New USMC Doctrine on the Way

Recently, the United States Marine Corps announced a wide-ranging review of its doctrine, aimed at changing and modernizing the way the Corps will fight in the future. So far, there isn’t much sense of how the new doctrine will look, but the Marines do have a list of 14 “warfighting challenges,” and they’ll be coming up with tactics – and probably new equipment – aimed at overcoming them. The challenges cover the whole spectrum, from better individual education to a revamp of combined arms tactics, so we can expect to see some major changes in how the USMC does things over the next few years.

It’s an age-old trend in militaries coming out of a long campaign – as the Marines are doing from Afghanistan – to immediately launch into a restructuring exercise. Often this has disastrous results. There’s a tendency to rebalance training, unit structure and equipment to refight the war that’s just ended. Often this comes at the cost of basic skills that will end up being needed, because the next war turns out to be very different – or it leads to buying the wrong equipment.

USMC LogoThe British Army almost went to war in 1914 with a highly accurate precision rifle that would have been perfect for the long-range musketry duels of the Boer War. Luckily it wasn’t quite ready in time so, when the initial campaigns bogged down into static warfare, the men went into the trenches with the famous Lee-Enfield – slightly less accurate, but lighter, handier and far more reliable in the filthy conditions. They weren’t so lucky with their tanks in 1939 – superbly armored, but slow and armed with only light weapons, they would have been ideal for supporting infantry crossing No Man’s Land in 1918. They weren’t so good at fighting Rommel and Guderian’s fast-moving Panzer columns.

Meanwhile, the US Army went right through WW2 and the Korean War without a proper light machinegun. Instead, they had the BAR – another weapon designed to support troops crossing No Man’s Land but hopelessly outmatched by the Bren, MG42 and Degtyaryov DP. The temptation to apply all the lessons you just learned is understandable, but if those lessons aren’t universal it’s a bad idea.

Luckily the USMC seems to be aware of the risks, and they’re planning to phase in changes over a period of years. Part of that process is going to involve using regular exercises to test new tactics and organizations, so anything that doesn’t work should get weeded out at an early stage. One thing that’s going to worry the less trusting is that doctrinal and training changes, at the same time as combat roles open up to women, is going to be a tempting opportunity to lower physical standards. Any move in that direction needs to be resisted. The work on reform has already begun though, with a FRAGO issued by Commandant General Neller on January 19. The USMC will be changing, and there are a lot of potential gains to be had.

Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.

Fergus Mason

Fergus Mason grew up in the west of Scotland. After attending university he spent 14 years in the British Army and served in Bosnia, Northern Ireland, Kosovo and Iraq. Afterwards, he went to Afghanistan as a contractor, where he worked in Kabul, Mazar-e-Sharif and Camp Leatherneck. He now writes on a variety of topics including current affairs and military matters.
Fergus Mason

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