photos to illustrate my article, the editors omitted a number of maps and charts that buttressed and illustrated the concept outlined in the essay. As I noted, during the Persian Gulf War the Marine Corps and Army reflected the battle and war roles that each should establish as their core functions.

The Army waged the field battle of movement to engage and destroy the Iraqi Republican Guards while the Marines carried out a pinning assault and were positioned to spearhead an assault on Kuwait City if that had become necessary. See Desert Storm figure.

In a future campaign in the littorals, an Army offensive would be supported by the Marines, reflecting Desert Storm experience. Freed of the need to get bogged down in cities the Army can pursue deeper objectives secure in the knowledge that a Marine Corps trained in urban warfare can seize critical cities. In addition, again as in Desert Storm, the Marine Corps' secondary amphibious capability will tie down enemy forces otherwise able to oppose the Army drive. See the Littoral Campaign figure.

In a littoral campaign that extends far inland, the Army's airborne forces will complement the Marines as Army paratroopers seize an airhead beyond the range of amphibious assault (even the V-22 is relatively limited compared to Air Force transport planes). Marine LAV-equipped units could follow to reinforce the airhead. Meanwhile, closer to the shore, Marines could be the first wave followed by Army heavy forces which will link up with the airhead. See the Inland figure.

Since I wrote the essay, the Army has created Interim (the first 2 are called Initial) Brigade Combat Teams (IBCTs) that could very well fit into the inland scenario instead of Marine LAV units, given their similarity. As long as the IBCTs focus is on maneuver warfare and the Marines develop urban warfare expertise, this Army development does not undermine the battle-war division of labor between the Marine Corps and the Army. This is especially true if the IBCTs are created at the expense of the light infantry divisions and not the heavy forces of the Army. The Army does need rapidly deployable armored units to buy time until heavy force can deploy. If the IBCTs truly pave the way for revolutionary combat units that are both light and extremely lethal (the Objective Force) so much the better (I doubt, however, that they will meet the contradictory needs of mobility, lethality, and survivability).

The Marine Expeditionary Battle Force (MEBF) itself is a force designed to get a Marine Expeditionary Brigade, including heavy firepower, into a battle quickly. The MEBF is built on the forward deployment of an Amphibious Ready Group's (ARG) Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) and Navy combat ships. The concept relies on sailing prepositioning ships (SPS) becoming an integral part of the ARG with the airlift power of the Air Force linking the whole brigade-sized unit across global distances. The vulnerability of prepositioning ships either anchored or sailing alone is reduced by having the protection of the warships of a Surface Action Group (SAG). The MEBF can put the Marine battalion landing team ashore as it would now, while unloading the equipment for the balance of a brigade from the SPS which will marry up with personnel carried to the theater from the United States or Okinawa by the Air Force.

A notional deployment of the MEBF allows for either a benign deployment or a contested landing. If given the order to land ahead of hostilities, the embarked MEU will land to secure the objective so that the remainder of the Marine brigade can be airlifted in to employ equipment landed just behind the initial battalion's landing. If the Marines must seize a bridgehead, the first battalion afloat goes in with the remainder of the brigade's equipment landed at a nearby staging area to link up with airlifted personnel. These force can constitute follow-up waves landed by the ARG over the beach or combat inserted with V-22s. See the illustration.

The concept presented is not just a proposal to create a new organization named the MEBFs. The concept also demands that the Army and Marine Corps focus on their traditional war and battle roles. Joint warfighting must trust other service to deliver their core competency without hedging by creating in-service capabilities that duplicate other services. The military is getting too small to justify this approach. It is also a plea to recognize that the Army's war role is not obsolete. The Army must not lighten up too much in an effort to duplicate the Marine Corps' rapid reaction role. We still need a United States Army able to smash enemy armies notwithstanding the collapse of the Soviet Union. We have not reached the end of history and even if we have, we have not reached the end of war.

Back to Citations of Published Works


The Dignified Rant blog

Hosted by www.Geocities.ws