Friday, June 4, 2010

The Marine Corps in the 25th Century

Military historians and buffs alike are aware of Secretary of the Navy James Forrestal's dramatic statement that "...the raising of that flag on Suribachi means a Marine Corps for the next 500 years." As most Americans do I admire and respect the United States Marine Corps. However, sixty-five years later the 21st century has over taken the Corps and it is time to admit a major overhaul is in order.

The first reality that must be confronted is the Marines are caught between no longer having a true amphibious assault mission and the dilemma of staying relevant in land locked waste lands like Afghanistan. Further, the Marines have helped make my argument by complaining that they have been misused in the Global War on Terror as Army infantry units. Army infantry units is what the military needs in this war; highly trained and effective infantry units. The Marines fit the bill.

The trouble has always been its hybrid nature: not quite heavy units capable of sustained operation, but not easy to deploy light infantry either. Of course the capability to deploy in amphibious operations in coordination with the Navy is almost unique. The U.S. Army carried out the largest amphibious landing in history when it invaded Normandy France in 1944.

I am not calling for an end to the Marine Corps but a reorganization that would detach it from the Navy and attach it to the Army. Currently the Corps is about 178,000 strong with a fairly small percentage serving in infantry units. My proposal calls for transforming the corps into an even leaner fighting force along the lines of the 82nd Airborne and 101st Air Assault Divisions.

There would be less pressure to misuse and over use this small, highly effective force that could refocus it resources away from conventional amphibious operations to airborne and air assault. This change would free up billions of dollars currently being spent on hover craft, amphibious assault ships and amphibious personnel carriers. This transformation would not kill the Corps but make it relevant - perhaps even into the 25th century.

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