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  1. #1
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    U.S. rethinks a Marine Corps specialty: storming beaches

    http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-na ... ?track=rss
    By Tony Perry and Julian E. Barnes, Los Angeles Times and Tribune Washington Bureau
    During an amphibious assault exercise at Camp Pendleton, Marines appear rusty. They haven't made such a landing since the Korean War and some leaders wonder whether they will ever do it again.

    Reporting from Camp Pendleton and Washington On a stretch of clean, white Southern California beach, thousands of young Marines this month charged forward from the sea, leaping from helicopters and landing craft, echoing the exercises conducted decades before when Marines trained for Iwo Jima and Inchon.

    It was the largest and most complex amphibious exercise since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. It also could be one of the last.

    Soon after Marine recruits are given that distinctive, high-and-tight haircut, they are taught about the great amphibious assaults of the past. Those stories, a core part of the Marine identity, "are encoded in our DNA," said Lt. Col. Bruce Laughlin, operations officer for the exercise, dubbed Dawn Blitz.

    But the Marines have not stormed a hostile beach since Inchon during the Korean War. And influential military thinkers including, most notably, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates have begun to question whether the Marines will ever do it again.

    In a speech last month, Gates said rogue nations and nonstate movements such as Hezbollah now possessed sophisticated guided missiles that could destroy naval ships, forcing them to stay well away from shore and making any sort of beach landing by Marines extremely dangerous.

    Countries including China and Iran have guided missiles and other defenses to deter a beach landing, said Andrew Krepinevich, president of the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, who has written skeptically of traditional amphibious landings. Minor powers, meanwhile, could hardly resist the kind of landing the Marines practiced in Dawn Blitz, he said.

    "Where are we going to use this? Can the effect justify the rather high cost we are paying for this?" Krepinevich said.

    For more than eight years, the Marines have been fighting hundreds of miles from the sea in Iraq's Anbar and Afghanistan's Helmand provinces. They have remade themselves as experts on counter-insurgency. They have subdued and co-opted militant movements in Iraq. Now they are trying to do the same in Afghanistan.

    But in that period they have not trained on a large scale to take a beach from a hostile force, moving in darkness, using a coordinated punch of firepower from ships, aircraft and infantry "grunts" with sand and seawater on their boots.

    "A few older Marines had to dust off some old memories to snap back into it," said Maj. Howard Hall, the senior watch officer for Dawn Blitz.

    As Lt. Col. Todd Simmons, commander of the 1st Battalion, 7th Regiment, waited for his Marines to board boats for the rush ashore, he estimated that 85% had never been on a ship. Many would experience that age-old malady of troops crowded into landing craft: vomiting on their shoes as the waves bounced up and down.

    "The Marines have been doing this for more than 60 years, but it does require some practice," Simmons said.

    A few miles away, Lt. Gen. Joseph Dunford Jr., commander of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force and the Pentagon's choice to be the next assistant commandant of the Corps, looked pleased as he watched the exercise. But the lack of practice, he acknowledged, showed in the complexities of the assault.

    "What we're doing here is busting some rust," Dunford said.

    Marines argue that amphibious operations encompass much more than Iwo Jima-style landings, referring to the U.S. assault on the Japanese island during World War II. In fact, most operations from the sea involve uncontested landings, including humanitarian relief missions and disaster response, including January's earthquake in Haiti. Others call for evacuations of Americans from war zones, as the Marines did in Lebanon in 2006.

    "When visualizing amphibious operations, some people default to Iwo Jima or Inchon, and those are not the operations we are contemplating in the future," said Lt. Gen. George J. Flynn, the Marines' deputy commandant for combat development.

    Still, many officers concede that Gates has a point. The development of defensive technology means the Marines must rethink how they come ashore and avoid fortified beaches or landing zones.

    But many Marines believe the ability to conduct amphibious landings is what makes them different. Take away their unique characteristics, and you take away the Marines' reason for being.

    "There is a paranoia, bred into every Marine, that the Marine Corps will be made to look like the Army, and then in lean times something will get cut the 'extra' army," said Emerson "Emo" Gardner, a retired lieutenant general who served as a close advisor to Gates.

    Given the unwavering support for the Marines in Congress, there is little chance the service would be eliminated. Nonetheless, when Gates observed last month that the Army was becoming more like the Marines, and the Marines more like the Army, the Corps began to worry.

    Gates has said the job of the next leader of the Marines is to define the service's post-Afghanistan mission. And he has tapped Gen. James F. Amos, a Marine aviator, as the first fighter pilot to lead the service. With a broader view of what it means to be a Marine, Amos may prove less wedded to traditional views of contested amphibious assaults.

    Even if such amphibious landings are eliminated, the Marines still have a different approach to warfare. In counter-insurgency campaigns, for example, Marines often try to degrade militant groups, while the Army focuses on protecting the civilian population.

    "There is a lot of value in having an independent Marine Corps, simply because they do have a different view of land warfare than the Army," said retired Air Force Maj. Gen. Charles J. Dunlap, who writes frequently on the future of warfare.

    Some Marines do not necessarily disagree. But they also argue the reason they approach things differently is that they train to come in quickly from the sea, and do any task assigned to them.

    "Our nation has the right to expect us to go in any clime, any place and do anything," Dunford said as he watched the Camp Pendleton exercise. "We are not a one-trick pony."

  2. #2
    USMG Member squidfamily1's Avatar
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    Re: U.S. rethinks a Marine Corps specialty: storming beaches

    I can't imagine any marine's wanting to actually do an amphibious assault, Saving Private Ryan anyone. Aren't marines sent to airborne school for the most part now anyway?
    My brothers both serve in Iraq and Afganistan. I know they both have the utmost respect for marines because while they were required to sit out a lot of combat situations during the first 6 months to a year of the invasions the marines got to go in and mix it up.
    My opinion is that the Army is too bloated to actually go in and do some of the things that the marines do. Marines are pretty much like a ranger detachment with the ability to just go in and do the job without a lot of prior planning and logisitcs.
    Correct me if I'm wrong. I'm pretty interested to see what the intraservice opinion on this is.



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  3. #3
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    Re: U.S. rethinks a Marine Corps specialty: storming beaches

    Quote Originally Posted by squidfamily1
    I can't imagine any marine's wanting to actually do an amphibious assault, Saving Private Ryan anyone. Aren't marines sent to airborne school for the most part now anyway?
    My brothers both serve in Iraq and Afganistan. I know they both have the utmost respect for marines because while they were required to sit out a lot of combat situations during the first 6 months to a year of the invasions the marines got to go in and mix it up.
    My opinion is that the Army is too bloated to actually go in and do some of the things that the marines do. Marines are pretty much like a ranger detachment with the ability to just go in and do the job without a lot of prior planning and logisitcs.
    Correct me if I'm wrong. I'm pretty interested to see what the intraservice opinion on this is.
    The Marines Expeditionary units are, and will most likely continue to be the U.S. "Storm Troops". As for the beach assaults, They have APCs they can drive all the way up the beach, so today its nothing like WWII, Korea, or Vietnam. It would be foolish to do away with the training and years of experience that the Marine Corps has built up over the years in beach assaults, you never know what you will need. Like how the Army setup and disbanded Sniper school every conflict since Vietnam, and had to scramble to set one up every conflict dating back to Spanish American War. Only since Vietnam there has been a set school.

    Yes, There are Marine units that are Airborn Qualified. I think DB or Max can give you more details on this. I just remember couple Marines in my class at Airborn school.
    "Necessity is the plea of every infringement of human freedom. It is the argument of tyrants, it is the creed of slaves"

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  4. #4
    USMG Member squidfamily1's Avatar
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    Re: U.S. rethinks a Marine Corps specialty: storming beaches

    I hear ya sav, but the guy in the article says it's more for humanitarian missions. seems an awful lot of training expense for that. obviously they'll get to the action either way but even in an armored apc they'll get lit up in any country we attack outside of Jamaica or the lesser antilles. I imagine china, north Korea, or Iran would have sufficient beach implacements to make an alternative attack a priority



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  5. #5
    Silent but Deadly....
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    Re: U.S. rethinks a Marine Corps specialty: storming beaches

    All Recon and MEF units are for the most part Airborne qualified...
    http://forums.usmilitarygamers.com/attachment.php?attachmentid=3616&d=1341691069

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