Marine Air-Ground Task Force (MAGTF)

In April 1983, the Commandant of the Marine Corps approved the original permanent Marine Air-Ground Task Force (MAGTF) Headquarters concept, providing for the sourcing of two Marine Amphibious Unit (MAU) headquarters from each Marine Amphibious Brigade headquarters. The Commandant directed the establishment of two additional MAU headquarters in November 1985.

Marine formations deploy as integrated Marine Air-Ground Task Forces (MAGTFs) of various sizes: Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) commanded by a colonel, Marine Expeditionary Brigade (MEB) commanded by a brigadier or major general, and Marine Expeditionary Force (MEF) commanded by a lieutenant general. Each has a Command Element (CE), a Ground Combat Element (GCE), an Aviation Combat Element (ACE), and Combat Service Support Element (CSSE).

Command Element (CE) The commander of a MAGTF is designated by appropriate authority, normally from outside the major subordinate elements of the MAGTF. In an amphibious operation, if a MAGTF is embarked, the MAGTF commander serves concurrently as the Commander of the Landing Force (CLF). The MAGTF commander is provided with an integrated staff and requisite communications to enable him to exercise command and control of MAGTF operations. The establishment of a single command element over the ground, aviation, and combat service support elements provides the command, control, coordination, computer, intelligence, and interoperability capability essential for effective planning and execution of operations.

The MAGTF commander directs the combat actions of his force. This preeminent function is inherent in his assigned authority and responsibilities. For a MAGTF to be effective, the elements of the MAGTF must work together toward common goals. To facilitate this, the MAGTF commander establishes objectives for planning and conducting operations. His mission analysis, intent and directions to subordinate commanders provide the framework so unity of effort can be achieved.

In an amphibious operation with an embarked MAGTF, the MAGTF CE concurrently serves as the Commander Landing Force (CLF) staff. This arrangement enhances the direct relationship between the Commander Amphibious Task Force (CATF) and the CLF. The CLF exploits the capabilities of his MSE commanders in accomplishing the detailed planning required for the amphibious operation. To this end, he normally assigns them appropriate portions of the landing force plan for their preparation. He may also temporarily use them to augment the landing force staff, particularly for tasks concerned with landing force control agencies.

The forward afloat MAGTF commander retains coequal command status with the Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) commander until the publication of an initiating directive by the common senior of these forces, directing the conduct of a specific amphibious operation/exercise and specifying the ARG commander as Commander, Amphibious Task Force (CATF). Such authority ceases upon termination of the operation/exercise under the conditions specified in the initiating directive.

The major organizational limitation of the CE of a MAGTF smaller than a MEF is that it may not be a permanent entity. Commanders minimize the adverse effects of this limitation by such measures as the assignment of key personnel on an additional duty basis, compilation of files and standing operating procedures, periodic activation of the staff for planning or command post exercises, and the designation, exercise, and frequent inspection of command element equipment.

Ground Combat Element (GCE) The GCE is a task organization tailored for the conduct of ground operations. It is constructed around an infantry unit, varying in size from a rifle platoon to a reinforced Marine division or divisions, and includes its organic combat support and combat service support units. Normally, there is only one major maneuver element in the GCE of a MAGTF. When exceptional circumstances require more than one GCE, they will normally be assigned their own missions and sectors of responsibility. Under this condition, the CE will play an expanded role in fire support coordination and must be organized to accomplish this increased span of control and attendant command and coordination requirements.

Aviation Combat Element (ACE) There is only one ACE in a MAGTF, although in certain circumstances basing of the ACE at diverse locations may be required. This element is a task organization tailored for the conduct of tactical air operations. As the ACE is a task organization, it is not always necessary to include all six functions of Marine aviation. Only those functions required or reasonably anticipated to be needed to accomplish the MAGTF mission should be included. The ACE normally includes those aviation command (including air control agencies), combat, combat support, and combat service support units required for conduct of the mission. These capabilities are provided from the various aviation resources of a Marine aircraft wing and appropriate FMF units. Both rotary-wing and fixed-wing aviation capabilities can be included in the ACE of all three basic MAGTF's. Normally, only rotary-wing aviation capabilities will be included in the ACE of a SPMAGTF; however, in some situations, Vertical Short Take Off and Landing (VSTOL) attack aircraft may be included.

Combat Service Support Element (CSSE) The CSSE is task-organized to provide those functions not within the organic capability of the other elements of the MAGTF. The CSSE does not provide redundant capabilities, but is designed to support the continued readiness and sustainability of the MAGTF as a whole. It has the ability to sustain the force for a prescribed period of time for most classes of supply, depending on the size of the MAGTF. The Force Service Support Group (FSSG) task organizes the CSSE based on the mission statement of the MAGTF. Unless the entire MEF deploys, the FSSG builds detachments from its organic battalions to source the requisite CSSE.

MAGTF Operations are built upon a foundation of six special core competencies. The direct result of more than two centuriess of expeditionary experience, these six core competencies define what Marines do and how they operate.

The first core competency, expeditionary readiness, defines an institutional mindset that is ready to respond instantaneously to world-wide crises, 365 days a year. To Marines, "ready to respond" means much more than being "ready to go." First, it means being ever ready to win our nation's first battles. This requires a force that can transition from peacetime to combat operations at a moment's notice, without critical reserve augmentation, and with certain success. Second, it demands a force ready to flourish under conditions of uncertainty. Expeditionary readiness is about being ready to adapt to whatever is "out there," improvising and finding unconventional solutions to unconventional problems. As a result, it demands a primary focus on the human rather than technological dimension of battle. And third, it means being ever ready to defeat the "opponent after next" -- requiring a relentless commitment to innovation and change.

The next core competency is combined arms operations. As specifically demanded by Congress, the nation's naval crisis response force must be capable of acting on short notice and without immeditate support from Army and Air Force warfighting forces. In other words, such a force in readiness requires an organic, combined arms capability. For over half a century, MAGTFs have trained so that their ground combat, air combat, and combat service support capabilities are directed by a single commander. Other services practice combined arms operations -- MAGTF operations embody them.

Expeditionary operations are much more than military expeditions on foreign soil. Like expeditionary readiness, expeditionary operations require a special mindset -- one that is constantly prepared for immediate deployment overseas into austere operating environments. As a result, expeditionary operations consider host nation support a luxury, and are designed to bring everything necessary to accomplish the mission -- from individual equipment up to and including airfields and hospitals.

The Marine Corps' naval character is an indispensable attribute for a force in readiness, and forms the basis for its fourth core competency, sea-based operations. Sea-based operations provide for extraordinary strategic reach, and give the nation an enduring means influence and shape the evolving international environment. In addition, sea-based operations provide units with a large measure of inherent force protection. A highly ready, combined arms MAGTF, operating from a mobile, protected sea base, provides the NCA with unimpeded and politically unencumbered access to potential trouble spots around the world.

The Marines are perhaps best known for their fifth core competency, forcible entry -- from the sea. A key requirement for unilateral action is the ability to project power ashore in a theater without forward bases, and in the face of armed opposition. In the past, forcible entry from the sea was defined by amphibious assaults, focused on establishing lodgments on the beach and then building up combat power for subsequent operations. It is now defined as an uninterrupted movement of forces from ships located far over the horizon directly against decisive objectives.

Although a force in readiness cannot afford to pause to call up its reserves in order to respond to an emerging crisis, MAGTF operations still demand a sixth core competency, reserve integration. Marine Reserves routinely practice carefully crafted reserve integration plans to augment or reinforce crisis response missions, and to add combat power for operations, especially at the high end of the conflict spectrum. For example, during Operation Desert Storm, 53% of the Selected Marine Corps Reserve end strength was activated, surpassing any other service reserve component activation by more than a factor of two. This degree of integration provides the Marine Corps with unprecedented mission depth, operational flexibility, and sustainability up and down the conflict spectrum.

Landing Force Organization for Embarkation

The Landing Force [LF] organization for embarkation is composed of embarkation groups, embarkation units, embarkation elements, and embarkation teams. Formation of the various embarkation echelons depends on the degree of decentralization of command and control (C2) essential to the successful accomplishment of the embarkation phase. The embarkation group and embarkation teams are always formed because these organizations represent the essential ingredients for embarkation. The group is the major LF organization and the team is the smallest subordinate organization capable of planning and executing embarkation. The embarkation unit is usually formed to bridge the gap between the group and team organizations. The embarkation element is organized only when a complex situation requires additional organizations for control in planning and execution of embarkation.

The embarkation team is the basic organization for embarkation. It consists of the personnel, supplies, and equipment embarked in a single ship. An embarkation team may be comprised solely of, or be a grouping of, ground combat, combat support, combat service support, or aviation units. The single ship is the embarkation team's parallel naval echelon

The embarkation element (when formed) is the next higher organization above the embarkation team level. The embarkation element consists of two or more embarkation teams grouped to conform to the organization for landing. It may be necessary to form embarkation elements composed of organizations with special missions in support of the main assault. A transport element is the parallel naval organization. The embarkation unit is the next higher organization above the embarkation element level. It consists of two or more embarkation elements (when formed) or two or more embarkation teams (when elements are not formed). The number of embarkation units formed will vary, depending primarily on the LF organization for landing, and geographical locations of both the embarkation areas and of the embarking units. It may be necessary to form embarkation units composed of embarking units performing special missions (e.g., advance force operations) in support of the main assault. A transport unit is the parallel naval organization.

The embarkation group has as its nucleus a major subdivision of the task organization of the LF, such as division, regiment, or other comparable LF organization. It is composed of two or more embarkation units (when formed), a combination of units and elements (when required), or two or more embarkation teams if elements and units are not formed. A naval transport group is the parallel naval organization.

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