Marine Corps Seeks Correct 21st Century Balance

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 16, 2010 - The Marine Corps needs to be like a middleweight boxer –- agile, quick and deadly, the commander of Marine Corps Combat Development Command said here today.

Speaking to the Defense Writers' Group, Lt. Gen. George J. Flynn noted that the Marine Corps has the mission to be America's expeditionary force in readiness.

"A middleweight fighter has to have a knockout punch," the general said. "But I also don't think a middleweight should go 15 rounds with a heavyweight."

Finding the right balance to define what the Corps should look like and what capabilities it should contain is Flynn's mission. "It means that we are going to be truly expeditionary -- that we can go wherever we need to go today, not tomorrow, and that we put a premium on readiness," he said.

"A crisis response force does all the things you see the Marine Corps do right now," he told the group, from fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan to providing aid to Pakistan, to helping countries in Africa, South America and Asia. The Marine Corps is taking the lessons of 10 years of war to heart, he added.

"One of the top lessons is that we're doing things at a much lower level than we ever did in the past," Flynn said.

Marine Corps companies are doing what battalions did in the past, he explained. The strategy calls for pushing intelligence and operations planning to company level.

"We're asking a lot of the young leaders to do this," he said. "Tactical actions have strategic implications, and that really is a key factor in pushing those things down there and asking them to coordinate these in a very complex battle space."

Strategists talk about a three-block war, and the Marines have embraced that notion, Flynn said. "It is not uncommon to have a unit doing pretty heavy combat, at the same time they train their replacements -– be it police or army support -– and the other part is enabling governance to take place," Flynn said.

Another lesson is integrating new technology into battle plans and integrating lessons on the fly. Pre-deployment training is an area of concentration for Marines, Flynn said. The training, he said, enables Marines at all levels to understand the mission ahead.

"We use the pre-deployment training to integrate the new things that are on the battlefield – not just equipment, but the tactics, techniques and procedures as well," Flynn said.

For example, he said, the Marine Corps just opened the expanded immersive infantry trainer at Camp Pendleton, Calif., and is building similar facilities at Camp Lejeune, N.C., and in Hawaii. The trainer gives ground Marines the same leg up that pilots receive, Flynn said.

"For those who fly airplanes, you would never think of giving a pilot the keys to a commercial airliner or a fighter aircraft without some simulator time," he said. "Why would we give a young squad leader the keys to a rifle squad without going through a simulator? The simulator gives you the pre-combat check ride to make sure you can deal with what you're going to have to deal with."

The Marines have been criticized as functioning simply as a second land army, but Flynn said he doesn't agree.

"I would argue that since 9/11, we've been at sea quite a bit as well," he said. A Marine expeditionary unit based on ships responded to the earthquake in Haiti in January, he noted. Another responded from the sea to the flooding in Pakistan. Still another responded to Haiti as a hurricane struck the island nation earlier this month, Flynn said.

Integrating new equipment into the Corps also is part of Flynn's mission, and he is looking at new ground combat vehicles, the F-35 joint strike fighter and many other pieces of equipment, he said. He acknowledged, however, that such programs can present fiscal pitfalls. "How do programs get in trouble? We over-reach on technology, and as a result we underestimate the cost and we underestimate the time to be able to do it," he said.

To remedy that, the general said, the military needs a better dialogue with industry from the beginning of the process.

"We need to be more informed of what we're asking and to be able to really know the cost of what we're asking them to do," he said.
Brophy Sunday 02 January 2011 - 10:16 am | | Kearsarge Marines

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