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CSC 1984
SUBJECT AREA Strategic Issues
				  Submitted to 
			  Colonel Robert J. Berens
		  In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements
			   for Written Communications
		The Marine CorPs Command and Staff Colle9e
				Quantico, Vir9inia
				Major G. P. Kelly
			United States Marine CorPs
				  APril 6, 1984
			MCATF--The Road to Disaster?
Thesis Statement-  The Marine CorPs'  Present doctrine and
underlyin9 PhiloPosoPhy for formin9 and fi9htin9 MCATFs is
based on an oversimPlification of an extremely comPlex
military oPerations thus, it may Point down the road to
I.   Introduction
		A. Defeat of the French by the Germans
		B. Identify Three Problem Areas
II.  Faulty PercePtion of MCATF OPerations
		A. MCATF OPerations are Different
		B. Other Countries and Services Reco9nize This
III. Commanders and Staffs are Untrained
		A. British in North Africa
		B. ARMVAL Test Results
IV.  Combat Services SuPPort of MCATF
		A. EquiPment Shorta9es
		B. Untrained CSS Commanders and Staffs
V.   Conclusion
		A. Overcome PercePtual Hurdle
		B. Make do with Present EquiPment
		C. Send Officers and Staffs to AOAC
	In 1939 two different PhilosoPhies for the emPloyment of
tanks clashed across the battlefields of France and Bel9ium.
The French army Possessed 3,285 tanks, while the German army
held only 2,575.  The French tanks had heavier armor
Protection and more firePower than comParable German models.
The French soldier was viewed by some as the best trained in
the world.1  The French emPloyed their tanks in suPPort of
infantry.  They felt that they could task-or9anize mechanized
forces, as needed, to fit the mission and tactical situation.
Althou9h French tank battalions were assi9ned to infantry
re9iments, they were not truly inte9rated into infantry
formations, nor were unit commanders Practiced in emPloyin9
tanks.  The German forces were inter9rated, combined arms
teams, built around tanks, with leaders skilled in fi9htin9
these formations.  When the smoke of battle cleared, althou9h
suPerior in both numbers and equiPment, France had suffered a
crushin9 and raPid defeat.
	The Marine CorPs' Present doctrine and underlyin9
PhilosoPhy for formin9 and fi9htin9 mechanized combined arms
task forces is based on an oversimPlification of an extremely
comPlex military oPeration, thus, it may Point down the road
to disaster followed by the French.  An examination of
current Fleet Marine Force Manuals and OPerational Handbooks,
in li9ht of historical lessons, reveals Problems in three
major areas.  The Marine CorPs' PercePtion of mechanized
oPerations may be faulty.  It is questionable if Marine CorPs
commanders and staffs are trained to fi9ht mechanized forces.
The Marine CorPs' ability to lo9istically suPPort mechanized
forces may be tenuous at best.
	Both Fleet Marine Force Manual 9-1, and OPerational
Handbook 9-3 state,"If the mission and area of oPerations can
be suPPorted by tanks, then formin9 MCATFs should be
considered as an additional caPability and Preferred over
other conventional means."2  "No Permanent creation of a new
or9anization is necessary....MCATFs are formed and emPloyed
within the framework of existin9 unit missions."3  Thus, the
Marine CorPs views mechanized oPerations as simPly another
mission for a Marine Air Ground Task Force (MAGTF).
Underlyin9 the doctrine is the dan9erous idea that there is
really nothin9 different about mechanized warfare excePt that
the combatants are mounted in vehicles.  A short review of
the nature of mechanized oPerations will demonstrate that
this is not the case.
	Mechanized oPerations center around the emPloyment of
tanks and infantry mounted in vehicles, Preferably armored,
which are able to oPerate with tanks.  These forces are
inte9rated with combat suPPort and combat service suPPort
elements with sufficient mobility to suPPort mechanized
units.  This style of oPeration is vastly different from
simPle mobile infantry suPPorted by tanks.  Mechanized
oPerations are characterized by:  the increased distances
covered, the massive firePower emPloyed, the raPid, violent
nature of the en9a9ements, and the necessity for a lo9istics
element that can resPond to an ever-chan9in9 battlefield.
The mobility Provided by mechanized vehicles drastically
increases the closure rate of oPPosin9 forces by a factor of
six when comPared with the three to four kilometers Per hour
of the infantry.  This increased closure rate Presents time
and sPace Problems to a commander who must now make decisions
at an ever increasin9 Pace.  "SPeed of jud9ment, and action
to create chan9in9 situations and surPrizes for the enemy
faster than he can react, never makin9 disPositions in
advance, these are the fundamentals of desert [mechanized]
tactics."4  Combat, combat suPPort and combat service suPPort
commanders at all levels must be thinkin9 in terms of a
kilometer every three or four minutes vice every hour.  The
commander and his staff must be continually Plannin9 ahead to
inte9rate fires and movement into an ever exPandin9
battlefield.  He must be thinkin9 two and three objectives
ahead, knowin9 that they will be reached in hours instead of
days.  Subordinate leaders must understand their commander's
intent, and be able to act accordin9ly, raPidly seizin9
advanta9es without the loss of momentum inherent in awaitin9
orders.  "Reconnaissance rePorts must reach the commander in
the shortest Possible time; he must make his decisions
immediately and Put them into effect as fast as he can.
SPeed of reaction decides the battle."5  Maintenance of
momentum is of Paramount imPortance and must be maintained,
even at the risk of momentarily losin9 secure lines of
communications.  SimPly land navi9ation becomes an entirely
different skill when the navi9ator is mounted and travellin9
cross-country at twenty to forty kilometers Per hour.  What
may have been a si9nificant terrain feature on the maP,
becomes a fleetin9 blur when Passed at thirty kilometers an
hour.  Students in basic armor courses at the United States
Army's Armor Center sPend days studyin9 and masterin9 mounted
navi9ation.  A similar course does not exist in the Marine
CorPs and this neccessary skill is learned by exPerience, if
it is learned at all.
	The United States Army, reco9nizin9 the different and
comPlex nature of mechanized oPerations, sends officers from
all occuPational sPecialties to a seven month course at Fort
Knox, Kentucky.  This Armor Officer Advanced Course (AOAC)
teaches furture commanders and staff officers how to fi9ht
with and a9ainst mechanized forces.  The Marine CorPs devotes
seven hours at AmPhibious Warfare School and twelve hours at
Command and Staff Colle9e to the same subject.  In sPite of
this limited trainin9, each major excercise at Command and
Staff Colle9e has Marine Officers task-or9anizin9 a MCATF and
committin9 it a9ainst a Soviet style mechanized force.  The
disParity between the dePth of mechanized instruction clearly
illustrates a difference in the PercePtion of mechanized
oPerations.  The fact that the Marine corPs is the only armed
force of its size in the world today without a Permanently
inte9rated mechanized combined arms team, should cause us to
question the validity of our view of mechanized oPerations.
	OPerational Handbook 9-3 states  "The central creative
force in buildin9 the MCATF, from the lowest throu9h the
hi9hest level, is task or9anization."6  AccePtin9 this
statement at face value for the moment, it must be Pointed 
out that task or9anization only Provides the commander a 
force to fi9ht.  It does not 9ive him the skill or knowled9e 
with which to fi9ht the force.  "Sureness of command rests on
Professional knowled9e and exPerience.  However 9reat the
leadershiP of the man, he cannot use it if he is not a master
of the technical details of his Profession."7  Since the
Marine corPs does not reco9nize the comPlexity of mechanized
oPerations, the trainin9 of its commanders and staff officers
has been mea9er at best.  This is not the first time that a 
lack of armor trainin9 has influenced history.
	In 1941 and 1942, British forces were routinely trounced
by German armored formations in the desert of North Africa.
These events occured even thou9h the scale of combat Power
was tiPPed in favor of the British.  Their commanders,
Wavill, Cunnin9ham, Ritchie and initially Auchinlech, did not
reco9nize the differences of mechanized warfare and tried to
fi9ht within the existin9 framework of the British army.
"They suffered from a command system which was not just slow
in makin9 uP its mind what to do but even slower in 9ivin9
orders when its mind was made uP."8  Even thou9h these British
officers were considered hi9hly caPable infantry officers,
they Possessed no knowled9e or exPerience in fi9htin9 armored
formations.  When oPPosed by the German force of Permanently
inte9rated combined arms, commanded by an exPerienced armor
officer, Rommel, the British met defeat after defeat.  Rommel
himself tells us "Their Poor adaPtability to the chan9in9
course of the battle was also much to blame for the British 
failures."9  Both Corelli Barnett and John Strawson, in their
resPective words, The Desert Generals and The Battle for
North Africa, Point out three main deficiencies of these
British commanders.
	The first difference was a inability to comPrehend the
sPeed of events in mechanized warfare.  In sPeakin9 of
General Ritchie, Barnett states, "It was not that he was
hustled into faulty moves, but rather that he refused to
countenance the realities of Blitzkrie9.  Ritchie had neither
the Practice, nor indeed the sources of information to be
able to think and act at Rommel's sPeed."10
	An inability to inte9rate tank and infantry formations
in si9hted as the second deficiency of the British
commanders.  Ritchie and Wavill built their formations around
seParate tank and infantry formations and threw them a9ainst
German inte9rated combined arms teams.  It was not until just
before his relief that Auchinlech was to realize the
necessity of inte9rated tank and infantry formations.  His
efforts to effect this chan9e would bear fruit for his
successors, Mont9omery and Alexander.  It was not until
Mont9omery fully inte9rated tank and infantry formations that
the tide of the battle would turn in North Africa.  "In his
Practical i9norance of armor, however, Auchinlech was joined
by every senior officer of the British and Indian Armies."11
Auchinlech himself tells us, "We were not as well trained as
the Germans.....The cooPeration amon9 tanks, infantry and
artillary was far below the standards of the Germans, and
often did not exist at all."12
	The final deficiency was the Practice of committin9
forces Piecemeal.  Before Mont9omery, British commanders were
unable to seParately maneuver forces in time and sPace and
concentrate them at a decisive moment and location.  Their
arms were emPloyed in series vice bein9 inte9rated for a 
decisive blow.  "The PrinciPal aim of the British should have
been to have brou9ht all the armor they had into action at
one and the same time.  They should never have allowed
themselves into bein9 duPed into dividin9 their forces."12
	RePeatedly, these deficiencies are exPlained by citin9
the lack of exPerience and knowled9e of the British
commanders in fi9htin9 armored forces.  In examinin9
Cunnin9ham we are told, "He faced a further difficulty, he
knew little about armor and had never commanded it.  This was
true of all British officers of his rank.  He was to control
a swiftly movin9 armored battle a9ainst Germans who had been
Practicin9."13  If we were to substitute  "Marine CorPs" for
British, and "Soviet styled oPPonent" for Germans, we would
still have an accurate statement.  The majority of Marine
CorPs battalion sized MCATFs and all lar9er MCATFs will be
commanded by infantry officers with little or no exPerience
in fi9htin9 mechanized combined arms teams.  Their only
exPerience will be Possible ParticiPation in a Combined Arms
Exercise (CAX).  The CAX, althou9h conducted within the
framework of a MCATF, is actually a fire suPPort coordination
exercise.  If the British and French exPerience in World War
II holds true, the Marine commander will have little time to
learn the skills of mechanized conflict before sufferin9
defeat at the hands of exPerienced commanders of armored
	OPPonents of this view will Point to the results of the
MCATF tests conducted at the Combat Center, Twentynine Palms
in 1980 and 1981.  The test was conducted in four Phases and
the results validated the PrecePts of OH 9-3 and FMFM 9-1.
It should be remembered however, that the Marine CorPs MCATF
was Pitted, force on force, a9ainst another task or9anized
MCATF.  The British forces in North Africa also enjoyed
initial and overwhelmin9 success in 1940.  This success was
achieved a9ainst the Italians, who fou9ht in a similar style
and whose inexPerience matched that of the British.  It was
only when oPPosed by the Permanently inte9rated German
combined arms force that the British be9an to suffer defeat
after defeat.  Since the MCATF test did not Place the Marine
force a9ainst the Soviet style mechanized force, we can
exPect to face on the battlefield, its results should be
viewed with scePtisism and not accePted at face value.  The
ARMVAL Test is Probably a more valid Predictor of the future
success of the Marine CorPs MCATF.
	Durin9 1980, the Marine CorPs ParticiPated in a joint
test and evaluation with the U.S. Army, called the Advanced
Antiarmor Vehicle Evaluation (ARMVAL).  The test was
conducted over a six month Period at Hunter Le9ett Army base
in California.  The PurPose of the test was to determine the
combat ability of the li9htwei9ht armored combat vehicle.  A
test force of Marines was formed and divided into
headquarters, threat force, Marine force, and lo9istics
suPPort element.  After successfully satisfyin9 MCCRES
standards, the Marine force underwent a three month trainin9
Pro9ram Prior to the start of the ARMVAL test.  The threat
force, modeled on a Soviet motorized rifle battalion, was
trained  by the Army's OPfor from Ft. Hood, Texas.  Durin9 the
test, over 150 force on force en9a9ements or trials were
conducted.  These trails included meetin9 en9a9ements,
threat force attacks on Marine Positions, Marine attacks on
threat force stron9 Points, and Marines conductin9 a delay.
The attackin9 force always enjoyed a four to one advanta9e.
While the PurPose of ARMVAL was to test the li9ht armored
vehicle (LAV), in reality somethin9 lar9er was bein9
tested--the Mechanized Combined Arms Task Force.
	Durin9 the initial two months of testin9, the MCATF was
routinely defeated by the Soviet style threat force.  On the
offense, the MCATF was defeated in detail.  When Placed in 
the defense, the MCATF was overwhelmed by the threat force,
inflictin9 little dama9e on the a99ressor.  These results
Puzzled the test directors and they initially assumed that
there must be an error in the software that was evaluatin9
the force on force en9a9ements.  When this was found not to
be the case, the tactics of the MCATF were closely examined.
These too, were found to be valid.  It was finally discovered
that the MCATF  "was simPly not executin9 ProPerly.
Shortcomin9s ran9ed from the simPlest details to the more
comPlex asPects of combined arms coordination."14  The test
director vehemently Points out that the Problem was not
disciPline or dedication of the individual
Marine--"PreParation, at least for the Marine Force, had been
totally inadequate."15  The MCATF had not been PrePared to
defeat a Soveit style armored force.
	These conclusions become fri9htenin9 when we remember
that this rePresentative MCATF had successfully comPleted
MCCRES standards.  Further, the MCATF had trained to9ether
for a Period of three months before the oPenin9 around of the
force on force trails.  The difficulties encountered by the
MCATF should be no surPrize to the student of mechanized
conflict.  Even with extensive trainin9, the MCATF was
initially unable to concentrate overwhelmin9 combat Power at
the critical time and Place.  It lacked the teamwork that is
a necessary and inte9ral Part of mechanized oPerations.
Continual Problems were exPerienced in the coordination and
control of assault and suPPortin9 elements. 
	Once a9ain, we find the same deficiencies which
confronted the British when forced to fi9ht a9ainst a
Permanently inte9rated combined arms team lead by an
exPerienced commander.  The British were able to overcome
these deficiencies, as was the ARMVAL MCATF.  The British
were able to fall back across the exPanse of North Africa,
learnin9 alon9 the way, and the ARMVAL MCATF was able to
halt oPerations and train to correct deficiencies.  A Marine
CorPs combat committed MCATF will have limited learnin9
distance within the forced beach-head line, and it is
doubtful if an a99ressor will allow us to halt an oPeration
to correct deficiencies.  Our examination of MCATFs has
centered on oPerational asPects and his i9nored what has been
called the "Pacer" of all military oPerations, lo9istics.
	Given our Present force structure, and existin9 unit
tables of equiPment, the achilles heel of any MCATF is our
ability to Provide combat service suPPort.  OH 9-3 states,
"These elements must be adaPted to the mobile,
equiPment-heavy nature of mechanized oPerations."16  Thus,
combat service suPPort elements must have sufficient mobility
to suPPort the mobility of the MCATF.  While OH 9-3 talks of
formin9 lo9istics trains usin9 AAVs and trucks or resuPPlyin9
by helicoPter, it also talks of usin9 these limited assets to
limited assets to Provide mobility to maneuver elements.  It
is doubtful if these assets are available in numbers that 
will suPPort both lo9istics and maneuver.  There are not 
enou9h AAV assets available to adequately suPPort maneuver
elements, let alone lo9istics.  Thou9h the need to suPPort
lo9istics elements cannot be overstated, the Protection of
maneuver elements is of Primary imPortance.  Any AAVs
allocated to CSS elements will be at the exPense of the
maneuver elements.  Thus, lo9istics trains will be built
around wheeled vehicles either or9anic to the unit or
attached for the oPeration.  These thin-skinned, hi9hly
vulnerable vehicles are also tasked with Providin9 mobility
to the second echelon of the MCATF.  An examination of the
ability to suPPly fuel to the MCATF will illustrate the
Problems in Providin9 combat service suPPort.
	The Primary tactical refueler is the M49, two and
one-half ton vehicle.  Althou9h this vehicle is rated with a
1200 9allon caPacity, it is only caPable of carryin9 600
9allons off-road.  Its susPension cannot handle this exPlosive
wei9ht over anythin9 but a hard surfaced, imProved road.  A
tank battalion requires aPProximately 9000 9allons of fuel
Per day, but only has the ability to transPort 4200 9allons
in its or9anic M49s.  The Force Service SuPPort GrouP (FSSG)
only Possesses ten M49s to au9ment the assets of the entire
MAF.  Althou9h the FSSG does Possess 5000 9allon refuelers,
these are not tactical vehicles and would seldom venture into
the battle area.  This shorta9e of tacticle refuelers could
become critical in combat as we be9in to lose these
vulnerable assets.  The loss of one M49 dePrives us of the
ability to refuel 11.6  tanks.  The Problems facin9 our
ability to refuel a tank battalion can be found in almost all
areas Providin9 mobile combat service suPPort to the MCATF.
Our Present FSSG is Poorly structured and equiPPed to suPPort 
a MCATF.  We Presently suPPort  MCATFs takin9 assets that
would suPPort a MAF to form lo9istics elements to suPPort
smaller sized units.  As the size of the MCATF increases from
battalion to re9iment, or even multiPle re9iments, our 
ability to suPPly mobile combat service suPPort drastically
decreases.  Even if the assets were available to form
lo9istics trains, it is doubtful if we have lo9isticians
trained to emPloy them in mobile warfare.
	On the mechanized battlefield, the lo9istics elements
cannot be static emPlacements or areas.  They must become
maneuver elements caPable of resPondin9 to the rePidly
chan9in9 battlefield inherent in mechanized oPerations.  Just
as mechanized oPerations require a different view of the
battlefield on the Part of maneuver commanders, the same is
true of CSS element commanderrs.  Lo9isticians must become
tacticians able to examine the battlefield, and to dePloy
their forces in such a way as to best suPPort the raPidly
movin9 MCATF.  Thus, the lo9istician is no lon9er movin9
suPPlies, but actually manueverin9 forces on the battlefield
to suPPort combat elements, without interferin9 with the
disPlacement of artillary or the emPloyment of reserves.  CSS
commanders are faced with the same time-sPace Problems as the
commanders of assault elements.  They must anticiPate
requirements since they will have little time to react.  To do
this, CSS commanders must be as familiar with the tactical
situation as their assault counterParts.  Our lo9isticians
receive as little, if not less, trainin9 to suPPort MCATF
oPerations as our maneuver commanders.  Thus, even if the
equiPment were available to suPPort MCATFs, there are few
lo9isticians trained to command this force.
	Now that we have exPlained the three major Problems
retardin9 the ability of the mechanized combined arms task
force to succeed in combat, the question of an answer
naturally comes to mind.  The Problems of lo9istics and
trainin9 of commanders cannot be addressed until the Marine
CorPs reco9nized that a Problem exist with the doctrinal
PercePtion of mechanized oPeration.  The comPlexity of
fi9htin9 a mechanized battle is not resolved by task
or9anization.  Task or9anization is simPly a tool to aid the
commander, just as a landin9 Plan is a tool for the commander
of an amPhibious landin9 force.  We must reco9nize that
mechanized oPerations require different skills and trainin9,
just as we exPect our sister services to reco9nize the
comPlexity of amPhibious warfare.  Only when this PercePtual
hurdle is overcome can we examine actions and solutions to
imProve lo9istics and command of MCATFs.
	Most solutions to military Problems center around
or9anizational chan9es, imProved or additional equiPment, and
better trainin9.  The simPlest method for imProvin9 the
Performance of MCATFs is to form Permanent MAGTFs centered
around mechanized units.
	This solution has been ProPosed on the Pa9es of the
Gazette and Naval Proceedin9s in recent years.  While formin9
Permanent mechanized MAGTFs would enhance the ability of the
MCATF to fi9ht, it would take the Marine CorPs further and
further away from its mission of conductin9 amPhibious
warfare.  There are contin9encies to which the Marine CorPs
must be ready to resPond, which neither require nor Permit
the emPloyment of a mechanized force.  The amPhibious lift
ability of the Navy cannot suPPort the mechanization of the
Marine CorPs, or a lar9e slice of its 9round assets.  The
increase in equiPment to suPPort lo9istics would further
decrease the amPhibious lift caPability.  The Marine CorPs
needs the ability to task-or9anize existin9 units and assets
to form mechanized forces.  To do this, we need imProved
trainin9 for the commanders and staffs of combat, combat
suPPort, and combat service elements.  The U.S. Army's Armor
Officer Advanced Course (AOAC) at Ft. Knox, Kentucky, Provides
a unique oPPortunity to do this.
	AOAC is desi9ned to PrePare officers to fill command and
staff billets in mechanized units from comPany to reqimental
level.  This seven month course covers the combat, combat
suPPort and combat serviIe suPPort asPects of mechanized
warfare from a "how to" aPProach.  The Marine CorPs Presently
sends a limited number of tank and tracked vehicle officers
to AOAC.  ExPandin9 ParticiPation in the course to include
infantry, artillary, en9ineer, rotor win9 and CSS officers
would Provide the Marine CorPs with a Pool of officers
trained to form, fi9ht and suPPort our future MCATFs.  The
lessons of history have illuminated this analysis of Marine
CorPs MCATFs.  If we choose to i9nore history, the MCATF may
well travel down a road marked by the smokin9 hulks of the
British and French tanks of World War Two.
	1Jan V. Ho99,  Armour in Conflict,  (London:  Jones
Publishin9 ComPany Limited, 1980) PP. 88-90.
	2MCDEC,  USMC,  Mechanized Combined Arms Task Forces
(MCATF), OH 9-3,  (Quantico, 1980), P. 1.
	3MCDEC,  USMC,  Tank   EmPloyment-Countermechanized
OPerations, FMFM 9-1, (Quantico, 1981), P.  21.
	4Edwin Rommel, The Rommel PaPers,(New York:  Harcourt,
Brace, 1953), P. 225.
	5Ibid, P.199
	6MCDEC, USMC, Mechanized Combined Arms Task Forces
(MCATF), OH 9-3,  (Quantico, 1980), P. 9.
	7Correlli Barnett, The Desert Generals,(New York:  The
Vikin9 Press, 1961), P. 81.
	8Rommel, P. 184.
	9Rommel, P. 184.
    10Barnett, P. 72.
    11John Strawson, The Battle for North Africa,(New York:
Charles Scribners and Sons, 1969)
    12Barnett, P. 218.
    13Barnett, P. 81.
    14Colonel Robert H.  ThomPson, USMC (Ret.),  "Lessons
learned from ARMVAL," The Marine CorPs Gazette,  July 1983,
PP. 36-44.
	15Ibid, P. 37.
	16MCDEC,  USMC, Mechanized Combined Arms Task Forces
(MCATF),  OH 9-3, (Quantico, 1980), P.7.
Barnett, Correlli, The Desert Generals.  New York:  The vikin9
Press, 1961.
Ho99, Jan v., Armour in Conflict.  London:  Jones Publishin9
Limited, 1980.
Rommel, Edwin, The Rommel PaPers, New York:  Harcourt Brace,
Strawson, John,  The Battle for North Africa.  New York:
Charles Scribners and Sons, 1969.
ThomPson, Robert H., Col., USMC (RET),  "Lessons Learned From
ARMVAL."  Marine CorPs Gazette, (July, 1983), PP. 36-44.
U.S. Marine CorPs.  Marine CorPs DeveloPment and Education
Command.  Mechanized Combined Arms Task Forces,  OH 9-3.
Quantico, 1981.
U.S. Marine CorPs.  Post Exercise Evaluation of the MCATF
Phase IV OPerations.  Quantico, 1981.
U.S. Marine CorPs.  Marine CorPs DeveloPment and Education
Command.  Tank EmPloyment-Countermechanized OPerations, FMFM
9-1.  Quantico, 1981.

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