If not the Marines, then who?
In this age of sophisticated, cheap anti-ship missiles, I understand why one might question the need to assemble hundreds of ships for an Inchon-style beach assault or thousands of ships for another D-Day. As The Times reported in its June 21 article, “U.S. rethinks a Marine Corps specialty: storming beaches,” assaulting a defended beach is seen as a thing of the past. If that is the only perceived mission for the Marine Corps, then why do we even need a Corps?
Well, if not a Corps, then what do we need?
Our nation — a maritime nation — will always need to be involved with populations and crises across seas. What kind of crises and what kind of crisis response force (CRF, for the purposes of this article) will be required to carry out our nation’s interests?
What will the nation want to do? Americans are a law-abiding, free-trading, caring lot, and we like to exhibit these behaviors in our foreign affairs. We want a CRF that can respond to provide humanitarian assistance within a few days of a tragedy to have the greatest chance of saving life and limb. Because many humanitarian crises are caused by armed conflicts, the CRF will need an ability to provide its own security as well as create an umbrella of security for others in a city or small nation.
How large should this CRF be? It should be large enough to make a difference in a city or small nation. It should be able to create several micro-camps or security points that can be assisted and controlled by one headquarters. The new force should be able to support itself with enough transportation, security and supplies to last for at least a couple weeks before help arrives. The actual type of transportation should be able to make a seaport or airport where there are none, as is often the case after a natural disaster or armed conflict.
What is the best way to get to the crisis? Food, water, generators, weapons, trucks and armored vehicles are heavy. In the commercial world, we can see that air transport and sea transport each have their places. Flowers are transported by airplane, while vehicles are moved on ships. So to take a lesson from the civilian companies that transport heavy items for a living, the best way to transport large amounts of heavy items is to do it by sea.
How many crisis response forces should there be? Our CRFs should be positioned within a few thousand miles of each other to ensure an adequate response time. Placing CRFs at those distances around the globe gives you a necessary number of five to seven CRFs. Then multiplying the number of CRFs times three to give an adequate ratio of at-sea time to training and rest time gives you the structure of the total strength of the new crisis response force needed.
So we have done it. We have created a new crisis response force that economically transports itself over the sea, can provide humanitarian assistance and security, can provide for its own transportation and resupply until more help arrives, and can connect the lowest levels of command in the field with national goals and objectives.
I am reminded of the last time our nation had a crisis response force like this: We called them “Marines.”
Lt. Col. Roger S. Galbraith is director of public affairs for the U.S. Marine Corps Combat Development Command.