Global Marines

     The value of forward-deployed Marine infantry battalions is well known.  The Marine Corps rotates six-month deployments among its 24 infantry battalions to maintain one aboard ships in the Indian Ocean, one on ships in the Atlantic/Mediterranean region, and four on the island of Okinawa, Japan.  However, the deployment of 4 of 6 battalions to Okinawa is a poor distribution of Marine reaction forces.  The Marine Corps must adjust by diverting one battalion from Okinawa to "every clime and place" around the globe.  

      Since the end of the Vietnam conflict, the only regional intervention by Okinawa-based Marines was to enhance embassy and base security in the Philippines.  Meanwhile, Marine task forces were sent eastward to intervene in Lebanon, Grenada, Panama, Saudi Arabia, Liberia, Somalia, Haiti, Cuba, Bosnia, Sierra Leone, Albania, Macedonia and Kosovo.  As a result, Marine units sent to Okinawa have been called "backward-deployed", since most crises occur closer to their home bases in the USA than near Okinawa.  

     In addition to contingencies, new demands require Marines as security forces. Unfortunately, the worldwide availability of Marine security forces has declined as the Corps pulled its detachments off aircraft carriers and removed several Marine security detachments from overseas naval installations. The Corpsí two "FAST" security companies maintain three platoons overseas through rotations while fulfilling regular duties of guarding the transport of nuclear weapons.  However, this provides only 150 mobile Marines to protect against terrorists overseas.  As a result, in 1997 Marines on naval security duty in Italy and Greece were hastily gathered to protect the U.S. embassy in Albania. 

      A temporary solution has been to task infantry battalions returning from deployment. These ad hoc arrangements gut battalions and drives personnel tempo well above 50 percent.  The Marine Corps must adapt to these new demands by routinely deploying an infantry battalion for security missions worldwide. A Marine infantry battalion designated for a worldwide Marine Security (MarSec) deployment would conduct normal battalion-level pre-deployment training.  Approximately 90 days prior to deployment, officers from Marine Forces Atlantic would ask the Southern, European, and Central Commands if they need Marines.  Recent history and current events will ensure a resounding YES! from around the globe. The Southern Command would request a rifle company for the annual 5-month UNITAS deployment to South America.  The situation in Columbia and the need to provide security companies at our naval base in Cuba would be addressed.  Navy ships on drug patrol in the Caribbean are short of personnel and would like to embark Marines to serve as boarding parties.

       The European command may request a few dozen Marines to bolster security at U.S. embassies in turbulent Africa.  Deployed Marine task forces are are often committed ashore, leaving our Navy incapable of performing evacuations elsewhere.  Therefore, a deploying aircraft carrier may embark Marines as a landing party, or to enhance port security.  Marines could also bolster security at embassies in the Balkans, and provide greater protection against terrorist attacks at US Air Force bases in Turkey.

Click to view full-size JPEG photo       The Central command may want Marines to enhance security at US naval facilities in Kuwait and Bahrain.  The 5th Fleet would like a few dozen Marines as boarding parties for undermanned ships enforcing the naval blockade in the Persian Gulf.  Finally, the Air Force lacks enough security personnel to protect its units deployed in Saudi Arabia.  The former commander of the Central Command, Marine General Anthony Zinni, failed to get his own Marine Corps to assist in security missions.

     The demand for Marines is so great that the Pentagon would have to set priorities.  Sixty days prior to departure, the battalion would split into security companies, platoons, or even squads, and begin specialized training for their designated mission.  These Marines would not be committed to a certain mission during their six-month overseas deployment.  They may be shifted to trouble spots in the same manner as Navy ships.  If a major conflict arises, the entire battalion could reassemble and link up with a forward-deployed Maritime Pre-positioned Ship for vehicles and supplies.

     Even if the world becomes entirely docile, MarSec Marines could deploy and train as regional reaction companies at U.S. naval bases in Puerto Rico, England, Spain, Italy, Greece or Bahrain.  In addition, British, Dutch, and Italian Marines would be happy to host a company of U.S. Marines for a few months.  Security companies could also link up and train with the Marine battalion deployed aboard amphibious ships in their region. Providing one infantry battalion for security missions will reduce the number of Marine infantry battalions deployed to Okinawa from four to three.  However, reducing the number of Marines on Okinawa from 17,000 to 16,000 will have no effect on the regional balance of power.  In fact, it will help secure our valuable alliance with the Japanese by complying with demands for a force reduction on Okinawa. 

     Devoting a battalion of Marines to MarSec missions around the globe will provide greater protection for Americans abroad as the number of deployed Marine security platoons could increase from three to twenty.  Marines will learn more and enjoy the variety of real world missions.  These Marine task forces will be "first to fight" since they will already be "in every clime and place" when the fighting begins.

                                                             Carlton Meyer


Publication Politics

      This article was accepted for publication by the prestigious US Naval Institute Proceedings (the US Navy's official professional journal with over 100,000 subscribers) in July of 2000.  The publication date was not yet  determined.  Proceedings had published four of my articles in the past, but they are extremely careful about rocking boats.  However, I felt this was a short, simple, modest proposal which they may publish to offset recent criticism that they have become public propaganda rags for the Sea Services, like the Navy League's "Seapower".  After the USS Cole was attacked in November of 2000, I sent the editor an e-mail reminding him of this article since it addressed anti-terrorism.  He promised to take a look again, but nothing happened.  The day after the September 11, 2001 attacks, our military promised big changes to focus on anti-terrorism, so I sent another e-mail.  Proceedings focuses on the Marine Corps in each November issue, so the timing was ideal since most print magazine must finalize everything a month in advance.

    This time an assistant editor sent a note a few days later that "Global Marines" was approved for the November issue.  Meanwhile the Marine Corps joined most other federal agencies to exploit the 9-11 tragedy to pad their budgets.  The Corps announced it would form an "anti-terrorist" brigade, the 4th MEB, basically just another headquarters to command the Corps security forces.  A third 500-man FAST company would be formed, allowing the Corps to keep four FAST platoons overseas through unit rotations.  The Corps announced that it needed 2000 more active duty Marines for this new anti-terrorist force: 500 for the FAST company and 1500 for unexplained  reasons.  According to the Marine Times, most Marines were skeptical of this "knee-jerk" reorganization, but the Marine Commandant got the new Secretary of the Navy to approve the idea anyway, while the Corps Generals bragged about their first manpower increase since the end of the Cold war.

      As a result, I knew my article was in trouble.  After a politically incorrect article was published a few years ago, the Navy and Marine Corps pressured the "independent" editors of Proceedings to grant them a pre-publication review to "prevent embarrassments."  Obviously, my article would prove embarrassing since it proposed increasing the number of deployed Marine anti-terrorist platoons from 3 to 20.  The Commandant's new 4th MEB plan would only increase platoons from 3 to 4, and required 2000 more full-time Marines.  Nevertheless, I got another e-mail saying "Global Marines" was set for publication, so I felt bad about having such cynical thoughts about the Proceedings editor and the Commandant of the Marine Corps.  Apparently, they were willing to allow a superior idea to appear in a magazine which describes itself as "an open forum for the Sea Services". 

      My November issue of Proceedings arrived three weeks later, and "Global Marines" was missing.  I didn't bother to inquire why.  Meanwhile, taxpayers must pay for 2000 more full-time Marines while 17,000 Marines catch rays on Okinawa where they are not wanted nor needed.

                                                              Carlton Meyer