The Marine Corps Times has reported recently that a new unit is being put together in 2021. It will be in line with the ideas that the current Commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. David Berger, plans for the future of the Marine Corps, ideas that will make the Corps more able to fight the dispersed kinds of war that will most likely take place in the enemy’s coastal waters, or littorals.
According to the current plan, the first three Marine littoral regiments will be stood up in the present III Marine Expeditionary Force, which is headquartered in Okinawa, Japan. Then there will be a three-year-long experiment incorporating and testing the war-fighting capabilities that these new littoral regiments might be called on to make use of, along with the U.S. Navy’s new littoral combat ships.
As of now, the plan is to turn the 3rd Marine Regiment in Kaneohe Bay in Hawaii into an experimental 3rd Marine Littoral Regiment and begin working out the details and training necessary with this new regiment and the general philosophy behind these new concepts. It is certain that like with anything new, there will be a lot of new concepts, equipment, planning, and kinks to work out in the experimental stages.
One thing is for certain; the relationship between the Navy and the Marine Corps will become even more tightly woven together with these new ideas. My last article was about the Navy’s new class of Littoral Combat ships, which are specifically designed to work close into shore and, among other ideas, to insert small to regimental size Marine Corps units ashore from the littoral zones and to then support them from both sea and air with shipboard weapons systems and helicopter supply and air support. There are other ideas in the hopper too that will be mentioned below.
All of this is being undertaken to move the Marine Corps from its more traditional forms of fighting to adapt to the new kinds of warfighting that will be necessary in the wars that the future might bring. Again, according to the Marine Corps Times, these major changes seem to be coming to meet the commandant’s new plans. This is just one of the new design ideas for reshaping the Corps’s mission for the future.
These new Marine expeditionary units will take on new kinds of missions. For example some might be trained to work in small teams to take out ships in contested areas. Maj. Gen. Mark Wise, deputy commanding general of Marine Corps Combat Development Command (MCCDC) says, “It’s looking at creating [the] Marine Littoral Regiment and how that’s going to resource and help make (Expeditionary Advanced Base Operations) successful.”
“The concept is still in its infancy and critical aspects are still being fleshed out on how it will be staffed, organized, used, etc,” according to Capt. Sam Stephenson, a spokesman for the MCCDC. In October of 2019, Brig. Gen. Benjamin Watson indicated that the Corps was “no longer going to stick or take an uncompromising position on the sanctity of the Marine Air-Ground Task Force (MAGTF). If what is needed is a piece of the Marine Corps that is not organized like a MAGTF, then we are not too proud to provide that.”
Commandant Berger has said that the Corps will need to cut and shift priorities for the next fight. “We may need to get smaller, trade some parts we’ve had for a long time but are not a good fit for the future.” All efforts are leaning toward fighting to take control of the seas and to deny operations from the sea in littoral areas.
The commandant wants to see more low cost, lethal air and ground unmanned platforms, and unmanned long-range surface and subsurface vehicles, rapidly deployable mobile rocket systems, and a number of other high tech warfighting assets. These new Marine Littoral Regiments seem to be the units that will be designed to use these kinds of assets. This will, indeed, be a new kind of Marine unit.
While it seems that the Marine Corps is looking at some major changes for the future, it is clear that the lean, mean fighting machine of the past is still going to be the heart and the soul of the United States Marine Corps. They are still going to be the first to fight and they will still be riflemen one and all. They are just going to have some extra “stuff” to bring to the next fight. They will still bring the Semper Fidelis esprit de corps to all that they do. Oorah!”