Marine Reserve Readiness
SUBJECT AREA Manpower
Title: Marine Reserve Readiness
Author: Major, D.T. Jackson, United States Marine Corps
Thesis: The role of the Marine Reserves has increased
significantly, so we must ensure that the training structure
facilitates achieving their full capabilities.
Background: Operation Desert Storm proved that the Marine Corps
can, and should, count on its Reserve forces in making its
warfighting plans. The Marine Corps was reintroduced to the
importance and necessity of the Total Force Policy. The Reserves
received praise from their active duty counterparts for their
performance and eagerness to serve. This paper specifically
addresses the Reserve artillery battalion and the training
structure that must be designed to develop our Marines with the
focus on warfighting. The countless demands placed on the
Reservists during the annual training cycle often detract from
their ability to maximize combat readiness. Training must take
priority, and artillery battalions must be allowed to train as
artillery battalions, complete with the command and control
functions exercised over their firing batteries. Geographical
dispersion is often viewed as a "show stopper" within the Reserve
component, but creative alternatives are possible. The proposed
reorganization of the Reserve artillery will actually benefit the
artillery community by specifying one common weapon system, the
M198 howitzer, and by creating the opportunity for the Reserve
battalions to be directly affiliated with an active duty
Recommendation: The Reserve artillery battalion headquarters
cannot train autonomously and then be expected to integrate
readily into an operational force in combat, therefore, every
opportunity must be made available for the battalions to command
and control their own firing batteries in a field training
Marine Reserve Readiness
Thesis statement: The role of the Marine Reserves has increased
significantly, so we must ensure that the training structure
facilitates achieving their full capabilities.
I. Evaluation of mission
II. General background
B. SMCR drill requirements
C. Desert Storm impact
III. Drawbacks to present structure
A. Geographic isolation
B. Training limitations
C. Logistical requirements
D. Table of Equipment disparities
IV. Proposed structure
B. Impact on readiness
MARINE RESERVE READINESS
by Major D.T. Jackson
The Marine Corps Total Force Policy was one of the great
success stories in Southwest Asia. Years of hard work paid off
as reservists and regulars integrated smoothly and efficiently.
The Corps deserves great credit for the trust and confidence it
showed in the Reserve component.
Despite the overwhelming success demonstrated by regulars
and reserves alike in the Gulf War, the system is not perfect.
This conflict demonstrated that smaller units, predominately
company and battery level units, could be activated and
integrated with active duty battalions. But what about the
activation of entire reserve battalions integrating within active
duty regiments? My experience within the reserve community is as
an Inspector-Instructor with the artillery battalion and that is
where my comments will be focused.
The role of the Marine Reserves has increased significantly,
so we must ensure that the training structure facilitates
achieving their full capabilities. The fact is, the current
training structure does not prepare the Reserve artillery
battalion staffs to effectively employ their units in a combat
environment. This bold statement is based on the present
inability of the battalion headquarters to effectively establish
tactical command and control of its firing batteries.
The mission of the artillery in the Marine division is to
furnish close and continuous fire support by neutralizing or
destroying targets which threaten the success of the supported
unit. To accomplish its mission, artillery conducts three tasks:
1. Provides timely, close, accurate, and continuous fire
2. Provides depth to combat by attacking hostile reserves,
restricting movement, providing long-range support for
reconnaissance elements, and disrupting command and control
systems and logistical installations.
3. Delivers counterfire within the range of the weapons
systems to ensure the freedom of action of the ground forces.
Within the mission, a critical aspect for the battalion
headquarters is the ability to command and control. This basic
command and control of the artillery battalion is provided within
the command post (CP). The CP contains personnel from the
intelligence, operations, communications, and logistical sections
that assist the commander in planning, coordinating, and
executing the field artillery portions of the fire support plan
for the supported maneuver unit. Responsibilities within these
sections include target planning, tactical fire direction,
monitoring current operations, planning future artillery
operations, and logistical operations in support of the field
artillery. This is but a representative group of tasks that the
artillery battalion must conduct in tactical operations.
Overall, significant progress has been made within 4th
Marine Division during the past five years. This enhancement
centers around a philosophy that training takes first precedent.
The focus is on being ready if and when mobilized. This emphasis
on training has helped all units, particularly those at the
battery and company levels. These individual units are virtually
autonomous in preparing and executing their field training.
However, battalion and higher headquarters are still left to
operate as "staff cells," only able to apply operational
responsibilities on a limited and infrequent basis.
Time is the most precious commodity within the Reserve
component. Marine Corps Order P1001R.1, which is the Marine
Corps Reserve Administrative Management Manual (MCRAMM), states:
"Members of the Selected Marine Corps Reserve (SMCR) are required
to attend, and participate satisfactorily in, at least 48
scheduled inactive duty training (IDT) periods during each year
and serve on annual training for not less than 14 days, exclusive
of travel, during each year." (4: 35) This equates to one
weekend drill per month for a total of ten for the year and the
two-week summer training period. This, of course, is minimal
time for Marine warriors to hone their skills. But this is
designed by law and unlikely to change, so it requires, all the
more, that the emphasis be placed on productive military
occupational (MOS) training.
In addition to the limited time factor, there is a
misperception that the reserve structured annual plan does not
address the same requirements as those of the active duty force.
The fact is, 4th Marine Division is guided by the Commanding
General's Campaign Plan, which is published annually. The
reserves are responsible for the same training requirements,
i.e., basic skills/essential subjects training, physical fitness
test, rifle/pistol requalification, as the regulars.
Furthermore, reservists are evaluated on the Marine Corps Combat
Readiness Evaluation System (MCCRES) every two years and are
responsible for most of the inspection cycles, such as the Field
Supply Management Analysis Office (FSMAO) and the various Limited
Technical Inspections. The most critical inspection that takes
place in the reserve establishment is the Mobilization
Operational Readiness Deployment Test (MORDT), which is always
given in conjunction with a Commanding General's Inspection
(CGI). The MORDT employs the same processing and embarkation
procedures that were actually utilized by the activated units of
4th Marine Division during Desert Storm.
Realistically, it must be obvious, with the time limitations
involved in drill periods it would be impossible for reservists
to conduct field training and effectively prepare for these many
inspections. Inspection preparations are normally left up to the
active duty Inspector-Instructor Staff during non-drill periods.
This is often unfortunate because reserve personnel are left out
of the hands-on learning cycle dealing with their equipment and
maintenance. This type of knowledge can prove beneficial for
mobilization and for sustainment in an operational environment.
There is another element that is unique to 4th Marine
Division and that applies to its immense geographical boundaries.
There are active reserve units in all fifty states that fall
under the control of the 4th Division. This vast geography often
impacts negatively on commands and their subordinate units. To
illustrate this point, I refer to 1st Battalion, 14th Marines:
Headquarters Battery is located at Treasure Island, California;
Battery A is in Spokane, Washington; Battery B is in Pico
Riveria, California; and Battery C is located in Jackson,
Mississippi. With the emphasis in training on command and
control by the battalion staff, the difficulties in this scenario
can be visualized. Although not all battalions are separated by
such great distances, this situation is fairly prevalent. Under
the current training structure, the battalion in its entirety,
will train together only once a year at the two-week annual
training period. But in the past few years, inevitably, one
firing battery within the battalion will be required to fill
another commitment elsewhere during this time.
Another area of distinction between the active and reserve
forces is the actual equipment held on-hand. Both forces utilize
Table of Equipment (T/E) documents which depict exactly what a
particular military unit rates in regards to equipment. (5: 1)
It's safe to say that an artillery firing battery on active duty
has the same equipment requirements that an artillery firing
battery in the reserves. This holds true as well to the
artillery headquarters batteries at both battalion and regimental
levels. However, this may not be the case: there are disparities
not between the actual T/E's but what is allowed for the reserves
to have on hand. The reserves have their T/E document but along
with that have a Mechanized Allowance List (MAL) which
specifically addresses the items on the T/E that they are allowed
to have on-hand. So in theory the equipment is the same, but in
reality because of funding and availability of equipment the
reserves lack some of their required equipment. The reserves are
given the equipment that in many cases is the minimal amount to
train and execute their mission. Unfortunately, some of this
equipment is communications gear which can enhance the unit's
ability to set-up expeditiously and operate more reliably.
Despite the fact that much of this gear may become available upon
activation and attachment to the regular forces, it is equipment
that reservists have not had an opportunity to train with and
become proficient on. This does not mean that our reserves
cannot adjust quickly, but they must be prepared to modify
communication plans and procedures to meet those of the active
As indicated earlier, the most precious commodity within the
4th Marine Division is the element of time. The authorized
number of drill periods allowed a Marine in a given year is
mandated by law and unlikely to change, particularly with the
present budget cuts. And although some restructuring in regards
to geography of units is being studied, it is unlikely to change
in the near future. What all this means to the Marine Corps is,
despite the limitations placed upon them, the reserves must find
a way to train smarter in order to produce effective warfighting
There is no single solution in regards to upgrading the
readiness of the reserve battalion staffs. The philosophy that
training takes first precedent must exist without reservation. A
combination of training priorities must be focused upon. The
most critical emphasis is that the reserves must continue to have
the opportunity to train with their active duty counterparts
whenever possible. Presently, this happens at best once a year
during the two-week annual training period during the summer.
During this period, the reserve battalion headquarters (staffs)
must concentrate on effectively establishing tactical command and
control of their firing batteries. Active and reserve artillery
battalion staffs should work with one another under a common
"standing operating procedure" (SOP) guide. This is a great
opportunity for staff members from the intelligence, operations,
communications, and logistical sections to realize their
responsibilities and actually assist the commander in planning,
coordinating, and executing the field artillery portions of the
fire support plan for the supported maneuver unit. Furthermore,
during well planned exercise scenarios, these staffs will become
intimately familiar with their responsibilities of target
planning, tactical fire direction, and the other numerous tasks
required in artillery tactical operations.
Another training evolution that should be pursued, at least
on a semi-annual basis, is the battalion fire direction center
(FDC) training with those of the firing batteries. This should
take place in conjunction with one of the batteries scheduled
firing exercises. The "host" battery would take its entire
battery to the field as in a normal operation. This battery
should be prepared to man six howitzers during the exercise. The
battalion FDC, along with the FDC cells from the other two firing
batteries, could fly/drive in on the drill weekend of the host
battery's scheduled drill. Each FDC would have two howitzers
that will in essence act as the gun line, as well as a forward
observer to initiate calls for fire. This live-fire scenario
allows for realism and gives the battalion FDC the responsibility
to integrate with the battery FDC's. The battalion would now
have the training opportunity to work on weaknesses and the
flexibility to mass fires. The only limitation in this evolution
is the creativity in the planning.
At least quarterly, headquarters battery should conduct a
Command Post Exercise (CPX) utilizing all staff sections. The
planning period should be initiated several drills earlier with
the culmination being the operation order, and the plan should be
mailed to respective section heads prior to the CPX drill.
Traditionally, CPX's stress participation from only a few
sections, but the goal must be to exercise all sections to a
degree that they could realistically be faced with in an actual
crisis. Thus, the CPX must take place in a field environment.
Command interest in these exercises is paramount, since it often
determines their effectiveness.
The Marine Corps has utilized Mobile Training Teams (MTT)
for use by the reserves; however, the areas of expertise are
often limiting and the scheduling difficult. The reserves
require the use of MTT's, but they need to be more responsive to
their needs. The development of the "battalion staff MTT" would
be of great assistance. There should be representatives from the
intelligence, operations (to include fire support),
communications, and logistical sections. This training would
prove beneficial and should focus on the intricacies of the
artillery battalion in an operational environment.
The preceding discussion on training enhancement is based on
alternatives to deal with the limiting factors present within the
reserve structure. The key to success within the reserve force
is realistic training. In order to fully develop the skills
associated with being on the battalion staff, there is no
substitute to the actual field experience. While this integrated
training may not occur as often as desired, we must take all
steps to ensure our training priorities are established with
warfighting as the focus.
We in the military face uncertainty in our future due to the
remarkable events of the last two years. The collapse of
communist regimes in Eastern Europe, the conclusion of the 1990
CFE treaty on conventional forces in Europe, the end of the
Warsaw Pact as an operational body, the unification of Germany,
the expulsion of Iraq from Kuwait by an alliance acting with
authorization of the United Nations, and, finally, the break-up
of the Soviet Union have changed the political landscape
These dramatic events will result in monumental changes in
structure to our military. The Gulf War signifies the success of
coalition warfare, and many have responded that responsibilities
should be shared, lifting the burden that has been almost solely
on the United States. Out of all this, the cries for defense
reductions are now a reality. All military services are
attempting to balance these cuts with their required
missions. By 1995, the Marine Corps is to be reduced from
196,000 to 159,100. General Mundy recently warned Congress, "the
cuts the Hill is requiring are going to cut into the muscle of
the Corps." (6: 1) Initially, when cuts were discussed we
believed reductions in the active force would result in a build-
up of the reserve force. This is untrue, as evident in the
projected reduction of the reserve force from 43,000 to 35,000 in
It was General Charles C. Krulak, the Marine Corps' director
of procurement, who was assigned to head the force structure
planning group assembled last summer by the Commandant. In a
recent Navy Times article, "The Smaller Corps," General Krulak
discussed non-Fleet Marine Force (FMF) cuts. He maintained that
the Marines still need enough active-duty people - 4,000 - to
train reservists who played a key role in Operation Desert Storm.
And with a smaller active-duty force, reservists will be more
critical than ever. General Krulak went on to say that the
Reserves, which will be cut to 35,000, will retain their
augmentation, reinforcing and reconstitution missions, but the
idea of the 4th division/air wing/force service support group
"deploying and fighting as an organization is gone." (2: 13)
As for reductions within the artillery community, CMC
Message R 272012Z JAN 92 discusses the reorganization of Marine
Corps artillery units. (1: 3) Although reorganization actions
were being reviewed prior to the Gulf War, they were placed on
hold when operations in Southwest Asia (SWA) commenced. After
operations in SWA, plans were reviewed by participants at an
artillery conference and by the force structure planning group.
This review confirmed the desirability to reorganize artillery
battalions with four batteries of six guns each and validated an
initiative to stand-up one Marine Corps Multiple Launch Rocket
System (MLRS) Battalion. It was determined that artillery
reorganization could be completed by 1995. The FY-95 time line
was established in anticipation of Congressional funding approval
specifically for the MLRS in FY-92. With the unexpected loss of
funding for the MLRS, a review determined that without MLRS there
would be insufficient artillery flexibility to provide general
support for I and II MEF. So without MLRS, a four-battalion base
for 10th and 11th Marines is considered essential to ensure a
satisfactory Division general support capability.
The artillery reorganization also mandates/indicates that
all battalions be standardized into M198 battalions in the active
and reserve forces. Although this reorganization results in net
loss of artillery structure, commensurate with other force
reduction decisions, it will retain artillery capabilities to
meet higher battlefield operational tempos. This improvement is
derived primarily from the new flexibility of each artillery
battalion to provide either direct or general support.
Consequently, there will be no longer a distinction between
direct and general support battalions.
The impact on the Reserve artillery regiment is that the
SMCR will reorganize to four battalions. Three battalions will
consist of four batteries each with six howitzers per battery.
This means that the artillery firing batteries will be reduced
from eight howitzer sections to six, from eleven howitzer crew
members per M198 to nine, and be reorganized from two firing
platoons to one. A firing battery's T/O has now gone from 11
officers and 176 enlisted to 8 officers and 131 enlisted.
Reorganization of headquarters battery of the artillery battalion
reduces the size of naval gunfire spot teams. The T/O goes from
18 officers and 172 enlisted to 18 officers and 167 enlisted.
Plans for 14th Marines, the reserve artillery regiment, is
to reorganize from five battalions to four. 1st, 2nd, and 3rd
battalion will have four batteries of six guns each. In
addition, one battalion headquarters (previously 4th battalion)
will be deactivated and 5th battalion will be reorganized into
six batteries of six guns - - when M198's become available.
The most dramatic issue to surface from the recent CMC
message is that upon mobilization, 14th Marines will
augment/reinforce the active forces to allow each active
artillery regiment to organize with five artillery battalions
each. The message went on to further recommend that 14th Marines
establish an affiliation of a 14th Marine battalion to each of
the other regiments, 10th, 11th, and 12th Marines in order to
facilitate the augmentation/reinforcement of those active force
artillery regiments. (1: 10)
With this direct affiliation, an implied, if not directed,
responsibility for combined training must occur. This in itself
fosters the greatest advantage of the proposed restructuring
plan. It also specifies that in all likelihood reserve artillery
battalions will in fact be activated/mobilized as battalions and
that those many items discussed in regards to battalion staff
responsibilities will come to the forefront.
The Reserve artillery regiment has more cause for optimism
with the proposed restructure than the active force. By
deactivating a battalion headquarters and reorganizing one
battalion into six batteries, the reserves really come out of the
cuts virtually unscathed. Thus, advantages outweigh the
negatives. The entire Marine Corps now comes on line with one
artillery weapon system (the M101 will also be retained by
MEU/SOC units) the M198, 155mm howitzer. This simplifies
training for the Artillery Cannoneer Schools at Fort Sill,
Oklahoma, and the resident courses set up at each artillery
regiment. A common T/O and T/E will now be maintained Corps-
wide. The decreased T/O actually helps most reserve units,
because they had problems maintaining the required manning levels
of the previous T/O. In activating for Desert Storm this was
identified as a problem and attaching Marines from one battery to
another to "round-out" a mobilized unit was not uncommon.
Perhaps the greatest disadvantage, and hopefully it will
only be temporary, is the obtaining of additional T/E
requirements for an M198 battery over a self-propelled battery.
The most prominent of the equipment is obviously the M198
howitzers themselves and the additional M935 5-ton trucks.
Apparently, acquisition of additional howitzers will be assisted
by the Army.
The proposed affiliation with the active regiments described
earlier is necessary and at least with 10th and 11th Marines
should be geographically linked. This aspect of mobilizing
reserve artillery batteries from one coast for service with the
division on the opposite coast was a topic for discussion in the
11th Marines, "Marine Corps Lessons Learned Summary" for
Operation Desert Storm. (3: 13) Four Reserve Marine artillery
batteries were mobilized through Camp Lejeune for service in
Southwest Asia. Two of these, H 3/14 from Richmond, Virginia,
and I 3/14 from Reading, Pennsylvania, were joined to 11th
Marines. Problems were encountered because the two batteries
intended for service with 11th Marines were mobilized from the
eastern United States through their mobilization site at Camp
Lejeune. The active duty battalion they were to join, 1/11, was
in Camp Pendleton, thus creating liaison and coordination
problems. Additionally, those batteries' T/E and general supply
shortages were ordered through 2nd Marine Division upon reaching
their mobilization site at Camp Lejeune. The complicated process
involved in redirecting these items resulted in the non-delivery
of a significant amount. Because the equipment was shipped to
Southwest Asia with 2nd Marine Division equipment, several
critical items, such as artillery section boxes with howitzer
pantels, became mixed with 10th Marines' equipment and never
returned. The obvious solution was that artillery units
mobilized for service with 11th Marines should come from reserve
artillery battalions in the western United States, the Camp
Pendleton or MCAGCC, Twentynine Palms, mobilization sites.
The mobilization of the Reserve for the Gulf War was the
first such mobilization for the Marine Corps since 1950. It was
a demanding test of existing policies, structures and procedures;
however the achievements of Reserve Marine forces were
impressive. As a matter of fact, Reservists served in all
elements of I MEF and eventually comprised 15 percent of Marines
in theater. The Marine Corps' approach to the Total Force policy
must continue in this same vein.
Although we are in a new era of military structure and
decreased funding, we must seize the opportunity to ensure the
Reserve unit training parallels the regulars. The annual
requirements are the same and many of the exercises are the same:
Combined Arms Exercises, amphibious exercises, and joint
exercises such as Team-work, Team Spirit, and Solid Shield. The
bottom line is that there must not be two different sets of
military experiences, one Regular and the other Reserve. There
should only be one: a Marine experience.
1. CMC Message R 212002Z Jan 92. Reorganization of Marine
Corps Artillery Units. January 1992.
2. Longo, James. "The Smaller Corps." Navy Times, February
3. Marine Corps Lessons Learned Summary (11th Marines).
"Operation Desert Storm." May 1991.
4. Marine Corps Reserve Administration Management Manual.
MCO P1001R.1 1982.
5. Marine Corps Table of Equipment, ID N2208. January 1991.
6. Washington Post. Editorial. February 17, 1992.
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