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Maritime Special Purpose Force: What Force For What Purpose

Maritime Special Purpose Force: What Force For What Purpose?

 

CSC 1995

 

SUBJECT AREA - Warfighting

 

 

 

MARITIME SPECIAL PURPOSE FORCE:

 

WHAT FORCE FOR WHAT PURPOSE?

 

by

 

LtCol. Jeffrey A. Powers USMC

Major Mark D. McMannis USMC

 

 

 

 

 

Research Paper Submitted to the Faculty

of the Command and Staff College

 

April 1995

 

 

 

 

The views expressed in this paper are those of authors and

do not reflect the official policy or position of the

Department of Defense or the US Government

 

 

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

 

 

 

Title: Maritime Special Purpose Force. What force for what purpose?

Author: Lt. Colonel J.A. Powers and Major M.D. McMannis, USMC.

 

Thesis: The Maritime Special Purpose Force (MSPF) of the Special Operations Capable

Marine Expeditionary Unit is inadequately configured and staffed to meet future

operational requirements.

 

Background: The New World Order fragmented across political, ethnic, religious and

economic lines is producing global instability characterized by a wide diversity and

dispersion of potential threats to U.S. interests. The Marine Corps Mid-range Threat

Estimate 1995-2000 defines a security environment where "chaos is normal" throughout

littoral regions accessible to the US Marine Corps. Since the inception of the Marine

Expeditionary Unit Special Operations Capable (MEU/SOC), the likelihood of executing

precision direct action missions has increased dramatically, yet the MSPF, originally

designed to give MEU commanders low profile surgical capability, has failed to keep pace.

Forward deployed self-sustainable MEU(SOC)s will now, more than ever before, be called

upon to respond to crises deemed to be in the national interests of this country. Upgrades

in organization and equipment of the MSPF are essential if the Marine Corps is to remain

a credible national force capable of protecting national interests in highly restrictive,

time-sensitive environments.

 

Recommendation: Structure the MSPF to provide a two platoon direct action capability

to ensure target coverage. Formalize the MSPF command structure to optimize planning

and execution capabilities and reduce the inherent inefficiencies in an adhoc command

structure. Identity and train rifle company size covering force elements to security mission

standards in order to provide a viable target isolation capability. Augment or replace the

force reconnaissance platoon currently providing the direct action capability thereby

allowing it to concentrate on its' primary mission of performing reconnaissance for the

MEU commmander.

 

The Marine Corps and Special Operations

 

Since its inception in 1775, the Marine Corps has conducted special operations

 

throughout the globe.1 These operations range from small scale amphibious raids, the

 

running of local governments in Latin America, behind the lines economy of force

 

operations on Guadalcanal, Civic Action Platoons in Vietnam, to the worldwide forward

 

presence of Marine Expeditionary Units Special Operations Capable [MEU(SOC)].

 

During the 1994 Special Forces Conference at Ft. Bragg, N.C., Dr. Larry Cable from the

 

University of North Caroline at Wilmington, said that the Marine Corps is the world's

 

premier multipurpose special operations force.2 Since special operations are frequently

 

time sensitive, it would seem that the most logical and cost effective means of employing

 

special operations would be from forward deployed units. Forward presence reduces

 

reaction time, facilities mission planning, and enhances execution. The MEU(SOC)

 

provides this capability to the combatant CINCs on a continuous basis.

 

The SOC designation is achieved through enhanced training, additional equipment, and

 

augmentation. This is not without a cost. The complex and sensitive nature of special

 

operations requires elements of both the Marine Expeditionary Force (MEF) and the MEU

 

to focus on these unique mission profiles, which some may argue is at the expense of their

 

primary mission.3 It is also arguable that the focus on special operations has elevated the

 

proficiency of the Marine Air Ground Task Force (MAGTF) to a level that it would

 

otherwise not have achieved.4 The element of the MEU that is most effected is the

 

Maritime Special Purpose Force (MSPF). This task organized force is the element of the

 

MEU(SOC) trained to conduct direct action missions. It is essentially a raiding force that is

 

capable of conducting precision strikes. The Marine Corps Mid-Range Threat Estimate

 

predicts an increase in terrorism and worldwide chaos due to "nationalism, ideology,

 

competition, demographics, ungovernability, and technological acceleration."5 The majority

 

of conflicts that the MEU(SOC) will be involved in will be low-intensity and operations

 

other than war (OOTW). "The distinctions between combatant and noncombatant; soldier

 

and peacekeeper; and military target and civilian target become increasingly blurred."6

 

Ever increasing media coverage of military operations increases the global visibility of

 

actions taken by forces in contact. The necessity for surgical precision is greater now than

 

ever before. The new world order and global communications has produced an

 

environment requiring extremely restrictive measures be taken to ensure the maintenance of

 

national strategy. The debate should not be whether or not the MSPF should exist but

 

rather how to improve our current capabilities.

 

The question is, " if you talk the talk, can you walk the walk?" It is our belief that the

 

Marine Corps can do both if the it is willing to make some basic fundamental changes in

 

our organization for combat. The focus of this paper is the composition and capability of

 

the Maritime Special Purpose Force (MSPF).

 

 

HISTORICAL PRECEDENCE

 

The composition and mission profile of the MSPF is a subject of debate throughout

 

the Marine Corps.7 The debate over the necessity of a specially trained raiding force is not

 

without historical precedence.

 

In 1940 the Marine Corps published the Small Wars Manual to provide a reference

 

on how to effectively operate in an environment that we describe today as Operations

 

Other Than War (OOTW). Although this manual was based on experience gained in the

 

1920's and 30's in Haiti, Nicaragua, and Honduras during the Banana Wars, much of it still

 

applies. It provides an indepth study of special operational techniques ranging from foreign

 

internal defense (FID) to direct action (DA) in the form of small raids and ambushes.

 

Section IX describes the necessity to "seize individuals or attack hostile groups known to be

 

at a certain house."8 The same section also describes the restrictions that the attacking

 

element may encounter due the strict rules of engagement (ROE). "The patrol is sometimes

 

unable to open fire due to the presence of women, children, or unidentified persons, or

 

because of instructions received from higher authority."9 It is precisely this situation that

 

requires surgical shooting techniques.

 

World War II provided further evidence of Marine Corps involvement in special

 

operations. In 1942 President Franklin D. Roosevelt directed the Marine Corps to form

 

battalion size units capable of conducting operations similar to those conducted by British

 

Commandos earlier in the war. This requirement resulted in the formation of Marine

 

raider and parachute battalions. President Roosevelt proposed the appointment of Colonel

 

William J. Donovan, USA, to lead that effort. The purpose of the raider and parachute

 

battalions was to conduct operations behind enemy lines. There was an institutional

 

resistance,... to the concept of creating a specialized for or "commando" within the

 

Marine Corps. General Holland M. Smith, Commanding General Amphibious Force

 

Atlantic, was one among many senior Marine officers who believed "there was no task that

 

the 'elite' raider units could perform any more effectively than regular line units."10 The

 

Marine Corps determined that the raider units would require direct recruiting to avoid

 

draining the already thin resources of the Corps. Aversion to elitism and structure problems

 

would again surface during the following fifty years. Although political pressures

 

ultimately lead to the formation of the raider and parachute battalions, Major General

 

Thomas Holcomb, then Commandant of the Marine Corps, was successful in preventing

 

the appointment of Colonel Donovan to Brigadier General USMCR as commander of this

 

project. The Marine Corps opted instead to draw upon its' own ranks for leaders.

 

Donovan was subsequently appointed Chief of the Office of Stratigic Services (OSS).11.

 

The successes and failures of both the 1st Parachute Battalion and the 1st and 2nd

 

Raider Battalions reflected their method of employment and the nature of the Japanese

 

threat during the early years of the war. The basic missions of the raider and parachute

 

battalions differed only in their means of infiltration [amphibious vs. vertical

 

(parachute/glider)].

 

The missions of the raiders were the following:

 

1. To be the spearhead of amphibious landings by larger forces on beaches

generally thought to be inaccessible.

2. To conduct raiding expeditions requiring great elements of surprise and

high speed.

3. To conduct guerilla type operations for protracted periods behind enemy

lines.12

 

The missions of the parachute battalions were the following:

1. As a reconnoitering and raiding force with a limited ability to return to its

parent organization. This assumed that the objective was sufficiently

important to warrant sacrifice of the force.

2. As a spearhead or advance guard, to seize and hold strategic installations

or terrain features until arrival of larger forces.

2. As an independent force operating for extended periods, presumably in a

guerilla role in hostile territory.13

 

By today's definition these missions would be categorized as special operations

 

because of the specialized nature of training and equipment and the unconventional nature

 

of the operations. Although the parachute battalions were never infiltrated by parachute,

 

their intense selection, training, and diversity provided employment options similar to their

 

raider counterparts.

 

The 2nd Raider Battalion's submarine launched amphibious raid on Makin Island, although

 

inconclusive in itself, was both a prototype for future operations and a prime example of

 

the necessity of specially trained units for submarine launched operations. The 2nd Raiders

 

further added to the concept with their successful long range destruction raid on

 

Guadalcanal.14

 

The necessity of both raiders and paramarines diminished when the nature of the war

 

changed to large scale amphibious assaults on heavily fortified Japanese held islands.

 

Upon their deactivation, the leadership and experience of these specially trained units were

 

valuable assets as they were absorbed into those Marine divisions preparing to assault

 

Tarawa, Saipan, Tinian, and Iwo Jima.

 

Other additional specially trained reconnaissance units were developed during the early

 

stages of World War II in order to provide for specific amphibious intelligence

 

requirements. The Marine Corps first employed amphibious reconnaissance units on 20

 

November 1943 in support of landing operations on Apamama Atoll in the Gilbert

 

Islands.15 These units enabled the Navy/Marine Corps team to conduct advance force

 

operations for the remainder of the war. The original Marine reconnaissanse (recon) units

 

were subsequently used in operations other than amphibious reconnaissance to include

 

"...diversions, minor night raids, and disruption of enemy communications."16 Marine

 

recon evolved to a degree that required specialized training such as scuba and parachute

 

entry techniques. This enabled the Marine Corps to covertly insert recon elements onto a

 

hostile shore or deep into enemy territory. The depth of the mission and the mission

 

profile determined the type of recon until to be utilized. For example, operational level

 

(deep) recon, which was usually deeper than tactical (distant) recon, was tasked to force

 

recon companies. Recon battalions at the division level, on the other hand, conducted

 

distant recon in support of the division's tactical mission. Because of the deep recon

 

mission, force recon companies traditionally possessed the more experienced recon Marine.

 

Force recon currently sources the direct action platoon of the MSPF.

 

Additional examples of Marine special operations can be found during the Vietnam

 

War. The Civic Action Platoon (CAP) program is an example of successful

 

counterinsurgency operations.17 This program was initially utilized in Phu Bai, Republic of

 

Vietnam in 1965 and eventually spread to the Danang area of operation. CAP consisted

 

of specially trained Marine rifle squads working in conjunction with Popular Forces (PF) to

 

provide security to rural South Vietnamese villages. Marines lived and worked side by side

 

with the villagers and attempted to motivate the PF to conduct security/ambush patrols in

 

the local vicinity. The programs purpose was to eventually turn over all the duties to the

 

PF. Although initially successful, Military Assistance Command Vietnam (MACV)

 

terminated the program because it believed that the process was too slow and that the PF

 

were not effectively consolidating Marine gains.18

 

In addition to the CAP program, Marines were extensively involved in direct action

 

missions against key targets. Gunnery Sergeant Carlos Hathcock, the most acclaimed

 

sniper in American history (93 confirmed kills), was tasked with the mission of killing high

 

ranking Vietnamese commanders to include a general officer.19 The Marine Sniper School

 

at Quqntico, Va. was created as a direct result of the effectiveness of Marine Snipers in

 

Vietnam.20 The Marine Corps is currently the proponency for Sniper training in the

 

Department of Defense (DOD). Marine snipers are now an integral part of the

 

reconnaissance and surveillance (R&S) element of the MSPF.

 

 

Special Operations Integration of Marine Corps Assets

 

As a result of the failed hostage rescue mission in Iran in 1979 and uncoordinated

 

special operations activity in Grenada in 1983, Secretary of Defense Casper Weinberger

 

directed each military service to develop its special operations capabilities and a time

 

phased implementation plan by March 1988.21 The MEU(SOC) was developed in

 

response to this requirement.

 

The MEU(SOC) was established on the already existing MEU structure consisting of a

 

MEU command element (CE), a ground combat element (GCE), an aviation combat

 

element (ACE), and a MEU service support group (MSSG)(fig.1). The GCE normally

 

consisting of a battalion landing team (BLT) was augmented by a reinforced helicopter

 

squadron and a tailored service support group for logistics support.22

 

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The single factor which most clearly distinguished the MEU(SOC) from its earlier counterpart

 

was not structure, but mission capabilities and the structuring of existing forces to provide

 

these cababilities. The MEU(SOC) handbook establishes 18 specific mission profiles listed

 

by task, condition, and standard.23 SOC qualification requires demonstrated proficiency in

 

those missions. As previously mentioned, development of the MSPF was in response to

 

specific missions requiring highly developed surgical capabilities. The MSPF provided an

 

in-extremis (emergency situation requiring immediate action), direct action capability which

 

augmented national assets Joints Special Operations Command (JSOC) forces.

 

In determining whether the MEU(SOC) is capable of conducting special operations we

 

must first define special operations. According to the Doctrine for Army Special Operations

 

Forces FM 100-25:

 

Special Operations are actions conducted by specially organized, trained, and

equipped military and paramilitary forces to achieve military, political, economic,

or psychological objectives by nonconventional means in hostile, denied, or

politically sensitive areas. They are conducted in peacetime competition, conflict,

and war, independently or in coordination with operations of GP forces.

Politico-military considerations frequently shape SO, requiring clandestine,

covert, or low-visibility techniques and oversight at the national level. So usually

differ from conventional operations in their degree of risk, operational techniques,

mode of employment, independence from friendly support, and dependence upon

operational intelligence and indigenous assets.24

 

The key word in the above definition is "nonconventional." Most special operations

 

missions are nothing more than basic conventional missions conducted by forces that come

 

under the "Special Operations" umbrella. This is a rather large umbrella with a budget that

 

rivals the Marine Corps budget ie. United States Special Operations Command

 

(USSOCOM).25 public Law 10 (USC 167) states that special operations include the

 

following as far as they related to special operations (SO):

 

Direct action (DA)

Strategic reconnaissance (SR), which Joint Pub 3-05 incorperates into a

broader activity called special reconnaissance

Unconventional warfare (UW)

Foriegn internal defense (FID)

Civil affairs (CA)

Psychological operations (PSYOPS)

Counterterrorism (CT)

Humanitarian assistance (HA)

Theater search and rescue (SAR)

Such other activities as may be specified by the National Command

Authority.26

 

The MEU(SOC) is capable of conducting all these missions except unconventional

 

warfare. UW, in its purest form, requires foriegn language proficiency, cross cultural

 

training, and the ability to operate in extremely austere environments with minimal external

 

support. Certain aspects of counterterrorism such as hostage rescue (HR), require

 

dedicated forces because of the high degree of precision and specialized training needed to

 

avoid collateral damage. The MEU(SOC) trains and is capable of conducting HR

 

in-extremis situations when dedicated forces are not available. They are also capable of

 

providing direct support once national assets arrive.

 

There is a fine line, in most cases, between special operations and conventional

 

operations. An airfield seizure conducted by US Army Rangers, for example, is

 

considered a special operation. Seizure of the same airfield by a Marine infantry battalion

 

would be considered a conventional operation. The difference often lies in whether or not

 

the operation is in support of SOF.

 

The forward sea-based positioning of the MEU(SOC) enables it to conduct a variety of

 

both special and conventional operations rapidly.27 There are tradeoffs in sea-basing that

 

limit the size of complexity of operations. The MEU(SOC) must be a multipurpose force,

 

flexible enough to conduct a large array of contingencies. Elements of the MEU(SOC)

 

must therefore train to a multiplicity of missions. Over-specializing in any one mission may

 

significantly degrade a unit's ability to conduct another contingency. The necessity for

 

surgical precision, on the other hand, mandates the focus of certain MEU(SOC) elements

 

on the difficult missions. This creates a dilemma in force structure and focus that is further

 

complicated by space limitations on available amphibious shipping. The most difficult

 

MEU(SOC) mission, in-extremis hostage rescue (IHR), is also the most unlikely. Since

 

this direct action mission elevates the overall quality of training, therefore enhancing our

 

ability to conduct less complicated missions. Training to a higher task, condition, and

 

standard normally produces skills and capabilities readily carried over to lesser

 

requirements.28

 

Direct action is not limited to HR or in-extremis hostage rescue (IHR). The purpose

 

of DA is to "inflict damage on, seize, or destroy a specialized target or to destroy, capture,

 

or recover designated personnel or material." This includes:

 

Raids

Ambushes

Mine emplacement

Standoff attacks by fire from air, ground, or maritime platforms

Terminal guidance for precision-guided-munitions

Gas oil platform (GOPLAT) strikes/seizures

Specialized Demolitions Operations (includes breaching)

Harassing operations

Recovery operations29

 

FM100-25 further describes Special Operation Forces(SOF) as the following:

 

As designated by the SECDEF, SOF are those forces specifically organized,

trained, and equipped to conduct SO or provide direct support (DS) to other

SOF. The provide a versitile military capability to defend US national interests.

They are an integral part of the total US defense posture and a strategic

instrument of national policy. SOF can provide the NCA military options to

respond to an international situation at a reasonable cost and risk to US

interests.30

 

The MEU(SOC) clearly fits into this definition without being in competition with

 

designated SOF and USSOCOM. Additionally, the forward deployed natures of the

 

MEU(SOC) makes it the force of choice because of its ability to respond quickly either

 

independently of in DS of SOF.

 

The Marine Corps Mid-Range Threat Estimate 1995-2005 defines a new world

 

security environment where "chaos is normal." This condition predicates more than ever

 

before the necessity for a Marine Corps surgical direct action capability. The MSPF was

 

designed to meet this requirement, however, current structure and training limitations fail

 

to take full advantage of potential capabilities.

 

 

MSPF Strengths and Weaknesses

 

The MSPF possesses strengths unique to naval expeditionary forces. Forward

 

deployment and seaborne maneuverability provide the capability to establish highly mobile,

 

self-sustainable, clandestine, forward and intermediate support bases. The shipboard

 

platform reduces ground based signature and supports immediate power projection in

 

littoral regions.

 

Another advantage to forward deployment besides close proximity is the reduction

 

of execution and planning requirements. On site availability provides the national

 

command authority with prepackaged forces capable of executing a wide variety of

 

missions.

 

Although somewhat controversial and relatively subjective, there is general

 

agreement that MEU(SOC) MSPF skill levels are comparable to the national assets in

 

selective areas. Shooting skills as well as reconnaissance and surveillance capabilities are in

 

line with National Assets Standards.

 

Advantages enjoyed by the MSPF are significant but not obtained without loss to

 

other elements of the MEU(SOC). There are numerous tradeoffs: as money, men,

 

training, and time are dedicated to refinement of special capabilities, fewer assets are

 

available to conventional forces. Despite significant assets and efforts, many problems still

 

exist. The current weaknesses of the special purpose force are primarily the result of asset

 

allocation. A combination of force redistribution, realignment of funds and additional

 

mission tasking would significantly contribute toward the alignment of the MSPF with

 

national assets. In order to come on line with current capabilities, the following weaknesses

 

must be addressed.

 

First, the current number of shooters available to the MSPF commander restricts his

 

tactics and seriously reduces the number and types of targets he can engage.

 

Although the sizes of direct action platoons vary, they are generally restricted to single

 

entrance limited targets

 

Second, the current organization of the MSPF assigns the force reconnaisance

 

platoon of the MEU as the strike element. Given the current composition of MEU's, this is

 

appropriate, but significantly reduces conventional reconnaissance capability. Limited time,

 

high skill level, and the singular focus of the direct action mission degrade the force

 

platoon's ability to accomplish its primary mission of deep reconnaisance.

 

Third, equipment limitations are the result of limited funding and the force's naval

 

character. Additional funding could provide for an upgrade in communications and

 

reconnaissance equipment. Howerever, the naval expeditionary nature of the force would

 

continue to limit the upgrade of aviation support due to constraints of deck spots and the

 

requirement for corrossion control of ship board aircraft.

 

Fourth, the number of officers available for commanding and planning MSPF

 

operations is limited. The command structure for the MSPF is composed of an adhoc

 

combination of available officers. Some MEUs use their force reconnaissance platoon

 

commander as the MSPF commander while other MEUs use officers ranging from the

 

BLT's H&S Company commanding officer to the executive officer of the MEU.31 No

 

provisions have been made for permanent billets. This informal command structure fails to

 

provide any continuity for rank or MOS. The current lack of structure forces

 

commanders to realign leadership dependent upon the MEU commander's degree of

 

support for the direct action mission.

 

As discussed earlier, the force reconnaissance platoon is the force of choice to train

 

to the standards of the strike element. Under our current organization, only the force

 

platoon possesses the individual insert capabilities and the maturity and experience levels

 

required to achieve proficiency. Although workable, USMC forces fall far behind the

 

rank, maturity and expertise of the national assets. These factors, possibly more than any

 

others, restricts the level of MSPF capability.

 

Fifth, unlike the national assets tasked with performing the direct action mission,

 

Marine forces possess little continuity, require continuous retraining, and have only limited

 

ability to recall essential knowledge and skills. The current system is very effective at

 

providing a general skill base across the Marine Corps but fails to provide highly skilled

 

cohesive units capable of building and developing on past experience.

 

Finally, the draw on BLT assets to support the strike element remains an area of

 

concern. Under the current organizational structure, the reconnaissance and surveillance

 

element and the landing force is drawn from the BLT. This support requirement has

 

historically either degraded the BLT capability in accomplishing its assigned missions by

 

reducing its organic reconnaissance capability or reduced MSPF capabilities as a result of

 

superficial support.

 

 

Enhancement of the Maritime Special Purpose Force

 

The following courses of action provide solutions to areas of concern and support the

 

strengths currently present in the MSPF. We will present each course of action (COA) as

 

the proposed organizational structure for the MSPF augmented by suggestions for its

 

staffing. Finally, we will conclude each COA with a list of advantages and disadvantages.

 

The current MSPF consists of a DA platoon sourced from the MEU's force recon platoon.

 

The reconnaissance and surveillance (R&S) element of the MSPF is normally sourced

 

from the MEU's BLT surveillance and target acquisition (STA) platoon. The covering

 

force or security element of the MSPF is normally a platoon sourced from the BLT but

 

may on occassion be filled by the amphibious ready group's (ARG) SEAL platoon. The

 

ACE of the MSPF is a task organized portion of the MEU's ACE. The command element

 

(CE) is sourced by the MEU CE, the BLT, or both (Fig 2).

 

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The following COAs maintain the basic organizational structure of the MSPF and seek to

 

optimize capabilities through a redistribution of assets:

 

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COA I would require an upgrade of the force reconnaissance company to twelve

 

platoons.32 This recommendation would require structure for approximately three hundred

 

more organizational billets to support operations on the east and west coasts. In addition to

 

two DA platoons, we would also propose a covering force of a composite rifle company

 

size unit to be trained to standard.

 

Advantages:

 

1. Two D.A. Plts. provide the MSPF commander with additional tactical options

 

and increases the number and size of targets available to the mission

 

commander.

 

2. An increase in the size and capability of the covering force provides for

 

additional security and also increases potential target coverage.

 

3. Twelve platoons available at the force reconnaissance company could allow for

 

a concentrated effort on the DA. mission. The net result being increased focus

 

of effort and concentration of expertise. The additional platoon available to the

 

MEU commander would also provide a more effective deep reconnaissance

 

capability.

 

Disadvantages:

 

1. Requires reapportionment of structure.

 

2. Concentration on the DA mission by specified forces would be identified as

 

elitism.

 

3. BLT surveillance and target acquisition (STA) assets could not be assumed

 

available to support the BLT.

 

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COA II proposes the deployment of Special Operation Command assets with the

 

MEU(SOC). This may require some restructuring of Spec Ops Forces to maintain

 

CONUS Base readiness requirements. This COA also moves the force recon platoon into

 

a more traditional role of reconnaissance and surveillance.33

 

Advantages:

1. Increases chances of mission success with the addition of a national asset direct

 

action platoon.

 

2. Supports the current philosophy of joint operations.

 

3. Allows the mission commander the opportunity to engage a wider size and

 

range of targets.

 

4. Reduces target turnover complications.

 

5. Maintains reconnaissance capability within the force reconnaissance platoon.

 

6. Reduces the BLT STA augmentation requirements freeing a larger portion of

 

surveillance target acquisition marines for BLT missions.

 

7. Increase in covering force capability provides additional security and target

 

coverage.

 

Disadvantages:

 

1. Command and tasking of the MSPF may be restricted due to the addition of the

 

national asset.

 

2. May be perceived as the Marine Corps' inability to accomplish the mission vice

 

an attempt at enhancing capabilities.

 

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COA III utilizes only forces currently present in the Marine Amphibious Ready Group

 

(MARG).

 

Advantages:

 

1. All forces are currently present in the MARG.

 

2. Maintains reconnaissance capability within the force reconnaissance plt.

 

3. Provides limited support for greater number and size of targets.

 

4. Increases the number of STA assets available to support the BLT.

 

5. Increase in covering force capability provides additional security and target

 

coverage.

 

Disadvantages:

 

1. SEAL Plt must train to current standard.

 

2. Second DA plt from the BLT provides trailer capability only. There is not a two

 

DA platoon capability.

 

 

 

Recommendations

 

We recommend courses of action III, II, and I, in order of feasibility. Any of the

 

COAs, would upgrade the MEU(SOC) and MSPF capabilities, however, not all COAs are

 

as easily instituted.

 

COA III is the most feasible from the perspective of available structure, training

 

compatibility of units, and implementation but falls short of restoring the MEU's organic

 

reconnaissance capability.

 

COA I best supports the enhancing of both direct action and recon capabilities but

 

requires significant redistribution of force structure which would be difficult to implement

 

under current force restrictions.

 

COA II may be the best overall solution but becomes extremely difficult to implement

 

due to limited special operations assets and forward deployment requirements.

 

 

Conclusions

 

The Marine Corps involvement in special operations throughout this century was

 

reflective of its diversification and ability to adapt a changing world. The expeditionary

 

nature of the Corps provides out nation with a multipurpose force that can react quickly

 

with a credible force. The MEU(SOC) concept is based on historical precedence which

 

were adapted to meet todays requirements.

 

The MSPF, an integral part of the MEU(SOC), must grow with evolving global

 

requirements. It must gain and maintain a capability worthy of national tasking and support

 

the MEU commander under the most stringent conditions imaginable. Although Marine

 

forces in general, and the MSPF in particular, may not be the first force of choice for

 

many of the highly sensitive missions projected for the next decade, it is highly feasible that

 

forward deployment, immediate response capability, and the inability of more capable

 

forces to react, make it the force of consolation. In todays world, the most capable forces

 

often do not receive tasking due to political considerations, timing, or the in-extremis nature

 

of the event. Recent history has shown expectations of the MEU(SOC) to be inconsistent

 

with its capabilities. The 1993 tactical recovery of aircraft and personnel (TRAP)

 

executed by the 24th MEU (SOC) in Bosnia Hercegovina and humanitarian relief

 

operation conducted by the 15th MEU (SOC) in Somalia 1993, are classic examples of

 

missions exceeding capabilities.34 There is no reason to believe that this trend will not

 

continue.

 

The United States Marine Corps must possess the capability of responding to

 

in-extremis requirements if it is to remain a viable forward deployed deterrent. The MSPF,

 

although numerically only a small part of this capability, is now more than ever before

 

likely to be called upon to execute missions it is not fully prepared to conduct. In the era of

 

downsizing, mission failure of one of our Maritime Special Purpose Forces could inflict

 

irreparable damage to the Marine Corps.

 

 

Notes

 

1 Agostino Von Hassel, Strike Force; US Marine Corps Special Operations (Howell

Press, 1991), 8, 10, 16, 18.

2 During the 1994 Special Forces Conference at the JFK Center, Ft. Bragg,N.C., Dr.

Larry Cable from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington referred several

times to the Marine Corps sucesses during the Banana Wars and Vietnam in

special operations. Dr. Cable is a renowned expert on terrorism and lectures at the

Marine Command and Staff College and the annually held Special Forces

Conference at Ft. Bragg, N.C.

3 Lt. Colonel M. Spiese, USMC, Commanding Officer Second Force

Reconnaissance Company, Interviewed by authors 8 January 1995.

4 Strike Force, 30.

5 Threats in Transition, Marine Corps Mid-Range Threat Estimate, 1995-2005,

Marine Corps Intelligence Activity, 2033 Barnett Avenue, Quantico, Va. 22134, 1

6 Strike Force, 30.

7 Colonel Andrew N. Pratt and Major Steven J. Cash, Marine Corps Gazette: Do

We Still Need In-Extremis Hostage Rescue?, 34-36.

8 Small Wars Manual (Reprint of 1940 Edition); United States Marine Corps;

United States Government Printing Office, Washington, DC, 51

9 Ibid., 51

10 Special Marine Corps Units of World War II; Historical Division, Headquarters,

United States Marine Corps, Washington, DC, 51

11 Ibid., 1-2

12 Ibid., 3-4

13 Ibid., 36-37

14 Special Marine Corps Units of World War II, 10-14

15 Michael Lee Lanning and Ray William Stubbe, Inside Force Recon, (New York;

Ivy Books 1989), 17-18.

16 Ibid., 14.

17 Dr. Larry Cable emphasized this example as a special operations success by the

Marine Corps during the 1994 Special Forces conference.

Strike Force; US Marine Corps Special Operations, 21

18 Allen R. Millett, Semper Fidelis, The History of the United States Marine Corps,

571-572.

Charles Henderson, Marine Sniper (New York: Berkley Books, 1988), xiv.

19 Ibid., xii.

20 Charles Henderson, Marine Sniper, (New York: Berkley Books, 1988), xiv.

21 Strike Force, 28.

22 Ibid., 34.

23 Ibid., appendix A see also: Standardized MEU(SOC) Training Handbook I, (Fleet

Marine Force Atlantic, Fleet Marine Force Pacific: United States Marine Corps,

March 1989), I-1, I-2, I-3.

24 Doctrine for Army Special Operations Forces, FM 100-25; Headquarters,

Department of the Army, Washington, D.C., December 1991,3-1

25 United States Special Operations Forces: Posture Statement.

26 FM 100-25, 3-1

27 Strike Force, 32.

28 Strike Force, 47.

29 Joint Special Operations Awareness Program (JSOAP), Reference Manual,

USSOCOM, Third Revision 1993, D-18-19

30 FM 100-25, 2-1

31 Colonel J. Huley, USMC, Commanding Officer 22 ME(SOC); during an

interview with Col. Huley, he stated that numerous command structures exist.

Col. Huley believed that the billet of MSPF commander be filled by a company

grade officer. Muth, Lt. Colonel., USMC, Operations Officer II MEF, Special

Operations Training Group stated the billet requires a field grade officer.

32 Lt. Colonel M. Spiese, USMC, Commanding Officer 2nd Force Reconnaissance

Company, stated that the current operational tempo requires an upgrade in force

structure in order to maintain a deep reconnaissance capability.

33 Colonel A. Pratt, USMC, Director, Marine Corps Command and Staff College,

stated that an alternative to sourcing the direct action platoon from Marine Corps

assets would be utilization of JSOC elements.

34 Newbold, Colonel G.S., USMC, Commanding Officer 15th MEU(SOC), stated at

Marine Corps Command and Staff College that the assigned Somalian

humanitarian relief mission executed by the 15th MEU (SOC) was outside his

stated mission parameters.

 

 

Bibliography

 

Field Manual (FM) 100-25. Doctrine for Army Special Operations Forces.

Washington, DC: Headquarter, Department of the Army, 1991.

 

Historical Division, Headquarters, US Marine Corps. Special Marine Corps Units of

World War II. Washington DC: PCN 190 002596 00. 1972.

 

Holmes, Allen H. "Special Operations" Defense 95, Issue 1 (1995).

 

Huley, Colonel J., USMC II MEF Chief of Staff. Former MEU(SOC) Commander.

Interview by authors, 8 January 1995.

 

Jones, Captain R., USMC. Officer in Charge II MEF Special Operations Training

Group/ Special Missions Branch. Interview by authors, 7 January 1995.

 

Lanning, Michael L. and Ray W. Stubbe, Inside Force Recon. New York.. Ivy

Books. 1989.

 

Marine Corps Intelligence Activity. Marine Corps Mid-Range Treat Estimate

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Henderson, Charles. Marine Sniper. New York: Berkley Books, 1988.

 

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United States Special Operations Command. United States Special Operations

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Von Hassel, Agostino. Strike Force; US Marine Corps Special Operations. Howell

Press. Singapore. 1991.

 



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