Reconnaissance and Special Operations: The Key to Maneuver Warfare
AUTHOR Major Thomas W. Parker,USMC
SUBJECT AREA Intelligence
TITLE: Reconnaissance and Special Operations: The Key to
I. Purpose: To propose that if the Marine Corps intends to fully
embrace the doctrine of maneuver warfare, the MAGTF Commander re-
quires enhanced ground reconnaissance forces capable of a wide va-
riety of special operations.
II. Problem: Although the Marine Corps has embarked upon an effort
to incorporate the doctrine of maneuver warfare, the use of recon-
naissance and special operations forces to act as a combat multi-
plier and complement maneuver is little recognized.
III. Data: The basic structure and means of employment of ground
reconnaissance and special operations forces is fundamentally
flawed. Doctrine as stated in FMFM 2-2 does not address the MAGTF,
nor does it speak to the reality of the mobile battlefield. Doctrine
is based on close, distant, and deep reconnaissance, while a more
functional way of looking at it is simply tactical, the responsi-
bility of the Ground Combat Element, and operational, the respon-
sibility of the MAGTF. Additionally, the problem of mobility for
our tactical reconnaissance units is a real one that can largely
be remedied by integrating the Light Armor Vehicle Battalion into
the Reconnaissance Battalion. At the operational level, a unified
structure embracing the missions of deep reconnaissance, signals
reconnaissance, surgical raids, sabotage, and amphibious recon-
naissance is required. The primary goal should be to enhance
unity of effort, mobility and employment doctrine.
IV. Conclusions: The concept of tactical and operational recon-
naissance, linked to a revitalized structure at both levels, gives
the MAGTF Commander and his GCE the proper tools with which to
influence the battlefield. Maneuver warfare is now Marine Corps
doctrine and will require mobile reconnaissance forces and deep
striking special operations forces to acheive maximum results.
V. Recommendations: The case for reform is a strong one. FMFM 2-2
must be revised along with structure and missions. Unity of effort,
enhanced mobility, and a combined arms approach to reconnaissance
and special operations is the key to providing the MAGTF Commander
with a responsive warfighting capability.
RECONNAISSANCE AND SPECIAL OPERATIONS:
THE KEY TO MANUEVER WARFARE
Thesis Statement: As the Marine Corps coves to fully embrace the
doctrine of maneuver warfare, the MAGTF Commander requires enhanced
ground reconnaissance forces capable of a wide variety of special
A. Historical use of special forces
B. Clausewitz and use of suprise
C. Definition of special operations
II. Historical Background
A. Tentative Manual for Landing Operations (1935)
B. World War II use of Raider and Parachute Battalions
C. Marine reconnaissance and special operations units
D. Deficiencies of Marine units
III. Forging the Link with Maneuver
A. Operational level
B. Use of information at tactical level
(1) Deterinine weaknesses
(2) Acheive suprise
C. FMFM 2-2 concept of reconnaissance employment
D. Operational reconnaissance and tactical reconnaissance
IV. Structural Change
A. Responsibilities of GCE and MAGTF Commander
B. Mobility, employment, and unity of effort
C. "Warfighting" Reconnaissance Battalion
D. Operational Warfare Group
V. A Proposal
A. Mission and structure of Reconnaissance Battalion
B. Mission and structure of Operational Warfare Group
A. Case for doctrinal reform
B. Combined arms concept of employment
"During the 15th century BC on an unnamed day between the years
1475 and 1449, the Egyptian King Thutmosis III decided to attack the
port of Jaffa. He entrusted the operation to a Captain Thute . . .
Thute had a fine sense of the economics of warfare. The perfect
operation . . . was one in which the gains were out of all proportion
to the numbers of men and material used . . . Instead of pitting his
men against the port's substantial defenses, he decided to take it
from within . . . He selected 200 crack troops . . . baled (them) in
flour sack(s) (while) others disguised as laborers, carried them from
the docks to a point well within the walls. The parcelled warriors. .
.cut themselves loose and took the garrison by suprise. Jaffa fell at
a moderate cost. Captain Thute can be fairly described as the world's
first commando officer."1
The utility of specially selected, trained, and organized forces
to acheive tactical, and even strategic advantages has been known at
least since the time of Thutmosis. These forces, when properly
employed, have the capability to perform as combat multipliers by
acheiving suprise, exercising economy of force, outmaneuvering the
enemy, attacking his most vital facilities, and destroying or
capturing areas critical to his operations.
If we examine recent history, the exploits of the British Special
Air Service (SAS) in the Falklands Campaign demonstrate the utility of
such forces. There the SAS was employed in such a way as to acheive
decisive results with minimum force, not only disrupting future enemy
plans but, as well, the physical ability to carry them through.
SAS elements were able to land on South Georgia Island under
cover of darkness and bad weather and within three hours seize the
Argentine garrison, capturing its defenders without bloodshed,
effectively isolating the island for the remainder of the campaign.2
In a subsequent action eight SAS men were placed ashore on Pebble
Island, destroyed eleven Argentine aircraft, withdrawing undetected,
without the loss of a single man.3 A major threat to the landing force
and the fleet was thus eliminated. The Argentines were left at a grave
psychological disadvantage which obliged them to devote greater
resources to the threat, real and imagined, of sabotage and
Clausewitz has described suprise as a means of placing the enemy
at a disadvantage, both physically and psychologically. Although he
believed that most intelligence was false, the value of reconnaissance
for an army was as its ". . . vanguard . . . its strategic eyes,
sending out individual detachments, spies and so forth."4 He further
saw the necessity for advance guards and outposts ". . . to detect and
reconnoiter the enemy's approach before he comes into view."5
Likewise, poor intelligence increases chance and since "War is the
realm of chance", the problem compounds itself through "friction", in
turn increasing the level of chance.6 The true value of information
concerning the enemy, according to Clausewitz, is that it "magnifies
strength".7 It further effects the ability of the commander to gain
suprise. The means of gaining superiority, therefore, is suprise and
information concerning the enemy is the crucial link.8 The gaining of
suprise is by its nature a failure of intelligence on the part of the
Since Clausewitz's era the battlefield has become more dispersed,
radio and satellite communications have been invented, but the need
for accurate, timely information has increased. The days of
blackpowder weapons are gone, when enemies faced each other at close
range due to the ineffectiveness of their weapons. The ranges at which
forces may engage each other today give an even greater advantage to
that commander who has detailed, accurate, and timely information
concerning the enemy. On it he bases his decision of when to do
battle, where to place the focus of his main effort, and what future
operations he may envision.
B.H. Liddell Hart's "Man in a Dark Room" analogy is a simple
demonstration of the need to first find the enemy. Two men, he tells
us, are placed in a darkened room with the object of each being to
subdue the other. The intial task is to find the opponent. Nothing can
replace the initial step: FIND THE ENEMY.10
Reconnaissance and special operations can be seen, then, to be
interrelated. They should remain inseparable in the commander's mind.
At times each can be seen as extensions of the other.
JCS Pub 1 defines reconnaissance as "A mission undertaken to
obtain by visual observation or other detection methods, information
about the activities of an enemy . . ." Special operations are further
described as "Operations conducted by specially trained, equipped and
organized (forces) against tactical or strategic targets . . . They may
support conventional operations . . . "
Edward Luttwak, the noted strategist, has given his own
definition, expanding and complementing the JCS characterization, to
give cognizance to their special quality by stating theat special
operations are ". . . self contained acts of war mounted by self
sufficient forces operating within hostile territory . . . (they) are
not bust ordinary operations writ small, they are qualitatively
different." Luttwak goes on to place deep reconnaissance, sabotage,
and raids under the rubric of special operations.11
Special operations in today's military, including the Marine
Corps, are most often linked, by thought and doctrine, to Low
Intensity Conflict, hostage rescue and antiterrorist activities.
KAlthough it is, of course, possible to envision the use of force in
this manner, we cannot look at the use of special operations forces so
narrowly. One study by the Rand Corporation has documented their low
success rate (33%) when used in this fashion.12 Special operations and
reconnaissance must be examined as another part of the "combined arms"
team in their support of Marine Air Ground Task Force (MAGTF)
As the Marine Corps moves to fully embrace the doctrine of
manuever warfare, the MAGTF Commander requires enhanced ground
reconnaissance forces capable of a wide variety of special operations.
II. HISTORICAL BACKGROUND
The "Tentative Manual for Landing Operations", published by the
Marine Corps in 1935 states that "Raiding forces . . . may be employed
. . . when the operations of other agencies fail to secure essential
Marine Corps special operations forces, U.S. Marine Raiders, were
born at the outset of World War II. Then Commandant of the Marine
Corps, General Thomas Holcomb, wrote to Lieutenant General H.M. Smith
in 1942: "We must prepare ourselves particularly for one of our most
important missions, viz.;the execution of amphibious raids . . . in
view of the situation now facing us, it is imperative that we
intensify this type of training."13
Soon followed the creation of two raider units with the mission
of spearheading amphibious landings by larger forces, conducting raids
requiring speed and suprise, and conducting guerilla operations,
including sabotage behind enemy lines.14
In the summer of 1940 another special unit had been envisioned by
Headquarters Marine Corps planners. Marine parachute units were the
result, created with three basic missions: "As a reconnoitering and
raiding force with a limited ability to return to its parent
organization; as a spearhead or advance guard, to seize and hold
strategic installations or terrain features until arrival of larger
forces; as an independent force operating for extended periods,
presumably in a guerilla role in hostile territory."15
The goal of both raider and parachute units was to provide the
Landing Force Commander with an independent unit capable of performing
special operations, including raids, reconnaissance, and sabotage,
without the requirement to use organic infantry from the landing
force. As well, these units were given the specialized training to
carry out their missions. The Annual Fleet Exercises of the late
1930's had pointed to the need for reconnaissance and raiding parties,
landed by rubber boat from high speed transports.16
The raider and parachute units did not survive World War II as
Fleet Marine Force organizations. Three factors mitigated against
them. One, the nature of the island campaigns made harassment,
distraction, and deep reconnaissance superflous. Two, the belief held
by many senior Marines that any well trained infantry unit was capable
of carrying out the raider/parachute missions. Finally, the feeling
was widely held within the Marine Corps that these units represented
an "elite within an elite" and thereby drained vital resources from
The need for reconnaissance and other special operations has, of
course, been recognized by the Marine Corps since World War II. The
Reconnaissance Battalion is a lineal descendant of the Amphibious
Reconnaissance Company and the Force Reconnaissance Company came into
being thirty years ago as a specialized deep reconnaissance
capability. The emphasis given these units waxes and wanes over the
years. The proliferation of various "technical" means of information
collection, including sensors, remotely piloted vehicles, and signal
acquisition, have resulted in a series of new organizations or
appendages to existing organizations.
A review of these organizations is necessary at this point to
determine the current status of forces and missions. They are as shown
(1) Reconnaissance Battalion: The primary mission of the
Reconnaissance Battalion is the conduct of ground reconnaissance and
surveillance. The battalion emphasizes directed reconnaissance vice
passive surveillance. Extensive use of helicopters is envisioned to
provide mobility. Only a limited capability to perform amphibious
reconnaissance is resident in the battalion.
(2) Force Reconnaissance Company: Conduct preassault and deep
post-assault reconnaissancein support of the landing force. The Force
Reconnaissance Company is employed to collect information of
significance to the commander and when necessary, to provide initial
terminal guidance for assault helicopters.
(3) Radio Battalion: Conducts direction finding, electronic
countermeasures, all signals intelligence collection, and electronic
(4) Light Armor Vehicle Battalion: Locate, close with and destroy
enemy forces by fire and manuever, exploiting high mobility, agility,
and firepower, and conduct reconnaissance, security and economy of
(5) Sensor Control and Management Platoon: Controls, manages and
monitors ground sensors and intrusion devices.
(6) Remotely Piloted Vehicle Platoon: Conducts surveillance,
observation, radio relay, and target acquisition missions utilizing
the remotely piloted vehicle.
The assets listed above may be called upon by the MAGTF Commander
to fulfill his reconnaissance and special operations needs. The
question, however, must be asked: Does the present configuration,
missions, and doctrine provide the MAGTF Commander, and by
inference his Ground Combat Element (GCE), with a coherent, well
To answer this important question, the capabilities of the units
must be examined. Figure 1 helps to illustrate the current problem.
Some conclusions are possible at this point. Certain deficiencies
are common to all or most of the units listed in Figure 1. They can,
however, be grouped within useable categories which will illustrate
the conceptual framework. The major deficiencies can thus be addressed
-Unity of Effort
Only by addressing these broad areas is it possible to recommend
changes to missions and organization necessary to complement the
requirements of manuever warfare doctrine. Before doing so, however,
the link between these forces and manuever warfare bust be forged.
III. FORGING THE LINK WITH MANUEVER
FM 100-5 states that "At the operational level deep operations
are designed to shape the battlefield to assure advantage in
subsequent operations."18 The same may be said of special operations,
including raids, sabotage, or deep reconnaissance. The MAGTF must be
able to fight numerically superior forces and win. The employment of
manuever warfare principles is a thought process involving decisions
about when and where to fight, acheiving quick victory with minimal
tactical actions, and destroy the enemy as an effective force at the
The Marine Corps emphasizes highly mobile, combined arms task
forces equipped with modern weapons. OH 9-3A "Mechanized Combined Arms
Task Forces", as an example, states that Marine units must become
adept at manuever and defeat their adversaries by attacking weaknesses
with strength. "Reconnaissance pull", not "command push" is required.
Simply, offensive acts are generated as a direct result of
reconnaissance activities and not as a result of the commander pushing
blindly into battle. Before committing his manuever elements,
reconnaissance forces must determine for the commander where these
elements would be best employed to exploit enemy weaknesses.
"The total process, therefore, was to concentrate a force on a
narrow front . . . attain an irruption, and through such an irruption
create the necessary flanks to effect a Cannae."19 The point to be
attacked is first decided upon only after thorough reconnaissance of
the enemy force. As General George S. Patton stated, "You can never
have too much reconnaissance."20
As a corollary Patton said that, "Information is like eggs; the
fresher the better."21 To accomplish this rapidity of reporting both
mobility and communications are required. To remain ahead of the
enemy's "observation-orientation-decision-action" cycle, information
must be reported accurately and rapidly. Freedom of manuever and
action are attained by the commander as a result.
A MAGTF when faced with a Soviet or Soviet trained and equipped
force must have the ability to gain and maintain contact, either
physically or by observation, developing the situation as deemed
appropriate by the commander. For the GCE, route, zone, and area
reconnaissance are an absolute necessity as well. To give the MAGTF
Commander and his GCE the ability to manuever, these missions must be
Besides determining the enemy's strengths and weaknesses so as to
best support the commander's manuever, other operations may be
conducted to destroy installations and facilities critical to the
enemy's operations The attacks, either by raid or sabotage,". . .
may be mounted prior to or in conjunction with other offensive
operations to confuse the enemy or divert his attention."21
The MAGTF must use suprise in the same priority given it by
Clausewitz: a primary necessity. "Suprise can . . . be created by
radically altering the structure and tempo of the battle."22 Raiding
forces deep in the enemy's rear ". . . can sharply and suddenly
increase the enemy's sense of threat, sowing fear and confusion, and
in the extreme case, inducing outright paralysis."23
Manuever warfare requires special operations, information,
mobility and combined arms. As well, it must be based on sound
organization and anticipation of enemy actions ". . . well beyond the
FMFM 2-2 assigns reconnaissance responsiblities as shown in
Figure 2. "Close reconnaissance" is conducted in the area forward of
the FEBA by the ground manuever element. It's mission is to gain
information on the location, disposition, capabilities, and activities
of committed enemy forces. "Close reconnaissance" is the task of the
units manning the FEBA. Figure 2, however, shows the "area of
influence" as extending well beyond the Fire Support Coordination Line
(FSCL). In other words it is shown to extend beyond that line where
the GCE can actually influence with his ". . . ground gaining elements
or . . . fire support systems normally under his control or
command. "25 Simply, the GCE controls no fires beyond the FSCL by
definition. Only the MAGTF Commander has influence in this area. For
the GCE his "area of indluence" is that area within which his organic
forces can bring combat power to bear on the enemy.
"Distant reconnaissance" is accomplished in the "area of
interest" by the Division's Reconnaissance Battalion. As we have and
will see, the means by which they accomplish this and the lack of
mobility of these forces severely hampers their effectiveness.
Likewise, Figure 2 shows the "deep reconnaissance" mission area
to within the "area of interest". This mission, according to FMFM 2-2,
is ". . . directed toward determining the location, dosposition, and
movement of enemy reinforcements."
The "area of interest", in the words of FM 100-5, includes those
". . . extending into enemy territory to the objectives of current or
planned operations. This includes areas occupied by enemy forces who
could jeopardize the accomplishment of the mission." This area is,
therefore, most properly the responsibility of the MAGTF Commander.
Through his information collection assets and special operations he
determines the course of future operations and provides the GCE with
the freedom to maneuver.
The GCE's reconnaissance concerns, therefore, can be more
properly termed "tactical" and satisfied through organic assets, while
the MAGTF Cammander's can be described as "operational", to be
satisfied by his own assets, both groung and air.
Further, a clearer and more logical doctrinal configuration would
define "tactical reconnaissance" as that which extends to the limits
of the GCE's organic fire support capabilities and is directed toward
determining the status of committed enemy units. "Operational
reconnaissance", on the other hand, would extend beyond the GCE's fire
support capabilities and be directed toward determining the status of
enemy forces or capabilities which could jeopardize the MAGTF mission.
The interrelationships can be graphically depicted as shown in
"Strategic reconnaissance", of course, may well extend beyond the
MAGTF's area of responsibility and inherent capabilities. However, it
needs to be recongized as an important component of the MAGTF
information collection effort, primarily as a user. The growing role
of the military in space and the use of U.S. Navy and Marine assets to
link with the proper agencies is critical to providing the MAGTF
Commander with the product of "strategic reconnasissance".
The necessity for amphibious reconnaissance cannot be overlooked.
Undeniably, a need still exists for amphibious reconnasissance. With
the incorporation of Underwater Demolition Teams into the SEAL Team
structure in recent years a "mission gap" has potentially been
created. Although in Marine Corps Landing Force Manual 01 dated
November 1986 the Navy (SEAL Team) continues to retain the mission
for obstacle clearance, mine clearance, hydrographic surveys, and
beach reconnaissance from the 3.5 fathom line tothe high water line,
the Landing Force must continue to possess an amphibious
reconnaissance capability. The very real potential exists for the
employment of SEAL Team in other roles as the CATF may see fit, to the
exclusion of amphibious reconnaissance. Amphibious reconnaissance,
because it may effect where, when, and in what force the MAGTF lands,
is most properly considered then to be "operational reconnaissance."
Manuever warfare, in summary, requires a raid/sabotage
capability, tactical reconnaissance, operational reconnaissance,
mobility, and combined arms. Many of the information requirements for
maneuver warfare were highlighted as early as 1935 in the "Tentative
Manual for Landing Operations":
(1) "The strength and location of hostile reserves."
(2) ". . . the movement of hostile reserves.
(3) "Enemy defensive measures .
(4) "Changes in enemy dispositions necessitating a change
of our plans."
(5) "Location of hostile airdomes and AA artillery."
(6) "Location of appropriate targets."
IV. STRUCTURAL CHANGE
It is now possible to look at the battlefield, using the previous
definitions, and understand the responsibilities of the MAGTF
Commander and the GCE respectively. Figure 4 depicts the MAGTF
responsibilities and missions, while Figure 5 illustrates those of the
As Colonel Wesley Fox, USMC, has written, one of the most vexing
problems is that, "Marine Corps Division and Force Reconnaissance
assets have been widely misused in the past." The new doctrinal
terminology provides both a manageable and sound concept of
employment, while supporting the needs of the GCE.
Further, the MAGTF Commander has the assets to "shape" the
battlefield, direct future operations, strike the enemy at the highest
level, and induce psychological paralysis by disrupting the enemy's
ability to react.
In Section II three broad areas of concern were raised with the
current Marine Corps reconnaissance/special operations forces:
- Unity of Effort
The first requirement, mobility, is critical to the success of
tactical reconnaissance operations. FMFM 2-2 states that the
Reconnaissance Battalion " . . . is not equipped for decisive or
sustained combat . . . (and) is dependent upon extensive use of
helicopters and it's light motor vehicles to provide mobility."
It is not necessary to recount the unhappy experience of U.S.
helicopters in the latter years of the Vietnam War, of the Israelis
during the Yom Kippur War, or even the Soviets in Afghanistan. The
lesson, of course, is that helicopters fly forward of the FEBA at
As well, the distance from the FEBA to the edge of the tactical
area may be 40 kilometers or more. Rapid movement, reliable
communications, and the ability to use speed and firepower to
disengage are not possible for lightly armed infantry working in small
footmobile teams. Additionally, the ability of recover those same
teams is problematical.
Further, the rapidity of Soviet-style operations make it
necessary that Marine reconnaissance forces in the tactical area
remain at least as mobile as the enemy. The task, then, is to provide
mobility to the GCE's tactical reconnaissance operations.
The Light Armor Vehicle with its mobility, firepower, and armor
protection against small arms and fragmentation, is an ideal vehicle
for the GCE. The LAV is, of course, vulnerable to direct fire weapons.
As well, it moves through ". . . consistent use of cover and
concealment."26 The LAV is best employed " . . . short of decisive
close combat."27 The Reconnaissance Battalion is likewise not equipped
for decisive combat, as previously noted.
Tactical reconnaissance, however, is concerned with information
collection, not decisive combat. The mortar, antitank, and antiair
variants of the LAV, along with its organic firepower, will allow it
to disengage from combat. Its mobility provides the agility to move
quickly and manuever rapidly.
The enhanced capability of the LAV to communicate with the GCE
cannot be overlooked when mobility is examined. Simply, the LAV can
"shoot, move, and communicate". At present, only the LAV can solve the
mobility problems of the Reconnaissance Battalion. The LAV will, as
well, enhance the ability of the GCE's reconnaissance elements to
pursue "active" tactical reconnaissance. The present "passive"
observation and surveillance roles of the Reconnaissance Battalion are
not suited to the requirements of manuever warfare. Only mobile, agile
reconnaissance forces with sufficient firepower can hope to pursue
tactical reconnaissance for manuever warfare, a true warfighting
The second requirement is a coherent concept of employment. The
issue has been previously addressed by the comcept of tactical
reconnaissance: an active observation, surveillance, screening, area,
route, point reconnaissance, and counterreconnaissance capability.
Tactical reconnaissance is contrasted with that which was earlier
termed operational reconnaissance: deep reconnaissance, signal
reconnaissance, amphibious reconnaissance, sabotage, and raids.
The concept of employment of these forces requires that the third
requirement, unity of command, be addressed. The force must be
structured to allow for high speed observation, orientation, decision,
and action, or it will fail to respond to the enemy in a timely
manner, leading to decisive defeat.
The GCE must control his tactical reconnaissance capabilities
under one organization The core of that unit must be the
Reconnaissance Battalion. Wtihin the battalion resides the requisite
expertise and knowledge concerning reconnaissance operations. The
incorporation of the assets of the LAV Battalion into the
Reconnaissance Battalion answers the mobility question, strengthens
the capabilities of both the LAV and Reconnaissance Battalion, weakens
neither, and provides the GCE with a warfighting reconnaissance force.
The Sensor Control and Management Platoon, primarily a tactical
asset, should, as well, be incorporated into the Reconnaissance
Battalion, thus allowing the GCE's reconnaissance element to control
and coordinate both human and electronic information collection within
The MAGTF Commander on the other hand, must control the
operational assets. Because these units (Force Reconnaissance Company,
Radio Battalion, and Remotely Piloted Vehicle Platoon) exist from
platoon to battalion size, an organization must be developed for
purposes of command and control, training, and administration. An
additional need exists, as has been alluded to earlier, for a Raider
Company manned, equipped, and trained for the conduct of surgical
raids and sabotage deep within enemy rear areas against high value
targets, utilizing specialized entry and extraction means. This
"Operational Warfare Group" will provide the MAGTF Commander with an
enhanced warfighting capability at his level of concern.
V. A PROPOSAL
The need for a new organization does not necessarily require
additional personnel. In fact, certain decreases in manpower and
equipment should be an outgrowth of the proposed structure. It is
foreseen that these savings could be made primarily in management
overhead and duplication of equipment, i.e. communications equipment
and motor transport, for instance.
The warfighting Reconnaissance Battalion is depicted at Figure 6.
The mission of this battalion would be:
-To conduct screen operations to harass and impede enemy movement
-To destroy or repel enemy reconnaissance elements
-To provide detailed information of a specified route and all
adjacent terrain, natural and man-made features, or dispositio
of enemy forces
-To provide observation and surveillance of enemy forces to
reduce the enemy's capability to gain suprise
The "operational" organization which would complement this
strenthened Reconnaissance Battalion, would be an asset of the Marine
Expeditionary Force (MEF) Commanders. For descriptive purposes this
unit will be termed the "Operational Warfare Group" and structured in
accordance with Figure 7.
The mission of the Operational Warfare Group would be:
-To conduct deep reconnaissance and surveillance
-To determine the location of high value targets, including
nuclear, biological, and chemical weapon delivery systems,
nuclear weapons storage areas, reserves, C3 elements, and key
-To conduct preassault and amphibious reconnaissance for a
-To conduct signal reconnaissance, electronic warfare, and
-To conduct surgical raids against key installations and
This dynamic structure allows the MAGTF Commander not only to
function as a battlefield "coordinator" of his three component
elements, ground, air and combat service support, but to influence and
shape the battlefield through the use of operational assets at his
disposal. These "operational" capabilities enhance the warfighting
posture of MAGTF Commander by increasing his ability to see the
battlefield and influence the outcome.
The case for doctrinal reform is a strong one. The need exists to
clearly frame doctrinal concepts of reconnaissance and special
operations employment. Too often in the past either convenience,
ignorance, or misunderstanding have resulted in the improper use of
the assets available. A starting point could be the differentiation of
that which we have termed "tactical" reconnaissance and "operational"
The current FMFM 2-2 must be updated and revised to complement
the manuever warfare doctrine expressed in the new OH 6-1. Doctrinal
reform, however, must be closely linked with structural change to
fully complete the process.
The proposed structure can be debated. What must remain, however,
is the thought that reconnaissance and special operations at the MAGTF
level is different than that at the GCE. A flexible structure, which
provides for unity of effort, enhanced mobility, and a combined arms
concept for employment is the key to providing MAGTF Commanders with a
responsive warfighting capability. The Marine Corps has the ability
and the brainpower to solve this problem. It must act now to
reinvigorate the reconnaissance and special operations forces.
Click here to view images
1Richard Garrett, The Raiders (New York: Van Nostrand
Company, 1980), p.9.
2Max Hastings and Simon Jenkins, The Battle for the
Falklands (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1983), p. 128-29.
4Carl von Clausewitz, On War, ed. and trans. Michael
Howard and Peter Paret (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University
Press, 1976), p.259.
l0John A. English, A Perspective on Infantry (New York:
Praeger Publishers, 1981), p.42.
11Frank R. Barnett, B. Hugh Tovar, and Richard H. Shultz,
ed., Special Operations and U.S. Strategy (Washington, D.C.:
National Defense University Press, 1984, p.33-34.
12Bruce Hoffman, "Commando Raids", (RAND Note prepared
for the Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Policy,
13Charles L. Updegraph, U.S. Marine Corps Special Units
of World War II (Washington, D.C.: History and Museums Division,
HQMC, 1972), p.3.
18Headquarters, Department of the Army, Operations, FM 100-5
(Washington, D.C.. 1986), p.107
20George S. Patton, War As I Knew It (New York: Pyramid Books,
22FM 100-5, p.95.
25Headquarters, Department of the Army, Operational Terms and
Graphics, FM 101-5-1 (Washington. D.C.,' 1980), p.1-8.
26MCDEC, U.S. Marine Corps, Marine Light Armor Employment,
OH 6-6, 1985. p.403.
Barnett, Frank R., B. Hugh Tovar, and Richard H. Shultz, ed.
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