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Marine Reserve Regimental And Battalion Staffs -
Warfighting Or Administrative Headquarters?
CSC 1992
Author: Major J. K. Sparks, Jr., United States Marine Corps
Thesis: To ensure viability of Marine reserve battalion and
regimental staffs as warfighting headquarters in future
conflicts, the Marine Corps must institute dramatic
organizational changes, revise reserve equipment allowance
procedures, expand the reserve affiliation program,
reorganize unit training, and focus the reserve counterpart
training program.
Background: The Marine Corps' reputation is based on the
accomplishments of active and reserve Marines.  The most
recent accomplishments of the Marine Corps reserve during the
Gulf War were the subject of an in depth analysis by a
reserve forces Battle Assessment.  The assessment identifies
the preparedness level of reserve battalion and regimental
staffs as the primary shortcoming of Marine reserve forces in
Southwest Asia.  Nonetheless, the assessment concludes that
this problem is solvable with minor changes.  It further
concludes that the basic structure and policies of the Marine
reserve are sound.  A thorough examination of the current
structure and policies of the Marine reserve reveal that they
work at the company level, but fail to properly prepare units
at echelons above the company.
Recommendation: In order to ensure the viability of Marine
reserve battalions and regiments in future conflicts the
Corps must institute structure and policy changes that will
properly prepare reserve combat units at echelons above the
company.  Failure to implement these changes will limit
future employment options for reserve combat units.
Thesis:   To ensure viability of Marine reserve battalion and
              regimental staffs as warfighting headquarters in
              future conflicts, the Marine Corps must institute
              dramatic organizational changes, revise reserve
              equipment allowance procedures, expand the reserve
              affiliation program, reorganize unit training, and
              focus the reserve counterpart training program.
I.   	Marine reserves in SWA
       	A. 	Total Force Policy
       	B.   	Halo-effects
II.  	Battle Assessment conclusions/recommendations
       	A. 	Shortcomings
       	B. 	Evaluation of recommendations
III.   	Current structure/policy shortcomings
       	A. 	Company level
       	B. 	Battalion and higher echelons
       	C. 	Readiness indicators
IV.  	Previous mobilizations
       	A. 	Reserve forces role
       	B. 	Indicators of future mobilization roles
V.	Solution
       	A. 	Organizational changes
       	B. 	Revise equipment allowance procedures
       	C. 	Expand the affiliation program
       	D. 	Unit training
       	E. 	Focus counterpart training
                    		by Major J. K. Sparks, Jr., USMC
       	Desert Storm's smooth integration of reserve
       	combat, combat support, and combat service
       	support units into the active forces has
       	proven the viability of our integrated
       	training and exercise programs.  Our reserve
       	forces are a key component of our war-
       	fighting capability.
                    		General Alfred M. Gray
                    		Commandant of the Marine Corps
       	Upon reflection, I have to admit that we
       	could not realistically expect any mission
       	more challenging than the guard duty we were
       	performing without additional training.  The
       	Total Force Policy did not work.
                    		Excerpts from CO, 24th Marines,
                    		Desert Storm After Action Report
     	The Marine Corps' reputation as the world's finest
fighting force was earned in numerous hard-fought battles by
regular and reserve Marines.  Indeed, the Marine Corps has
employed its reserve forces four times in this century with
great success.  Despite the successes of Marine reserve
forces in Desert Storm, emerging defense realities
emphasizing a regional focus and crisis response dictate a
brutally honest assessment of Marine reserve forces'
weaknesses to ensure future viability.(6:  27-29)
Unfortunately, the  "halo effect"  created by numerous reports
that the Gulf War unequivocally demonstrated the soundness
of the Department of Defense's Total Force Policy* clouds
the issue.  As the nation's legislated force in readiness,
the Marine Corps can ill-afford to delay implementation of
necessary changes in its reserve forces.  Certainly, failure
to implement changes now will result in limited employment
options for Marine reserve forces in future conflicts.
* The Total Force Policy was formally adopted in 1973 under
Secretary of Defense James Schlesinger.
     	The jury is out on the Marine Reserves' performance in
Southwest Asia (SWA).  LtCol Cancian, XO of the Marines' SWA
Battle Assessment Team and head of the Reserve Forces Issues
section of the team, authored the Marine Corps' Battle
Assessment of Reserve Forces in SWA.  In the Battle
Assessment's Executive Summary, he concludes:  The basic
structures and policies for Marine Corps Reserve forces are
therefore sound.  Despite any weakness, the overall record
is one of great success . . . ."
     	This  halo effect  conclusion  down-plays the real
weakness of Marine Reserves in SWA -- the  battalion and
regimental staffs.  LtCol Cancian acknowledges the
preparedness level of battalion and regimental staffs as the
primary shortcoming of Marine Reserves in SWA.  He goes on
in the assessment to suggest that the problem is solvable
with minor changes.  My experiences as an Inspector-
Instructor (I-I) and as the S-3 of an infantry regiment
which joined a reserve battalion in SWA tell me otherwise.
To ensure viability of Marine reserve battalion and
regimental staffs as warfighting headquarters in future
conflicts  the Marine Corps must institute dramatic
organizational changes, revise reserve equipment allowance
procedures  expand the reserve affiliation program,
reorganize unit training  and focus the reserve counterpart
training program.
     	The Corps' Reserve Force Battle Assessment lists
several alternatives for improving staff readiness:
     	1.   	Earlier mobilization/intensive premobilization
     	2.   	Improved training at the Station of Initial
  Assignment (SIA)
     	3.   	Integration of I-I staffs with reserve units
     	4.   	Improved peacetime preparation
The table below summarized the benefits and drawbacks the
Battle Assessment Team assigns to its recommended
Click here to view image
     	The Battle Assessment indicates that these alternatives
are not mutually exclusive and that a combination of them
will probably have to be implemented to improve reserve
staff readiness.  To determine the optimal solution, the
Battle Assessment proposes a major study group  to recommend
ways for reserve battalion and regiments to be ready for
combat as units within 30 days of mobilization.(7:  51)
Finally, the Battle Assessment caveats its recommendations
by pointing out that other alternatives are possible since
readiness, active or reserve, is a result of chosen policies
vice a law of nature,
     	These alternatives, in my opinion, miss the mark.
First, in all probability, neither the time nor the
expertise will exist at the SIA to substantially improve
reserve staffs.  Second, anything short of total I-I staff
integration will only exacerbate the question of who, active
duty or reserve, is in charge.  Consequently, of the
specific Battlefield Assessment alternatives, only improved
peacetime preparation is viable.  Improved peacetime
preparation is not, however, compatible with existing
structures and policies.
     	The Battle Assessment's caveat suggests the possibility
that current policies negatively effect the readiness of
Marine reserve forces.  If this is the case,  "The basic
structures and policies for Marine Corps reserve forces are
not therefore sound." Believing this assertion and acting
on it provides the only real chance of  "looking through the
halo"  to determine the structure and policy changes required
to ensure the future viability of Marine reserve forces.
	The Battlefield Assessment fails to fully explore the
alternatives it proposes.  Nonetheless, in the assessment's
attempt to identify other alternatives, it examines the
weaknesses of battalion and regimental staff level reserve
combat arms units during Desert Storm vis-a-vis the
successes enjoyed by company/battery level units is made.
Four reasons are provided to explain why it is harder to get
ready for combat at higher echelons:
     	1.   	As the unit gets larger, it is spread over
  greater distances.  Communications become more
  complicated and difficult.  Systems replace personal
     	2.   	The variety of weapons types increases at higher
  levels.  This increases coordination requirements with
  outside agencies.
     	3.   	Both of the above necessitate a staff, thereby
  increasing the requirement for internal coordination.
     	4.   	Reserve battalions are spread over many states.
  This limits most battalion field exercises (FEXs) to
  Annual Training Duty (ATD).  Battalion FEXs conducted
  during the normal training year can result in a
  reserve company spending 16 hours on the road for a
  24 hour exercise.  This problem is harder for
  regiments. (7: 12)
These reasons indicate that frequent FEXs with the entire
unit are required in order to train battalion and regimental
staffs.  This is not a view that is generally agreed to or
practiced by active Marine units.  Certainly, full FEXs are
required.  But most staff training is more economically
accomplished through Command Post Exercises (CPXs) and
Tactical Exercises Without Troops (TEWTs).
     	Once again, the Battle Assessment misses the mark,  The
key issue in a cogent company/battalion readiness comparison
is that it must simultaneously compare structure and echelon
of command.
     	The Marine reserve unit peacetime structure mirrors
active duty unit structure with one exception.  The
exception is the collocation of active duty I-I staffs to
provide full time support.  As the Battle Assessment points
out,  the Marine Corps is the only US reserve force, and
perhaps the only one in the world, where the reserve unit's
full time support is not part of the unit in wartime.  This
does not mean the Corps is wrong, but it does mean the Corps
should think out clearly why its structure is the way it
     	The requirement for full time support of reserve units
by active duty Marines is well-founded.  Active duty
personnel provide current expertise and advice to reserve
commanders in many areas such as training and weapons
employment.  Furthermore, reserve units require active duty
support due to the complexity of modern administrative,
supply, and maintenance systems.  At the company level, this
support is provided due to the peacetime geographic
separation of these units from their parent battalion
headquarters.  After mobilization, company level reserve
units receive administrative, supply, and maintenance
support from their battalion headquarters.  Accordingly, the
effect of the loss of the I-I staff to these units upon
mobilization is minimal.  At the company level, therefore,
system is basically sound.
     	On the other hand, the battalion level is precisely
where the structure and policies of the Marine Corps begin
to most seriously degrade reserve unit readiness.  The
battalion is the basic tactical unit of combat power in the
Marine Corps.  As such, it is capable of integrating the
efforts of attached and supporting units, and its structure
facilitates the formation of task organizations. The
battalion is capable of self-administration and second
echelon maintenance of its organic motor transport,
ordnance, and communications gear. (8:  1,4)
     	After mobilization, the reserve battalion inherits the
supply administrative, supply, and maintenance functions
from all of its companies.  It now faces five times the
workload it had in peacetime.  Due to Marine Corps policy,
however, it faces this task without its active duty
expertise.  Needless to say, the effects are devastating.
The reserve personnel who are thrust to  fill the void
simply are not capable of executing the required support.
This is not a matter of personnel quality, but rather, a
real consequence of the 39 annual training days they
receive.  Reserve battalion and regimental staffs, robbed of
their capability to effect support functions, become
ineffective almost  by definition.
     	This devastating weakness in Marine Corps reserve
structure and policy is hard to pinpoint during peacetime.
This is illustrated by the charts below which depict
evaluation results of reserve Marine Corps Combat Readiness
Evaluation System (MCCRES) and Mobilization Operational
Readiness Deployment Test (MORDT):
                           		MCCRES RESULTS
             	NUMBER OF UNITS				% REPORTING		
  81          		13                       		 54
  82            	29                         		 90
  83              	31                        		100
  84              	13                        		100
  85              	49                        		100
  86              	14                        		100
  87              	23                        		 91
  88              	11                      		100
                           		MORDT RESULTS
  81           		95                         		 96
  82           		131       	                  	 95
  83           		113             	            	 93
  84           		95                         		 94
  85           		92                      		 91
  86          		111                         		 90
  87           		86                        		100
  88           		88                         	   	 95
  (4:   64)
The tests are the major indicators used by the 4TH Marine
Division to verify the mobilization and combat readiness of
its units.  As Desert Storm proved, however, they are false
indicators.  Both tests are invalidated at the battalion and
regimental levels due to the heavy participation of the I-I
     	A logical question arises.  Why haven't the weaknesses
of reserve force structure and policy been identified during
previous mobilizations?  In Marine reserve mobilizations
prior to Desert Storm, reserve units were rarely employed as
units.  This practice was partially the result of unfounded
fears that unit employment would excessively concentrate the
risk to home communities due to the geographical basis of
recruiting. (7: 14)  Previous mobilizations for use as
individual replacements in active duty units has negatively
influenced reserve structure and resulted in conflicting
policies.   In fact, the employment of mobilized reserve
battalions and regiments as units during Desert Storm,
despite previously stated Marine Corps policy to use
mobilized reserve units as units, surprised both reserve and
I-I staff personnel.(7:  13)
     	Prescribed roles for Marine reserve forces upon
mobilization include:
     	1.   	Field a Marine Expeditionary Brigade with a
  reduced aviation and combat service support capability
  to reinforce an Active Marine Expedtionary Brigade.
    	2. 	Field a division, wing and force service-support
  group with a reduced capability.
    	3.	Provide a nucleus to reconstitute a division,
  wing, and service-support group.(3:  68)
All nine infantry battalions mobilized for Desert Storm were
employed as units.  Nevertheless, previous employment of
reserve forces to provide individual replacements after
mobilization, and lack of clear guidance in the 4TH Marine
Division's Mobilization Management Plan, lulled active and
reserve officers in reserve forces into adopting false
impressions.  This is a lesson that cannot be forgotten.
Marine reserve forces have to prepare for employment as
units.  Trained units can provide trained personnel for
active units needing replacements after mobilization.
Trained individuals, on the other hand, cannot be thrown
together and employed as units upon mobilization.  It is a
poignant fact that the Chairman of the Reserve Forces Policy
Board has recommended unit mobilizations as the norm in
future conflicts.(2:  128)
     	Given the preceding examination of the Battle
Assessment's alternatives, a discussion of current structure
and policy failures, and a brief review of prior
mobilizations and the requirement for future mobilizations
of units, it is possible to outline the parameters for an
effective solution to the dilemma of developing effective
Marine reserve regiments and battalions.  Any solution must
address ways to increase battalion and regimental staff
preparedness without increasing the current number of
training days during peacetime and at the SIA.  In light of
future force reductions, it must also be executable without
personnel increases.  The sequential implementation of the
following initiatives is a solution:
and relationship of I-I staffs violates the principle of
unity of command.  Napoleon, as early as 1796, was convinced
that "a house divided against itself cannot stand."(1:
157)  Nonetheless, the Marine Corps policy continues to use
a divided system in its reserve units.  This policy creates
an "us versus them" attitude within the Corps.   It also
creates double work and reporting at all levels.  Total
integration of the I-I staff must be the rule.  Reserve
staffs that, following directives, left portions of their
functional expertise at their home armories and mobilization
stations, suffered a long and painful recovery process in
SWA.  Most importantly, total integration of the I-I staff
into, and subordinate to, the reserve unit would ensure
expertise in key functional areas; a requirement for
successful operations at the battalion and regimental levels
upon mobilization and employment.  It would also finally
solve the "who (I-I staff or reserves) is going to do what"
debate.  Active and reserve Marines on reserve staffs in SWA
realized that there is no "us versus them" after
mobilization.  Indeed, the basic structure of Marine Reserve
forces will not be sound until total integration is
Corps has been flooded with SWA after-action reports
indicating that reserve battalion and regimental staffs
spent inordinate time and effort attempting to outfit their
units after deployment.  Under current regulations, reserve
units are not equipped with their full equipment
allowances.  Instead, they are provided a training allowance
(TA) for regular training and ATD.  Upon mobilization,
equipment shortfalls between TA and table of equipment (TE)
are made up from Marine Corps logistics depots and active
duty units' remain behind equipment (RBE).  These procedures
failed for several reasons during SWA.  Firsts several
reserve units do not maintain a sufficient TA due to lack of
storage space.  This practice stems from the initial
location of many reserve units in the basements of Navy
reserve centers.(5:  105)  The Marine Corps (active and
reserve) paid dearly during Desert Storm for this practice.
Second, the 4TH Marine Division Mobilization Plan fails to
provide a detailed breakdown of the quantity, source
(logistics depot or RBE), and shipping information of
equipment shortfalls.  Finally, RBE equipment provided
reserve units in SWA was in poor condition.  If providing
reserve units sufficient TA requires expansion of current
facilities, then this expansion must receive full and
enthusiastic backing.  Reserve units must know how, where,
and when their remaining equipment will come from.  Active
Marine units must improve their maintenance of RBE.  Even
the best trained units cannot fight without their
affiliation program must be expanded.  This program, which
previously linked reserve and active duty units at the
company level, proved extremely beneficial in SWA.  By
expanding the program to the battalion and regimental
levels, many problems would be solved.  Reserve battalions
and regimental staffs would no longer be burdened with
"reinventing-the-wheel" tasks such as developing unit
tactical Standing Operating Procedures (SOPs).  Instead they
could simply utilize and/or modify the ones provided by
their affiliated unit.  Reserve staffs' limited training
time is too precious to spend developing SOPs.
ReORGANIZE UNIT TRAINING: After total integration of the
I-I staff and expansion of the reserve affiliation program
have been completed, policies for unit training of reserve
battalion and regimental staffs can be redeveloped.  Unit
training for reserve staffs must focus on a mission
essential task list (METL) that is derived from the staffs'
combat mission.  Too often in the past, reserve staffs have
focused an entire year's worth of training preparing for
Annual Training Duty.  Likewise, many reserve staffs have
spent inordinate time and money during drill weekends
travelling to and from a location to conduct training that
could have been accomplished in a command post exercise or
TEWT at their home training centers.  These practices are
too narrowly focused and wasteful.  METL-driven training
must be supplemented by and integrated with mobile training
teams from the Landing Force Training Commands.  Only then
can reserve staffs receive training in a variety of required
areas such as Maritime Prepositioned Operations and fire
support coordination.  Further training assistance would now
be available due to an expanded reserve counterpart
affiliation program.  Additionally, the Marine Corps
Training and Education Center (MAGTEC), in conjunction with
the 4TH Marine Division Wing Team, must develop
correspondence courses to facilitate updated training in key
functional areas.  Finally, more reserve officers must be
afforded the opportunity to attend career and intermediate
level schools.
step in increasing the preparedness level of the reserve
battalion and regimental staffs is to focus the reserve
counterpart training program.  In the past, this program has
not reached its full potential.  With the expansion of the
reserve affiliation program, the road will have been paved
for the counterpart training program to work.  For example,
reserve staff officers could now conduct counterpart
training with their unit's affiliated active-duty staff.
This opportunity has not previously existed.  Rather,
active-duty units have historically received non-affiliated,
staff-level reserve counterparts on short notice.  These
reserve counterparts were totally unfamiliar with the
active-duty unit's SOPs.  Neither the unit nor the reservist
benefited from such an arrangement.  A policy of focusing
the reserve counterpart training program on the affiliated
unit will create three beneficiaries; the individual
reservist, the active-duty unit, and the reserve staff.
     	The Battle Assessment is currently being published and
distributed throughout the Marine Corps.  Most Marines'
knowledge of the information in the report is limited to
LtCol Cancian's summary of the report's contents in the
September 1991 issue of the Marine Corps Gazette.
Accordingly, many Marines may be led to believe that the
basic structure and policies of the Marine Corps Reserve are
sound.  Another article in the September 1991 issue of
Marine Corps Gazette addresses Marine Reserve performance in
SWA.  In his article, "If It Ain't Broke, Can It Be
Improved?", Col Williams quotes Alice from Lewis Carroll's
Alice in Wonderland.
       Chesire puss, would you tell me, please,
  which way I  ought to go from here?
       That depends a good deal where you want to
  get to,  said the cat.
The Marine Corps needs "to get to" more fully prepared
reserve staffs.  The aforementioned changes to organization,
equipment, affiliation, training, and counterpart training
are "which way we ought to go from here."  The changes are
easily achievable without increasing current personnel
ceilings, an unrealistic budget trauma.  More importantly,
implementation of these changes will truly ensure that the
basic structures and policies for Marine Corps Reserve
forces are sound. Failure to implement them will limit
future employment options for reserve combat units,
relegating them to effective utilization at only the company
1.  	Chandler, David G.  The Campaigns of Napoleon.  New York: Macmillan
Publishing Company, 1966.
2.  	Cheny, Dick.  Annual Report to the President and the Congress. 
February, 1992.
3.  	Davison, Hollis E., MajGen, USMC.  "Active/Reserve Relationship Acts
to Enhance Corps."  The Officer, LXVII, 2 (February 1991), 68-74.
4.  	Looney Jr., Edmund P., LtGen, USMC.  "Reserve Balance Critical to 
Corps' Strategic Edge."  The Officer, LXVI, 2 (February 1990), 60 -71.
5.  	Reserve Officers of Public Affairs Unit 4-1.  The Marine Corps 
Reserve - A History.  Washington D. C.: U. S. Marine Corps, Division of
Reserve, 1966.
6.  	The White House.  National Security Strategy of the United States,
August 1991.
7.  	U. S. Marine Corps.  Marine Corps Development and Education Command.
Marine Corps Reserve Forces in Southwest Asia.  Quantico, July 1991.
8.  	U. S. Marine Corps.  Marine Corps Development and Education Command.
Marine Infantry Battalion, FMFM 6-3.  Quantico, March 1978.

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