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MAGTF (SOC):  Making Our Primary Force Development Objective A Reality
AUTHOR Major Victor D. Lance, USMC
CSC 1991
SUBJECT AREA - National Military Strategy
                        EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
I.  Purpose:  To examine the Marine Corps' special operations
background and propose the most effective organization for
Special Operations Capable Marine Air-Ground Task Forces.
II.  Thesis:  The Marine Corps' goal of making all MAGTFs
"Special Operational Capable" is logical and farsighted;
however, we must decide specifically "how" to implement this
concept before our goal can be achieved.
III.  Overview:  The U.S., and particularly the Marine Corps,
has a rich history of special operations involvement.  By the
early 1980's, however, that capability had atrophied to the
extent that we could not respond to increasing threats to
national security and interests abroad, primarily in Third
World countries.  DOD directed a revitalization of special
operations forces, and the Corps responded by self-evaluating
to determine capabilities and limitations.  With MEUs the
initial focus of the program to enhance our special
operations capabilities,  many obstacles were overcome and
success was rapidly evident.  With Gen. Gray's strong
advocacy the Corps became better able to conduct Maneuver
Warfare using (SOC) principles, punctuated by rapid staff
planning and amphibious raid capability.  The next logical
step was the development of special operations capability in
our MEBs and MEFs.   The Corps has yet, however, to establish
specific procedures for the organization and operation of
DESERT STORM had somewhat negative effects on the (SOC)
IV.  Conclusion:  With the global security environment
uncertain and dynamic, the Marine Corps has adapted
itself to provide the Nation a responsive force with great
utility across the entire spectrum of conflict.  The ability
of MAGTFs to conduct special operations is a force multiplier
which contributes toward making the Navy-Marine Corps Team
the force of choice to deal with future conflicts.  If the
Corps is to maximize its warfighting potential, it must
establish specific procedures for its MAGTF(SOC) program and
begin implementation in earnest.
V.  Recommendations:  The Marine Corps should implement
MAGTF(SOC) by ensuring that specific portions of larger
MAGTFs are (SOC).  Specifically, a MEB(SOC) should be one
which contains a MEU(SOC) as an integral unit.  A MEF(SOC)
then, is one which contains one or more MEBs(SOC).  The
"linchpin" in these configurations is the ability of MAGTF
staffs to conduct rapid response planning and the opportunity
for (SOC) portions of larger MAGTFs to undergo extensive
training and evaluation to develop teamwork.
                        A REALITY
Thesis Statement:  The Marine Corps' goal of making all MAGTFs
"Special Operational Capable" is logical and farsighted; however,
we must decide specifically "how" to implement this concept before
our goal can be achieved.
   I.  Background and Implementation:  1983-1986
       A.    Deputy SECDEF directs revitalization
             1.   Third World increasingly unstable, armed, and
             2.   U.S. national security and interests threatened
       B.    Corps conducts self-evaluation
       C.    Corps develops MEU(SOC) program
             1.   Traditional capabilities enhanced
             2.   Amphibious raid is cornerstone
       D.   Challenges confront program
            1.   Internal resistance
            2.   Gator Navy balks
            3.   New organization, weapons/equipment,  training,
                 and techniques required
       E.   Gen. Gray applies emphasis to  (SOC)
 II.   Continued Rapid Improvement:  1987-1988
       A.    Few distractions and ample funds facilitate growth
             1.   Improvement in operational proficiency noted
             2.   Organizational modifications reflect focus
       B.    Ability to conduct Maneuver Warfare enhanced
III.   Ups and Downs:  1989-1991
       A.   Landmark Documents
            1.   MEU(SOC) Playbook and training handbooks
            2.   FMFM 1 Warfighting
            3.   MAGTF Master Plan
       B.   Operation JUST CAUSE - Panama
            1.   Largely an "Army show"
            2.   Corps' (SOC) not fully utilized
       C.   Operation DESERT SHIELD/STORM
            1.   Focus off (SOC)
            2.   Successful NEOs -- Liberia and Somalia
 IV.   The Future of the (SOC) Program
       A.   Despite success, future uncertain
            1.   Key questions unanswered
            2.   Shrinking defense budget
            3.   Corps' role scrutinized
            4.   CMC change -- Summer '91
       B.   MEB/MEF(SOC) options
            1.   Entire MAGTF is (SOC)
            2.   Portions of MAGTF are (SOC)
       C.   MEB(SOC)
            1.   MEU(SOC) as fifth element
            2.   SRIG detachment
       D.   MEF(SOC)
            1.   One or more MEBs(SOC)
            2.   SRI Group
 V.   Conclusion
       A.  Corps has decided future role
            1.   Utility across spectrum of conflict
            2.   (SOC)  is force multiplier
            3.   (SOC) does not equal LIC
       B.  Dedicated, lengthy workup essential for teamwork
       C.  Gator Navy indispensable
       D.  (SOC) has come far in seven years
       E.  Corps must decide specifics of implementing (SOC)
       It has been almost six years since the Marine Corps
deployed its first "Special Operations Capable"  (SOC)
Marine Air-Ground Task Force (MAGTF), The 26th MAU.  (18:67)
Despite some initial resistance to the idea of creating
Marine units capable of performing special operations, a
program has been created whereby the Sixth and Seventh Fleets
continually have a compact but increasingly effective
forward-deployed maritime amphibious force capable of
conducting a broad range of operations across the spectrum of
conflict.  (15:22, 23:41)
       Although the Marine Corps'  initial  intention was to
limit development of (SOC)  to its smallest standard MAGTF --
the Marine Amphibious Unit  (MAU)  (15:23)*,  the present
Commandant of the Marine Corps, General A. M. Gray, has been
so impressed with the improvement in operational proficiency
which the (SOC) program has made in the Corps as a whole,
that he has directed that all MAGTFs will be (SOC) by the
year 2000.  (28:ES-2).   The Marine Corps' goal of making all
MAGTFs special operations capable is logical and farsighted;
however, we must decide specifically "how" we intend to
implement this concept before our goal can be achieved.
*The word "expeditionary" replaced "amphibious"  in 1986, at
the direction of CMC, General Gray, when used in reference to
Marine Air-Ground Task Forces.   Thus,  "MAU" became "MEU",
etc.   He felt the new term more accurately described the true
nature of our MAGTFs, meaning they should not be considered
as being limited to employment from Navy ships, but rather
that they are able to be introduced into a theater by a
variety of means:   land, air, and sea (12:18).
       Before proposed recommendations on the best way to
implement MAGTF(SOC) are offered, a thorough review of the
evolution and current status of the program is necessary.
The subject of developing the Marine Corps' special
operations capability has been a cause for considerable
discussion within the Department of Defense and the Marine
Corps in particular since 1983 when Deputy Secretary of
Defense William H. Taft IV published a memorandum
specifically directing a revitalization of special operations
forces in our Armed Forces.  (1:16, 23:41)   He stated that:
       U. S. national security requires the maintenance
       of Special Operations Forces (SOFs) capable of
       conducting the full range of special operations
       on a worldwide basis, and the revitalization of
       those forces must be pursued as a matter of national
       urgency.   Therefore,  I am directing that the
       following steps be taken:
           1.  Necessary force structure expansion and
       enhancements in command and control, personnel
       policy, training, and equipment will be implemented
       as rapidly as possible and will be fully implemented
       not later than the end of Fiscal Year 1990... (15:22)
       This renewed interest in special operations came
primarily as a response to the increasing number and scope of
unconventional threats to the security and interests of the
United States, particularly in Third World countries where,
various sources warned, our military's primary involvement
would occur in the foreseeable future.  (14:40)   Our
Commandant, General Gray, predicted,  "It is the Third World,
the so-called low-intensity conflict arena, where we are most
likely to be committed in this decade..."  (10:18)
       Thus, in the upcoming period of uncertainty and dynamic
change, the Third World would become increasingly unstable,
armed, and aggressive.   The weakening of Communism in the
Soviet Union and Eastern Europe signaled both a shift from a
bipolar to a multipolar world and decreased probability of
war between the U.S. and U.S.S.R.   As Soviet sponsorship for
ideological wars of national  liberation withered due to
internal economic strife, several key factors indicated an
increased potential for armed conflict in the Third World.
These factors were:
       1.   Urbanization/Population Shift.   A major shift in
population so that by the year 2000, four-fifths of the
world's population would live in Third World cities.
       2.   Perceived Inequities.   A unequal distribution of
resources and quality of life within countries and between
       3.   Nationalism.   A swelling of national pride which
manifests itself in anti-Western feelings and shrinking
ability to forward base U.S. military forces.
       4.   Proliferation of Arms.   With increased access to
highly technical and destructive military capabilities, along
with the willingness of industrialized nations to sell them,
the qualitative differences between military might of the
traditional powers and the Third World were diminishing.
(28:2-2 to 2-4)
       Terrorism, prevalent in Third World countries and
increasingly associated with the drug trade, showed no sign
of abating.   Between 1968 and 1986, there were approximately
500 terrorist attacks on U.S.   DOD personnel and assets, with
over half of them in the last four years.  (23:42)   Americans
were identified as the targets of twenty-five percent of all
terrorist attacks, a sobering statistic.  (21:46)
       The growing concern at the national  level for decreasing
stability in the Third World and corresponding accelerated
interest in developing our special operations capability was
manifested in a series of related actions that made clear the
seriousness with which we viewed the situation.  (21:48)
These actions were:
       1.   The creation of ready counterterrorist forces from
all four services.
       2.   The revitalization of existing special operations
       3.   The institution of U.S. Special Operations Command
(SOCOM) as a unified command with responsibility for
coordinating all special operations conducted by the U.S.
       4.   The creation of a new billet in DOD, The Assistant
Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Low-Intensity
       In order to comply with the aforementioned Assistant
Secretary of Defense directive,  the CMC, General P. X.
Kelley, proceeded to determine what special operations
capabilities the Corps already possessed and which ones we
needed to develop in order to enhance our utility to the
Nation, without duplicating capabilities of existing special
operations forces.  (15:23)   First, we needed to redefine the
term "special operations."   For years we viewed special
operations as either environmentally oriented (e.g.  cold
weather, jungle, desert) or a type of amphibious operation
(e.g. raid, airfield seizure, evacuation of noncombatants).
Only recently, as the scope of special operations has
increased, has the idea been accepted that special operations
also should include variation of forms of maneuver (e.g.
cliff assault, riverine operations) and special types of
missions (e.g.  in-extremis hostage rescue,  tactical recovery
of aircraft/equipment/personnel, reinforcement of an unarmed
ship).  (17:14)
       The results of the 1984 FMFLANT study, directed by
General Kelley,  indicated that our MAUs were already capable
of performing special operations to a great degree, and it
specified which capabilities we should/should not develop in
order to enhance our ability to perform our assigned role
under title 10 of the U.S. Code.   Figure 1 highlights the
results of the study.
Click here to view image
       With its vision clear concerning the direction of
special operations development,  the Marine Corps collectively
viewed this opportunity as a chance to exorcise some of the
specters of the recent past, such as:
       1.   Our association with the U. S. military and
political failure in Vietnam.
       2.   The failed attempt to rescue hostages held by Iran.
       3.   The bombing of our barracks and U.S. Embassy in
       4.   Numerous terrorist incidents around the world
with which we seemed unable to cope.*
       5.   A growing concern within the Corps over its decrease
in basic warfighting ability and misdirected emphasis on
"cheerleading skills."  (24:15)
       6.   Several publicized incidents regarding our Security
Guard Forces, highlighted by the court martial of Marines
serving at our embassy in Moscow.
       Because of the above incidents, our many positive
involvements during this period, such as the liberation of
Grenada, were overshadowed by the selected successes of some
nations in the special operations arena.   The contrast was
stark.   While the American Armed Forces were seen as a
collection of bumblers unable to perform any task requiring
finesse -- the special operations forces of other nations,
*In 1986, a forward deployed MEU in the Mediterranean Sea was
unable to respond to an airline hijacking because the plane
was flown to several  locations,  leaving the MEU unable to
respond due to the inability to plan and execute rapidly.
especially the Israeli paratroops who carried out the Entebbe
Raid and the West German border policemen who rescued
hostages from the airport at Mogadishu, seemed to provide a
set the tone for the future.   As a result, Marines, who like
to think of themselves as members of a first rate military
organization, sought to achieve that same level of
operational proficiency.
       Thus, anxious to sail past the doldrums of the early
80's,  the Corps concentrated on developing its preparedness
to conduct special operations.   The first step was to enhance
those pre-existing special operations capabilities in the
MEU,  the logical force of choice due to its forward deployed
nature and size (about 2,000 Marines and Sailors).  (26:31)
In 1986,  the Marine Corps established the functions to be
accomplished by the MEU(SOC) as the spearhead for larger
follow-on MAGTFs.   The intent was to achieve the level of
special operations capability required to operate effectively
in low-intensity conflict and to counter terrorist threats.
WCCP 8-1 provided the following guidance to FMF commanders:
       1.   It created the framework for institutionalizing
(SOC) as a means of enhancing our traditional maritime
capabilities.  (30:i)
       2.   It established 18 special operations missions,
beyond the traditional conventional ones, which a MEU must be
able to conduct in order to be considered  (SOC).  (30:2-3 to
2-5)   They are listed as follows:
            a.   Amphibious Raids
            b.   Limited Objective Attacks
           c.   Protection of Noncombatants or Installations
            d.   Show of Force Operations
            e.   Reinforcement Operations
            f.   Security Operations
            g.   Mobile Training Team
            h.   Civil Affairs Operations
            i.   Military Tactical Deception Operations
            j.   Fire Support Control
            k.   Counterintelligence Operations
            l.   Initial Terminal Guidance
            m.   Signals Intelligence/Electronic Warfare
            n.   Military Operations on Urbanized Terrain
            o.   Tactical Recovery of Aircraft, Equipment,
                 and Personnel
            p.   Recovery Operations
            q.   Specialized Demolition Operations
            r.   In-Extremis Hostage Rescue
       3.   In addition to listing capabilities,  it explained
the limitations of the MEU(SOC).  (30:2-7)
       4.   It mandated that the criteria for a (SOC)
designation would be a comprehensive tactical evaluation.
       5.   It emphasized that MEUs(SOC) could be employed
either as a complement to conventional operations or  in the
execution of a maritime special operations mission.  (30:1-4)
       6.   It established the Maritime Special Purpose Force
(MSPF) as a task organized core of each MEU's special
operations capability.  (30:3-3 to 3-6)
       7.   It set forth the structure of the MEU(SOC)  to
include many detachments to aid in meeting the formidable
list of mission capability requirements, such as:
           a.    Detachment from an air and naval gunfire
                 liaison company
           b.    DS artillery battery with 105/155 mix
           c.    Counterintelligence (CI) Team
           d.    Detachment from a force imagery interpretation
                 unit  (FIIU)
           e.    Detachment from a force recon company
           f.    Detachment from an interrogator/translator
                team (ITT)
           g.    Detachment from the low altitude air
                 defense battery (LAAD)
           h.    Detachment from the Marine aerial refueler/
                 transport squadron
           i.    Detachment of Marine air support squadron
           j.    Detachment of AV-8B Harriers
           k.    Detachment from a radio battalion.
                                                  (30:2-7 to 2-9)
       With the above guidance in mind, Fleet Marine Force
Commanders instituted the program in earnest in 1985, each
starting with the institution of a Special Operations
Training Group  (SOTG) to guide in special skills training and
coordinate with outside agencies in equipment testing and
acquisition.   Despite CMC's strong endorsement, the concept
was met with some resistance from Marines who didn't
understand or agree with it.  (23:41)   Viewed in some circles
as "mystery, magic, and secrecy",  the all-too-familiar
laments which always seem to accompany change were heard,
such as:  "So what's wrong with the old way?"  "It was good for
the past 200 years, why change now?" And "Why are we trying
to compete with other service branches in the special
operations arena?"  (16:30)
       An even more difficult task was to convince the Navy,
particularly the amphibious warfare branch  (Gator Navy), of
the necessity to make specific and,  in some cases, radical
modifications in the way we operated.   Since the amphibious
raid is the cornerstone of the SOC program,  the ultimate goal
has always been the ability to conduct simultaneous
amphibious raids on short notice at night under EMCON
from over the horizon by air and/or surface means, against
distant inland targets, followed by a planned withdrawal.
(28:B-1, 30:2-3)   Add to this the following inherent
considerations, to name just a few, and it is understandable
why the Gator Navy balked at the magnitude of equipment and
technique modifications confronting them:
       1.   Integrated Rapid Response Planning (20:18-21) which
facilitates speed and surprise--two essentials for achieving
operational success.
       2.   Employment of Rigid Raid Craft  (RRC) and Combat
Rubber Raid Craft  (CRRC).  (9:37-39)
       3.   Integrated predeployment training and (SOC)
certification.  (18:71)
       4.   Joint training and operations with SEAL team
detachments.  (19:26)
       Once the program was underway, the Corps had to deal
with challenges in equipment acquisition and employment,
organizing,  training, and operating.   Since the program
began, some 185 new items of equipment were identified as
required, such as:  radios, cameras, digital communication
terminals, navigation aids, boats, weapons, night vision
devices, cold weather clothing, vehicles, and numerous minor
items associated with air and ground reconnaissance units.
       In organizing for MEU(SOC), a third MEU headquarters was
added on each coast to allow each MEU's subordinate elements
a six month training program under MEU control.   Personnel
stability was increased to ensure the same team could train
and operate together, a key factor in developing teamwork.
Battalion landing teams were reorganized to provide company-
sized maneuver elements--each with a specialized means of
mobility:   Raid Craft (boats), Amphibious Assault Vehicle,
helicopter, and surface landing craft.   This scheme gave MEU
forces great flexibility in the ability to conduct amphibious
operations under a variety of climatic and terrain
conditions, where the weakness of one means is compensated by
the strength of others.  (9:38)
       In putting the new organization and equipment together,
dedicated predeployment training was instituted, focusing on
rapid response planning and the night amphibious raid.   Not
only did all MEU elements train together, starting with
individual basics, but the Navy Phibron was included to
ensure complete synchronization when deployment time arrived.
The training was realistic,  intense, and progressive.   MEU
units received priority for school attendance (SNCO Academy,
NCO School, Platoon Sergeant and Squad Leader Courses,
advanced markmanship schools, coxswain/navigators course,
etc.), ranges and training area usage, ammunition, and
       The predeployment training also featured situational
training exercises and the development of unit SOPs and
playbooks to facilitate rapid planning.   Just prior to
deployment,  the MEU/Phibron team underwent a comprehensive
three day tactical evaluation in which realistic, dynamic
situations dictated rapid, well-timed responses with multiple
assets.   This SOCEX, as it was named, was the MEU's "final
examination"  in which a passing grade was required to earn
the (SOC) designation.
       Since the MEU(SOC) concept was relatively new, despite
the Corps' early experience in special operations, we had no
"sheet of music" to follow.  (21:45)   When General Gray became
Commandant in 1986, an immediate, noticeable emphasis was
applied to the (SOC) program which spurred it to success
sooner than most expected.   We relied on "turned on
brainpower", and what General Victor H. Krulak described as
"sunbursts of creativity in operational techniques and
material development", and the initiative of Marines at all
levels.  (11:26,  19:27)   Because immediate, visible
improvement was observed in units undergoing (SOC)  training
and deployments,  the popularity of the program rapidly grew,
converting many who previously were skeptics.
       It was during this period that the (SOC) program quickly
accelerated to create tremendous improvement in the quality
of MEU the Corps was producing.   With no armed conflicts to
distract attention, ongoing emphasis at the highest levels of
the Corps, and teamwork at the lowest, we were able to focus
completely on this area.  (11:25)   With this continued
improvement many skeptics became believers.   One battalion
commander commented,  "The wizardry (of MEU(SOC)) is
associated with the benefits of a concentrated mixture of
realistic and stressful training, broad guidance, and hard is more challenging than anything outside of
combat."  (16:30)   Many also discovered,  to their surprise,
that (SOC)  training improved their units' ability to conduct
conventional operations while it created an improved
environment to develop junior leaders.  (16:31)
       Although the initial operational focus of MEUs(SOC) was
the Mediterranean Littorals, primarily as a contingency force
to counter the increasing terrorism threat, company-sized
"contingency MAGTFs" deployed to the Persian Gulf in 1986/87
validated (SOC) fundamentals and techniques in oil platform
       Numerous minor course corrections were made as Corps
decision makers listened to the many recommendations which
bubbled up from the lowest levels.   Two of the most biggest
organizational adjustments were made during this period:
       1.   Responsibility for providing battalion landing teams
(the ground combat element of the MEU) became reposed in a
single infantry regiment on both east and west coasts, and
that this regiment would contain four infantry battalions
instead of the usual three.   This action resulted in a more
reasonable training/deployment/recovery cycle, and an
increase in information sharing and corresponding improvement
in corporate knowledge.
      2.    Several months later, Fleet Marine Force Commanders
deemed that,  in order to give forward--deployed MEUs(SOC)
greater combat power, each battalion within the MEU(SOC)
regiment would be beefed-up to four rifle companies vice the
normal three.
       Because the reapportionment of Marines in both these
moves came at the expense of the other two regiments in 1st
and 2d divisions,  the spread of Marines among the three
infantry regiments appeared roughly as follows (2d MARDIV
example) :
             Unit            Primary Focus            # Marines
             8th Mar            MEU(SOC)                4,500
             2d Mar             NATO/Norway             3,200
             6th Mar            MPS/Panama              2,600
The greatest benefit experienced by MEUs(SOC),  and the
Marine Corps as a whole, during this period of exponential
growth, was that being able to conduct special operations
facilitated our ability to conduct  "Maneuver Warfare," the
emerging warfighting doctrine of the Corps.   In describing
how he intended the Marine Corps to fight,  General Gray
      The Marine Corps of the future will fight a high
      tempo,  fluid, combined arms, maneuver oriented conflict.
      Our goal will be to collapse our opponent, destroying
      his ability to fight as a cohesive, organized force;
      this is the way to obtain quicker results with fewer
      casualties.   In battle our principal advantage will be
      our ability to fight  in such a way as to disrupt our
      opponent's decision process.   That is to say, our
      advantage will be due less to equipment than our
      excellence at tactics and the operational art.  (10:18)
      The Corps found,  through realistic training exercises
and evaluations,  that the best way to practice Maneuver
Warfare at the MEU level was by conducting related amphibious
operations, such as a noncombatant evacuation, supported by a
series of raids, which could come from over-the-horizon
during day or nignt in almost any weather by either surface
and/or air.  We rediscovered that even an enemy of superior
size couldn't be strong everywhere.   By pinpointing the
inevitable weaknesses and shaping the battlefield, we could
concentrate small but potent forces at specific locations,
conduct a variety of missions quickly, and conclude with a
planned, rapid withdrawal.   So, for example,  to evacuate an
American embassy in a hostile environment,  it became clear
that it was unnecessary to overcome all enemy forces in the
area to accomplish the mission.   This, we concluded, was the
true value of MEU(SOC).  (3)
UPS AND DOWNS:  1989-1991
       During this period continued dramatic operational
improvements were offset by the largest deployment of Marines
since World War II.   The major influences on the program
were:  (1)  the publishing of landmark documents,  (2) Operation
JUST CAUSE in Panama, and (3) Operation Desert Shield/Storm.
       In March,  1989 the Fleet Marine Force Commanders jointly
TRAINING HANDBOOK (Vols. I-IV).   The result of a vast amount
of operational experience and cooperation between units,
these documents were noteworthy because they standardized,  in
extensive detail, procedures for conducting training and
operations for MEU(SOC)  throughout the Corps.   Prior to their
publication,  there were no specific "how to" manuals to guide
MEUs or their elements in the attainment of special
operations capability.   Also published in March 1989 was
FMFM 1 WARFIGHTING, a doctrinal publication which established
"Maneuver Warfare" as the Marine Corps' doctrine for
warfighting.   In July,  1989,  the Warfighting Center, at the
direction of CMC, published the MAGTF MASTER PLAN (MMP).
This document was particularly significant because it
established force deployment goals for the period 1990-2000,
with the intention of further enhancing the aggregate
usefulness of the Fleet Marine Force as a national instrument
for naval power projection.   A farsighted, bold directive
which clarified the existing  (SOC) framework,  its salient
points are:
       1.   A forecast that the naval services--the Navy and the
Marine Corps--will bear the brunt of future national response
in conflicts short of general war.  (28:CMC)
      2.    The intended expansion of SOC within the MEFs
specifically, that all MAGTFs would be (SOC).  (28:CMC, ES-2)
      3.    The establishment of 49 prioritized MAGTF
capabilities,  to be emphasized during this timeframe,  the
first of which was "the capability to conduct amphibious
raids on short notice at night in adverse weather conditions
under EMCON from OTH via air or surface means against distant
inland targets."  (28:6-1)
      4.    The prediction that the most probable employment of
MAGTFs in the future would be in the low-to-mid intensity
range of conflict.  (28:A-2-1) See Figure 2.
Click here to view image
       Although scheduled for publication in 1991, the updated
MMP, which covers 1992-2002,  is currently being staffed in
draft form.   A few significant differences and similarities
between this version and its predecessor are worth
       1.   It is not quite as ambitious and is less specific in
its predictions than the former publication.   For example,  it
does not state that the most likely environment for future
MAGTFs will be in low-to-mid intensity conflict;  instead it
says the Corps must remain flexible and be prepared to
conduct operations across the entire spectrum of conflict.
Also,  it is less emphatic concerning the goal of ensuring
that all MAGTFs are (SOC).  (27:ES-1)
      2.    It is equally vague concerning "how" we intend to
make all MAGTFs (SOC).  (27:7-2)
      3.    It is considerably more concise.
       The national-level decision not to employ a MAGTF (6th
MEB in the original plan)  to participate/conduct Operation
JUST CAUSE in Panama in December, 1990, was viewed by many
Marines as the Army's encroachment on the Corps' well-earned
historical status as the Nation's force-in-readiness, and a
signal that our  (SOC)  lacked credibility.  (19:25)   This
claim, which appeared logical considering the Army's quest
for a new role (funding)  in wake of the recent collapse of
Communism in Eastern Europe,  that eliminated a large portion
its primary mission, was not entirely valid.   In retrospect,
however, the apparently abrupt transformation of JUST CAUSE
into largely "an Army show"  is more plausible than it
originally appeared in light of the facts that:  (1)  the
pre-existing Army support infrastructure in Panama was unique
and Army-oriented, and  (2)  the desire for OPSEC caused Army
planners to not inform the Corps of the change to OPLAN task
       In the wake of publication of the above-mentioned key
documents and our limited involvement in JUST CAUSE, an
unforeseen crisis arose, sparked by Iraq's 2 Aug 90 invasion
of Kuwait, which temporarily averted the complete attention
of the Corps.   Although the (SOC) program was placed on the
"back burner," three events occurred during this time frame
which were germane to the future of (SOC), and are worthy of
       1.   Throughout this period both FMFLANT and PAC each
maintained a forward deployed MEU(SOC) despite the extensive
deployment of Marine units to SWA.
       2.   Two MEUs(SOC) flawlessly conducted two contingency
operations on short notice; noncombatant evacuations in
Liberia and Somalia.
       3.   11th MEU(SOC) was completely assimilated,  into 5th
MEB, one of the units designated to conduct an amphibious
assault into Kuwait.  (29) This is significant because in
doing so, the MEB's ability to conduct special operations
rapidly atrophied in the absence of the "habitual
association" between MEU elements which is so essential in
the attainment and maintenance of (SOC).  (5:2)
       Unfortunately, some in our Corps still fail to realize
that special operations skills,  like a garden, will wither
and die unless regularly cultivated.
       With Operation Desert Storm largely completed,  the
Corps' attention is slowly reverting to the priorities
established in the MMP.   With the Corps facing imminent,
substantial budget cuts and concomitant decrease in personnel
strength,  it is wrestling with decisions which will determine
its ability to achieve the force development goals it has
established for itself.
       Because of its proven value,  the (SOC) program would
appear to have a secure place in the future of the Corps.
That well-earned security is not guaranteed, however.
Several key considerations require further attention such
as:   1) Will continued development of our ability to conduct
special operations remain a priority?   (2)  If so,  to what
extent will we develop that ability?   (3) Toward what end
of the spectrum of conflict will we orient?   and
(4)   Specifically, how can we make MEBs and MEFs special
operations capable?
       With the U.S. facing an uncertain and potentially
dangerous future national security environment with
diminishing defense resources, Marine leaders emphasize the
affordability, strategic mobility, self-sustainability,
expeditionary nature, and operational flexibility of the
Navy-Marine Corps amphibious team.  (15:23,  11:25)   The people
of the United States, who collectively decide the size and
character of our armed forces and, specifically, the amount
of emphasis each branch receives in terms of funding, may not
agree that we're as vital and desirable to America as we
think we are.   Based on the unusual nature of our recent war
with Iraq, and the perception shaped by the news media
regarding the surgical effectiveness of "smart" weapons and a
high technology military, many Americans may believe that
amphibious forces are obsolete.   Gen. Omar Bradley did.
(13:3)   "Heck," Joe American may exclaim,  "they didn't land
those guys ashore in Kuwait; we didn't even need them!"
       Even as intense battles for resource allocation are
underway,  it is a certainty that the Corps' overall personnel
strength will be substantially reduced within the next few
years, commensurate with other service branches.   Gen. Gray
espouses that it is our "aggregate usefulness to the Nation,"
the ability to "go at any time by air or surface, and to do
it right" that makes us desirable in the eyes of Americans.
(12:18)   Further, he also believes that "the continuing
forward deployment of these (SOC) forces contributes to
deterring our adversaries while providing a visible warning
of our ability to respond across a broad spectrum of
conflict."  (11:25)
       While Gen. Gray cannot claim authorship of the SOC
program,  it was under his leadership and wholehearted
proponency that it took root and flourished.   With his term
as CMC ending this summer it is uncertain whether his
replacement will pursue (SOC) with the same degree of
interest.   The decided effect the upcoming change of Corps
leadership will have on the (SOC) program cannot be
overstated.   The tremendous progress it has facilitated in
our operational ability could easily and rapidly be
neutralized or reversed by a lack of concern or opposition by
the new regime.
       Assuming that the goals established in the MMP remain
unchanged, with SOC as a priority, how then will we create
MEBs and MEFs(SOC)?   There are two basic options, each with
several variables :
       1.   That the entire MEB/MEF be trained in special
operations to the same degree as the present MEU.
      2.   That portions of the MEB/MEF be trained in special
operations,  to the extent that the MEB/MEF can be considered
       The first option,  although alluded to  in the MMP
is not feasible because MEBs/MEFs are too  large to expect all
members and units to be highly trained in special operations.
(28:6-2)  Additionally, unlike MEUs, MEBs/MEFs don't have the
opportunity to conduct the six to nine-month workup with
dedicated Navy ships followed by a six-month deployment.   It
would be impossible to provide larger MAGTFs the same degree
of personnel stability and priority for special weapons and
equipment,  logistical support,  and training support.   In
short,  we are deluding ourselves if we think we can create
MEBs/MEFs in which all members and units are SOC.
       The second option is where I believe the answer to the
question lies,  that is,  to have portions of the MEB/MEF
highly trained  in special operations.
       The relatively new concept of MAGTF(SOC)  is not
universally well understood;  therefore, few have conjectured
a solution.   Col.  Magee and LtCol. Wilson believe the answer
is the creation of a maritime special purpose force (MSPF),
as the core of each MAGTF's special operations capability.
(17:15)   The problem with this idea is expressed,
unintentionally perhaps,  by the authors in the suggestion
that their proposed plan enables a MAGTF to quickly tailor
a force capable of conducting special operations.
       Further,  the units which Magee and Wilson believe should
make up the MSPF for each MAGTF do not normally operate
together.   Thus,  the implication is that these units,  each
possessing unique skills, could be quickly assembled and
expected to conduct special operations missions on short
notice.   While this idea has some merit,  it ignores one of
the bedrock principles which have made MEU(SOC) successful:
that units deemed "SOC" undergo intensive training as a team
for months, followed by a comprehensive tactical evaluation.
(4:2-10) Their approach can be likened to creating a team of
all-star athletes from various teams and expecting them to
perform smoothly together.   Teamwork is a condition which
results from practicing extensively;  it rarely occurs simply
because people want it to happen.   In contrast, wouldn't a
prudent fan rather bet on a team which contains a host of
talented individuals who have trained and played together
       The method I propose to create larger MAGTFs(SOC)
mirrors the latter analogy above, and is outlined below:
Proposed MEB(SOC) Composition
       1.   A standard MEB command element  (CE), which contains
an SRI Group detachment.
      2.    A regimental  landing team (RLT)(-) as the ground
combat element  (GCE).
      3.    A Marine Air Group (MAG)(-) as the air combat
element  (ACE).
      4.    A brigade service support group  (BSSG)(-) as the
brigade service support group (BSSG).
      5.    A MEU(SOC), whose integrity will normally be
maintained.   It can be detached to conduct advance force
operations, functioning as the MEB(Forward) until the
arrival of the MEB.
       When forward deployed,  it can be a spearhead for the
MEB.   In the forward echeloning concept,  the MEU(SOC)  lands
as the MEB(Forward), operating as directed until the arrival
of a MEB.  (28:4-3, 27:3-3)   See Figure 3.
Click here to view image
       In this concept, as depicted above,  there is no set
procedure regarding how the MEU is absorbed/relieved by the
arriving MEB.   The three methods currently practiced are:
       1.   Composite MEU, by element, completely into MEB.
       2.   Composite MEU into MEB except CE, which is retained
for planning and execution of special operations missions.
       3.   Maintain integrity of MEU within MEB.
       The third method provides a ready, potent, and
detachable special operations capability whose advantages
over other options are:
       1.   The MEB doesn't have to task organize in impromptu
fashion if a special operations mission arises.
       2.   The MEB is best prepared, with this organization,  to
conduct both conventional and special operations missions.
       3.   The MEB commander can retain vital command and
control of all Marine forces by assigning taskings to four
vice three units.   Units of the MEU(SOC) could be either
tasked to support or cross-attached to other elements to
weight that force for a particular mission.   (1:3)
       4.   Conventionally,  the MEB loses virtually nothing
because it plans and trains in tasking the MEU to support
other MEB elements.   For protracted conventional operations
ashore the MEU(SOC) can be fully assimilated into the MEB.
       5.   Since the MEB headquarters contains a detachment
from SRI Group, consisting of small units from ANGLICO, Force
Recon, Radio Bn, CI, and ITT,  it has a small built-in special
operations capability that can either be task organized to
augment the MEU(SOC) or retained for separate employment
under direct control of the MEB.
       The fact that a MEB contains a MEU(SOC) does not
automatically make it  (SOC).   The "linchpin"  in this
arrangement is the developed ability of the MEB commander and
his staff to:   (1) effectively conduct rapid response
planning, which will enable timely employment of the MEB's
special operations capability, and (2) practice "mission
profiles", consisting of various complex missions, involving
the entire MEB, with established conditions and standards for
each.  (6:5-2, 22)
Proposed MEF(SOC) Composition
       Creating the MEB(SOC), using the above framework,  is the
"hard part" of MAGTF(SOC).   The "easy part"  is creating the
MEF(SOC).   A MEF(SOC), simply then,  is one which has both of
the following characteristics:
       1.   One or more MEBs(SOC).
       2.   As with the MEB,  the MEF commander and his staff
must have the practiced ability to conduct rapid response
planning, which enables the accomplishment of a variety of
MEF mission profiles.  (22)
Also,  the MEF CE contains an entire SRI group, which can be
employed in identical fashion as the MEB's SRIG detachment,
but under the command of the SRI Group Commander.
       The only criticism of the above proposals for
MEB/MEF(SOC) composition is that they create situations in
which one MAGTF contains another MAGTF.   I fail to recognize
any anticipated disadvantages inherent in such an
       The Marine Corps has passed the juncture whereby it
selected its future role in the evolving national security
plan.   Our Commandant has decided on a course which,  if
followed to its completion, will provide the Nation a Corps
whose aggregate usefulness is second to none.   Our ability to
deploy by a variety of means, our sustainability, and the
ability to effectively operate across the spectrum of
conflict should make the Navy-Marine Corps Team the force of
choice to counter likely future threats.   Prudent
decisionmakers in our government should recognize this when
determinations for defense budget spending are made.
       Consequently, with our efforts focused on broad utility,
instead of upon a particular range of the spectrum of
conflict,  the Corps must avoid the fixation, nurtured at DOD
level, with associating "special operations" with so-called
Low-Intensity Conflict  (LIC).   While special operations may
be expedient in such an environment,  they are equally
applicable to both mid and high-intensity conflict as well.
Furthermore, although certain types of special operations are
desirable in a LIC environment, some are not.   Despite our
admirable special operations capability, we need even further
enhancement and corresponding change of mindset before we
become as good as we should be in the LIC arena.
       If our special operations capability is a "force
multiplier" which magnifies our global utility, and if the
cornerstone of (SOC)  is the amphibious raid,  then the Gator
Navy is the foundation on which that cornerstone is laid.
Although the Corps advertises its ability to deploy using a
variety of means,  the most effective operating platform for
Marines, when permanent onshore U.S. presence is becoming
eclipsed,  is amphibious ships.   The cooperation and
commitment to operational excellence of the Gator Navy then,
which provides MAGTFs a unique form of mobility and
sustainability,  is indispensable to the future of (SOC), for
without the full support of the Navy our ability to conduct
special operations will never mature.   The Gator Navy must
wholeheartedly embrace the (SOC) concept if we, as a team,
are to achieve our potential as America's maritime force-in-
readiness.   To truly maximize the value of our special
operations capabilities,  the Corps,  in sync with the Navy,
must be able to rapidly composite MAGTFs(SOC) with other
Marine "force modules", deployed by sea or air, so that we
can apply force with greater precision and discrimination.
       Finally,  the Marine Corps has made great strides in the
development of its special operations capabilities during the
past seven years.   Originally intending to make only minor
adjustments to its traditional capabilities,  the Corps has
honed its (SOC) program to the point where the Commandant's
goal  is to make all MAGTFs special operations capable.
Through FMFM 1 and the MAGTF Master Plan, we have charted our
course for the future.   Now is the time to make intelligent,
realistic decisions as to how we will commence implementing
and achieving the force development goals we have established
for ourselves.
 1.   Anderson, Jr., LtCol A. E., USMC(Ret),  "The Corps and
         Special Operations,"  Marine Corps Gazette, December,
         1985,  16-17.
  2.   Bartels, Jr., Col. W. E., and Schmidt, LtCol. J. W.,
           "MEU(SOC):  Smarter Operations and Fully Capable,"
           Marine Corps Gazette, January,  1990, 69-74.
  3.   Blackman, LtCol. R. R., Commanding Officer BLT 3/8.
          Professional Military Education Lecture on the MEU
          (SOC) and Maneuver Warfare, Camp Lejeune, North
          Carolina,  16 Oct 88.
  4.   Decker, Capt. Michael H.,  "The MAGTF and Low-Intensity
          Conflict," Marine Corps Gazette, March,  1988, 45-47.
  5.   15th and 11th Marine Expeditionary Units Position
          Paper,  "Maintaining Special Operations Capabilities
          Within 5th MEB", 5 Oct 90.
  6.   Fleet Marine Forces, Atlantic and Pacific, MEU (SOC)
          Playbook, 6 March 89.
  7.   Fleet Marine Forces, Atlantic and Pacific, MEU (SOC)
          Training Handbooks, Vols.  I-IV, 6 March 89.
  8.   Flores, Maj. Susan J.,  "Marine Corps Employment in Low-
          Intensity Conflict," Marine Corps Gazette, April,
          1989, 30-34.
  9.   Gandy, Capt. Bruce A.,  "Maintaining Our Special
          Operations Capabilities," Marine Corps Gazette,
          November,  1989, 37-39.
10.   Gray, Gen. A. M.,  "A Conceptual Framework for the
          Future," Marine Corps Gazette, May,  1988,  18.
11.   Gray, Gen. A. M.,  "Annual Report of the Marine Corps to
          Congress," Marine Corps Gazette, April,  1988, 24-27.
12.   Gray, Gen. A. M.,  "29th Commandant Speaks to Corps,"
          Marine Corps Gazette, September,  1987,  18.
13.   Heinl, Col. R. D. Jr., Victory At High Tide.   Annapolis,
          MD:  The Nautical and Aviation Publishing Company of
          America,  1969, 3.
14.   Karch, Col. Lawrence G.,  "The Corps in 2000," Naval
           Institute Proceedings, November,  1988, 40-45.
15.    Kelley, Gen. Paul X.,  "The Marine Corps and Special
          Operations," Marine Corps Gazette, October,  1985.
16.   MacPherson, LtCol.  Robert I.,  "A Marine Infantry
          Battalion and Special Operations Training," Marine
          Corps Gazette, November,  1989, 30-32.
17.    Magee, Col. James G., and Wilson, LtCol. Gary I. USMCR,
           "Maritime Special Operations," Marine Corps Gazette,
           September,  1990,  14-16.
18.    Murdock. Maj. Harry M.,  "MAU(SOC) A Powerful Maritime
          Force," Marine Corps Gazette, August,  1987, 66-71.
19.    Murray, LtCol. Terrence P.,  "State of the Union--The
          Navy-Marine Corps Team," Marine Corps Gazette, April,
          1990, 24-27.
20.    Rakow, Col. William M., and Brinkley, LtCol. Clyde S.,
          "Rapid Response Planning," Marine Corps Gazette,
          June, 1989, 18-21.
21.    Rylander, R. Lynn,  "The Future of the Marines in Small
          Wars," Naval War College Review, Autumn,  1987, 45-54.
22.    Smith, Col. R. M., former Regimental Commander, 8th
          Marines, Lecture on Marine Corps Warfighting
          Capabilities, Command and Staff College,  14 March
23.    Tomka, WO Thomas G.,  "The Future MAU(SOC)," Marine Corps
          Gazette, 41-42.
24.    Twomey, MajGen D. M.,  "Are We Training to be First-
          String Players or Cheerleaders?,"  Marine Corps
          Gazette, October,  1982, page 15.
25.    U. S. Marine Corps, FMFM 1, Warfighting, 6 March 1989.
          page 59.
26.    U. S. Marine Corps, FMFRP 2-5A, Marine Air-Ground Task
          Force Pocket Guide, pages 10-17 and 29-31.
27.    U. S. Marine Corps, Marine Air-Ground Task Force, Master
          Plan (MMP)  1992-2002, Draft.
28.    U. S. Marine Corps, Marine Air-Ground Task Force, Master
          Plan 1990-2000, 7 July 89.
29.    VonWald, Lt.Col., Warfighting Center, MAGTF Integration
          Team.  Personal Interview about the maintenance of
          Marine Corps' special operations capability during
         the recent crisis in Southwest Asia, Quantico,
          Virginia, 20 March 91.
30.    Warfighting Center Concept Publication 8-1, Operational
          Concept for Marine Expeditionary Units (Special
          Operations Capable), September,  1990,  14-16.

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