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by David P. Dilegge, Intelligence Analyst, Marine Intelligence Activity
and CAPT Shenandoah Sanchez, Tactics Instructor Basic School, USMC

The Marine Corps provides operating forces to support the U.S. fleet through deployment and employment of Marine Air Ground Task Forces (MAGTFs). MAGTFs are the Marine Corps' mandated forces of combined arms. MAGTFs include infantry, artillery, armor, engineer, reconnaissance, aviation, and logistics components.

MAGTF elements are drawn principally from Marine divisions (MARDIVs); Marine aircraft wings (MAWs); force service support groups (FSSGs); and Marine Expeditionary Force (MEF) command elements which include intelligence units that provide the MAGTF with its surveillance, reconnaissance, and intelligence capabilities. MAGTFs can also be formed from assets of the Marine Corps Reserve. MAGTFs can operate across the full spectrum of conflict in all levels of war as a landing force of an amphibious task force; part of a joint, multi-service, or combined task force; or as a single-service command.

A MAGTF is structured to accomplish a specific mission and is commanded by a single commander. All MAGTFs, whatever their size, have the same structure: a command element (CE), a ground combat element (GCE), an aviation combat element (ACE), and a combat service support element (CSSE).

The CE provides a command and control system for effective planning and execution of operations and is designed to facilitate the sequencing of additional MAGTFs as necessary. It is composed of the commander, his staff, and intelligence assets. Intelligence capabilities resident in the CE include ground reconnaissance, signals intelligence, human intelligence, counterintelligence, and intelligence collection management and analysis.

The GCE conducts ground combat operations. It is composed of an infantry unit that varies in size from a platoon or company of Marines and sailors to one or more divisions. Sailors assigned to the GCE (and the MAGTF as a whole) include medical, naval gunfire liaison, and chaplain personnel. Elements that comprise the GCE include infantry, artillery (M198), armor (M1A1), assault amphibian vehicles (AAV), light armored reconnaissance vehicles (LAV-25), and combat engineers. The GCE has its own combat support units and organic combat service support capability.

The ACE conducts air operations and provides aviation support to the GCE and CSSE. It can vary in size from a reinforced helicopter squadron to one or more MAWs. Type aircraft include attack (AH-1W), heavy-lift/medium-lift (CH-53D/CH-46E) and utility (UH-1N) rotary-wing aircraft; ground attack (AV-8B), ground attack/air-to-air (FA-18D), and electronic warfare (EA-6B) jet aircraft; and aerial refuelers (KC-130). The MV-22 vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) tilt rotor aircraft is scheduled to replace the CH-46E beginning in FY02. The ACE is also responsible for ground air-defense and aerial reconnaissance to include unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). The ACE has its own combat support and combat service support units.

The Marine Expeditionary Force (MEF) is the principal Marine Corps warfighting organization. The size and composition of the MEF can vary greatly depending on the requirements of the mission. A special-purpose MAGTF (SPMAGTF) is a non-standing MAGTF temporarily formed to conduct a specific mission. It is normally formed when a standing MAGTF is either inappropriate or unavailable.

Marine Expeditionary Unit, Special Operations Capable (MEU [SOC]]

The MEU is the basic MAGTF that is continuously afloat and forward deployed. The MEU can be thought of as both a self-contained operating force capable of missions of limited scope and duration and as a forward-deployed extension of the MEF. MEUs routinely receive special training before deploying that result in their being designated "special operations capable." To receive this certification, the MEU undergoes an intensive 26-week, standardized pre-deployment training program that includes an exercise and a final evaluation.

Although each MEU (SOC) is task organized, a typical MEU (SOC) includes:

  • A standing CE.
  • An infantry battalion reinforced with artillery, reconnaissance, engineer, armor, assault amphibian units, and other detachments as required.
  • A reinforced helicopter squadron with transport, utility, and attack helicopters; a detachment of vertical/short takeoff and landing (V/STOL - AV-8 Harrier) fixed wing aircraft, and other detachments as required.
  • A task-organized CSSE.
  • Sustainment for 15 days.

The MEU (SOC) GCE is formed around an infantry battalion and typically includes:

  • Three rifle companies
  • Weapons company
  • Artillery battery
  • Light armored reconnaissance platoon
  • Assault amphibian platoon
  • Tank platoon (when required)
  • Combat engineer platoon
  • TOW section
  • Reconnaissance platoon
  • Scout sniper platoon
  • Shore fire control party

The rifle companies (182 Marines) contain three rifle platoons (42 Marines each) and a weapons platoon (47 Marines). The weapons platoon is comprised of a machine-gun section, a mortar section, and an assault section. The rifle platoon is comprised of three squads (13 Marines each) with three fire teams (4 Marines each). The weapons company has a mortar platoon (69 Marines), an anti-armor platoon (50 Marines), and a heavy machine-gun platoon (28 Marines).

Basic Marine infantry organization does not change when the battlefield is moved into an urban area. However, infantry units may be task organized or reinforced down to squad level in order for small units to fight and win in the violent, three-dimensional MOUT battlespace.

Figure 1
Task-Organized Marine Platoon

Figure 2
Task-Organized Marine Squad

Figure 3
Task-Organized Marine Fire Team

The infantry battalion's organic weapons are as follows:

M9 9-mm pistol245
M16A2 rifle645
M203 grenade launcher107
MK153 SMAW 18
M249 SAW 81
M240G machine-gun 29
M2 .50-cal machine-gun 6
MK19 40-mm grenade machine-gun11
M47 Dragon (anti-tank) 2
M224 60-mm mortar 9
M252 81-mm mortar 8
M40A1 sniper rifle (7.62-mm) 8
SASR .50-cal sniper rifle 2
12 gauge shotgun (as needed from higher HQ)
TOW (anti-tank) 8

btn_tabl.gif 1.21 K
btn_prev.gif 1.18 KAppendix A: The Platoon Urban Operations Kit
btn_next.gif 1.18 KAppendix C: Weapon Effects and Employment in an Urban Environment

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