Marines Returning to Expeditionary Roots

Posted on: November 6th, 2013 by Will Rodriguez 25 Comments
13th MEU Marines doing speed reloads aboard the USS Green Bay March 25. USMC photo by Cpl. Christopher O’Quin

Came across a story discussing the stationing of a unique 500 man Marine unit in the Mediterranean.  The unit has six V-22 Ospreys organized around a reinforced rifle company.  That gives the unit a pretty long reach and the capability to put Infantry on the ground.  This would have been especially useful in Benghazi but it’s doubtful it would have been used considering we didn’t even deploy the CIF in response to those events.

Of even greater interest to me was the slide presentation included in the story given by LTG R.T. Tryon commander USMC Forces Command at the Expeditionary Warfare Conference in October.

Marine Corps operational update, 2013

It’s a short show that demonstrates a return to the Corps Expeditionary role.  I found the slides showing global deployments and the one depicting amphibious platforms especially informative and interesting.   I’ve always been a proponent for the Corps amphibious capability.  Just like our airborne capability we don’t see the large use we demonstrated in WWII but that doesn’t mean the capability is any less important.  The return of the Marines to their expeditionary role and the reconstituting of the Army’s Global Reaction Force will have significant impact on the focus of training and the fielding of equipment/vehicles.  These initiatives are wise.  We won’t be fighting insurgents forever.  Forcing the enemy to defend against capabilities creates opportunities and more often than not as Ernie Pyle said about the Infantry, “in the end, they are the guys that wars can’t be won without.”

So what’s old is new again!

Be Respectful, Candid and Pertinent. No Posers, No Trolls…
  • LauraKinCA

    So Will I’m trying to understand and maybe you or someone else can help me… I thought we had crisis-type functions in the FAST teams, and if there are limitations in the amphibious transport, they will rely only on the Osprey (which is an aircraft I like btw) and the refueling aircraft to get them places? What is the range that they can be effectively transported that way? Coming from a lack of understanding perspective, it still seems like this is being developed solely to say they have done something that could have addressed Benghazi… but they already had the capability… just didn’t utilize or have it staged to go.

  • LauraKinCA   The Marines will rely on more than the Osprey for aerial movement and you always need ground/ship to launch the aircraft from.
    I’d have to look up the unrefueled range of an Osprey but it’s over 400mi.  
    The move back to the Corps Expeditionary roots was happening before Benghazi.  The establishment of this unique unit (w/Ospreys) is likely a response to Benghazi.

  • travisarnold1

    LauraKinCA the MEU used to have designated operational theaters that they floated in. With the deployment rotation those units went to OEF or OIF. Even with the MEU each infantry battalion still had 18 hour global QRF. So If a MEU would have been in standard rotation a QRF could have been on the ground in Benghazi in a couple of hours. The FAST teams were a unit of Marine Security Forces. A very specific unit.

  • travisarnold1 LauraKinCA   How does a QRF get there if they aren’t winthin 18 hours sailing time?

  • travisarnold1

    majrod travisarnold1 LauraKinCA same concept as the 82nd uses. Prestage all weapons, and supplies at an airstation. Have bags prepacked and staged in the barracks. get the call roll to an airstation. catch troop carrying aircraft to whatever situation is developing. No, they had been doing it for years at Lejuene when I got there.

  • travisarnold1 majrod LauraKinCA   But how do they get the aircraft on the ground if there isn’t an airport or the airport isn’t in friendly hands?
    We did DRF in the 101st but were severely limited to a friendly air base.  Sounds like the same limitations Marines have.

  • LauraKinCA

    travisarnold1  So should an MEU have been the go-to unit for Benghazi? And because of the deployment rotations one wasn’t available for other hot spots? Is this new unit supposed to be another specialty unit like FAST that might take on MEU tasks?

  • travisarnold1

    majrod travisarnold1 LauraKinCA That is an issue that was above my pay grade, all I know is they told us we were on 18 hour QRF. I assume that it would have been a similiar issue

  • BSchroe

    Major Rod
    We will have to wait and see what developes I guess. Appears like a search for flexibility .

  • TeufelshundeUSMC

    LauraKinCA travisarnold1 
    I think the closest MEU that nite was in the Atlantic. Units in Spain, Djibouti & Serbia, could’ve gotten there quicker. Benghazi-like tasks can be taken on by MEUs and FAST units, who ever is closest, MEU has more umfff. With that said, I think, what happened in Benghazi is more or less a covert issue–ie, how do conventional types respond to high speed low drag type ops & all the bureaucratic stuff that goes with that.
    For some good reading (can’t seem to link it on here) on MEUs and their capabilities, google Mamba Station: US Marines in West Africa.

  • LauraKinCA

    TeufelshundeUSMC LauraKinCA travisarnold1  Thanks for that. Will do some reading up.

  • TeufelshundeUSMC

    LauraKinCA travisarnold1 Focus on the MSALT (Marine Security And Liaison Team). 
    With all these acronyms MSG, FAST and MEU, MSALT, keep in mind the main essence of the Marine Corps is consistency, the idea that you can take any platoon, company, battalion, regiment, etc. within the Corps, train ’em up, send ’em out and get the exact same outcome.
    This is embodied perfectly in the MEUs that go up, with various components cycling.
    With everything going on in MARSOC or this new FAST on steroids, unit preferences w/ this funding game, that idea of consistency is still in play..
    MSALT is usually ad hoc, MEU (SOC) will have scenarios gamed out pre-deployment, sometimes the situation calls only for a squad of snipers and a bunch of S-2 types or a whole platoon, etc. to support a location. 
    Usually, the liaison portion of this team when going ashore is heavier than the security.

  • TeufelshundeUSMC

    “There’s still a catch, however: It’s uncertain whether one of the Navy’s new landing platform dock ships will be available for the mission. The Corps is examining the idea, however, and would base both infantry Marines and Ospreys aboard the ship, Flanagan said.”
    This sounds too much like static security. 
    Why not just field more MEUs out? Add two more with the 31st (get rid of A & B, make ’em longer deployments), ie. 32nd and 33rd MEUs. Add a 17th MEU and 28th MEU. And make sure there’s 5 floating around at any given time.

    The best part of the expeditionary experience are the ports, a bunch of GWOT Marines missed out on Pattaya & Perth. Post-GWOT, give ’em a break send ’em on MEUs instead of this static post. Do they even get libo? Troop welfare.

  • YankeePapa

    …Not the fault of the Marine Corps that they were used as a “Second Land Army…”  Pentagon called the shot for reasons that seemed very good at the time.  But that role leads nowhere… except to eventual absorption into the Army… and properly so if that became their normal mission.  As with the end of the Vietnam war… it is back to the Expeditionary role.

    …In Marine Corps history, some senior officers couldn’t see, or lost track of the proper mission for the Corps.  Before the Spanish American War, some Navy officers who disliked the Corps wanted Marines off their ships.  Interestingly, one of the major proponents of getting them off ships went farther… said that they should form expeditionary units… Ahead of his time… Congress forced Marines back on ships… and senior Marine brass did not take the hint…
    …After the Civil War, a lot of new Marine officers obtained their commissions through political hacks… or were dropouts of West Point… see (Warning, book acquisition Alert:)  “The Marine Corps In Search Of A Mission”  Some Navy officers suggested allowing the Marine Corps no more officers and having all Marine enlisted serve under Navy officers.  SecNav correctly pointed out that the Marine Corps was… at the end of the day… a separate service (battle that would be re-fought on and off until the 1950s) and therefore their plan was not legal.
    …So some of the Marine haters talked SecNav into taking only U.S. Naval Academy graduates as Marine officers.  He approved the measure, and from the mid 1870s until 1898, that is where the Corps got all of its officers.  The Academy was delighted… Seems that politicians forced the Academy to take more cadets than the Navy could commission.  So instead of graduating some lads and sending them off to civilian life… they had the opportunity to be commissioned in the Marine Corps.  
    …Usually the graduates came from the lower third of the class… but sometimes a high achiever (like Lejeune) came from near the very top.  But the Marine haters in the Navy had thrown the rabbit into the briar patch.  The professionalism of the Marine Corps not only improved… but as the years passed, Navy and Marine officers who had been at the Academy together kept their friendships alive… (though the joke was that both might make “Captain” at about the same time…)  While the Academy graduates had a healthy respect for the Navy… they were pretty much all Marine Corps. 
    …But some senior Marine officers could not see past ship detachments… Worse, some looked at dead end alternatives… The most lethal of these was a proposal to convert the entire Corps into coast artillery troops… One Commandant very interested… Fortunately the Army wanted the job.  
    …In 1898 the Navy needed a base on Cuba… The Army was juggling bobcats with sudden insane growth and couldn’t provide the Navy with requested troops in a timely fashion… so the Navy sent Marines.  From that point many Navy officers saw the point of a Marine Corps.  But some Marine senior officers still did not see the future…

    …After being “more Army” in WWI, the Marine Corps got very serious about what they had been doing since 1900… banana wars.  Into the 1930s some Marine officers actually saw the future of the Marine Corps as being “colonial troops” (Winston Churchill called them “superb” at the task…)  But FDR indicated that those days were closing fast… 
    …The Corps closed down the school at Quantico and set up an amphibious study group.  The results were shown by Marine and Army divisions on many beachheads in WWII.
    …But you still had some senior officers that wanted to go off on tangents.  Until 1944 many Marine air units had been largely more “blue sky” aviators… with occasional ground support.  The Corps decided that ground support was the main justification… and as the nature of the Pacific war changed were able to put that into effect.  One General officer in the Theater objected… he was just fine with “blue sky…”  For the remainder of the war he was assigned as “Naval Air Attache” to Bolivia… see (Warning, book acquisition Alert) “Heinl, Soldiers Of The Sea…”

  • BSchroe

    Isn’t an MEU built around an infantry battalion ?

  • TeufelshundeUSMC

    BSchroe Yeah, infantry battalions take turns going out, then other supporting units.

  • TeufelshundeUSMC

    YankeePapa Thanks for the summary and book recs, YP!!! Awesome post.

  • TeufelshundeUSMC More MEUs can’t float without more ships.  Today if we took every floating asset we could put a max of 40k Marines on the ocean.  We have close to 200K.  More MEUs (through reorganization) would be good but that doesn’t seem to be the long pole in the tent.

  • YankeePapa
  • YankeePapa
  • TeufelshundeUSMC

    majrod I agree, the Navy & Marines have to see eye to eye here. If not enough ships can be fielded, how about more Gitmo-type installations, Rumsfeld’s lily pads?
    No more land Army for Marines, the push should be expeditionary, whether by MEUs, land-based abroad, or to augment Embassy troops, Marines should all be issued brown passports, 1st and 2nd Div, should look more like 3rd, scattered around. 

    They should be scattered around more.

  • KineticFury

    LauraKinCA TeufelshundeUSMC travisarnold1 Oct 10th 2013:
    “A group of 200 Marines from the Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Crisis Response moved earlier this week from their base in Moron, Spain, to Naval Air Station Sigonella.”

  • YankeePapa

    majrod LauraKinCA,
    “…un-refueled range of an Osprey but it’s over 400mi…
    …I noticed that the Marine Corps consented to the Israelis going to the head of the line on Osprey purchases.  “We wonders why they wants them… we does, precious… Gollum, gollum…”

  • YankeePapa majrod LauraKinCA  I did speculate in another blog that Ospreys would be a huge help in recovering downed aircrews in Iran from friendly Azerbaijan.  They would also come in handy with pulling out the detachment left in contact should the Israelis conduct an airborne assault against Fudrow.

  • YankeePapa

    majrod YankeePapa LauraKinCA,
    …So we speculated… we did… 
    Fordow, near the city of, is the site of an underground uranium enrichment facility at a former base. Existence of the then-unfinished Fordow Fuel Enrichment Plant (FFEP) was disclosed to the IAEA by Iran on 21 September 2009,
    but only after the site became known to Western intelligence services.
    Western officials strongly condemned Iran for not disclosing the site
    earlier; U.S. President said that Fordow had been under U.S. surveillance. In its initial declaration, Iran stated that the purpose of the facility was the production of UF6
    enriched up to 5% U-235, and that the facility was being built to
    contain 16 cascades, with a total of approximately 3000 centrifuges.
    Iran argues that this disclosure was consistent with its legal
    obligations under its Safeguards Agreement with the IAEA, which Iran
    claims requires Iran to declare new facilities 180 days before they
    receive nuclear material.
    However, the IAEA stated that Iran was bound by its agreement in 2003
    to declare the facility as soon as Iran decided to construct it. Later, in September 2011, Iran said it would move its production of 20% LEU to Fordow from Natanz, and enrichment started in December 2011. According to the, possible coordinates of the facility’s location are: