United States Marine Corps
Organization and Missions
Gen. Michael W. Hagee, 33rd commandant of the Marine Corps, leads a service that accounts for 4 percent of the Department of Defense budget total obligation authority, while providing 23 percent of the nation’s active-duty ground forces, 20 percent of the tactical fixed-wing aviation capability and 17 percent of the attack helicopters. At any given time, about 23 percent of the Marine Corps is forward-deployed.
Combat, peacekeeping, humanitarian assistance and training deployments maintained a high operational tempo for the Marine Corps in fiscal year 2006. The major expeditionary elements of the Marine Corps include II Marine Expeditionary Force (Forward) under Maj. Gen. Stephen T. Johnson. The force has its headquarters at Camp Lejeune, N.C., with units currently deployed to Camp Fallujah, al Anbar Province and other locations in Iraq.
I Marine Expeditionary Force, under Lt. Gen. John F. Sattler, is based at Camp Pendleton, Calif. III Marine Expeditionary Force, under Lt. Gen. Joseph F. Weber, is based at Camp Courtney, Okinawa, Japan.
Hagee is a full partner in the Department of the Navy’s vision for organizational and operational transformation, championing “a 21st century Marine Corps” that must “project power anywhere, protect our interests and allies and enable joint warfighting capabilities on a global scale,” he said in his February “Message to the Marine Corps.” Hagee’s vision for the Corps is a force that leverages the “asymmetric advantages” inherent in the maritime force, for command of the seas with sustained force projection ashore.
“Taking full advantage of this asymmetric advantage through the Sea Basing operational concept, the Navy/Marine Corps team provides a strategic capability for assuring access, increasing responsiveness, maximizing the effects of forward presence and reducing our dependence on vulnerable land bases — which greatly expands the options available to the combatant commanders,” Hagee said.
The naval concept of Sea Basing refers to a confederation of vessels — including those of the fleet’s aircraft carrier strike groups and expeditionary strike groups (ESGs) — and squadrons of maritime prepositioned force vessels, capable of projecting and sustaining Navy and Marine Corps combat forces inland from the sea.
For the Marine Corps, Sea Basing means applying well-established operational concepts, such as “ship-to-objective maneuver,” which refers to the continuous movement of forces from the sea base inland to target areas without pausing to build or close forces ashore, as at a traditional beachhead.
The Marine Corps traces its origin to 1775 and a resolution of the Continental Congress that raised two battalions of Marines for service with the fleet. However, the U.S. Marine Corps officially was established in 1798, during a period of conflict with Mediterranean pirates and with France. Since that time, Marines have distinguished themselves in war — most famously at the battles of Belleau Wood in World War I, Iwo Jima in World War II, the Chosin Resevoir in Korea and Khe Sanh in Vietnam — and have become the nation’s rapid-reaction force of choice for the entire spectrum of military operations.
The Commandant of the Marine Corps
Hagee has championed a Marine Corps that remains on the cutting edge of warfighting capability, while maintaining the traditions of service that represent “all that is highest in military efficiency and soldierly virtue,” as Lt. Gen. John A. Lejeune, the 13th commandant, put it. The commandant of the Marine Corps is the service’s highest uniformed official, under the secretary of the Navy, but reports to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on equal footing with the Chief of Naval Operations.
Hagee’s previous commands include commanding general, I Marine Expeditionary Force; commanding general, 1st Marine Division; and, during the Vietnam War, commander, Company A, 1st Battalion, 9th Marines.
The major parent commands that provide Marine forces for operational units are U.S. Marine Corps Forces Atlantic, headquartered near Norfolk, Va., and commanded by Lt. Gen. Robert R. Blackman, Jr.; and U.S. Marine Corps Forces Pacific, based at Camp Smith, Hawaii, and commanded by Lt. Gen. John F. Goodman.
Marine Forces Reserve, under Lt. Gen. John W. Bergman, include the Fourth Marine Division, the Fourth Marine Air Wing and the Fourth Service Support Group. Marine Forces Reserve augment and reinforce active component Marine units and provide Marines for the U.S. Northern Command — the Defense Department’s organization charged with homeland defense.
Marine Corps operational units are structured as Marine Air-Ground Task Forces (MAGTFs), which are scalable organizations that include ground combat elements, air combat elements, a command-and-control element and a combat service support, or logistics, element. The largest MAGTFs are the three Marine Expeditionary Forces (MEFs), including between 20,000 and 90,000 Marines equipped with 60 days worth of supplies when deployed. The MEF’s combat forces include the ground combat elements of Marine divisions and the aviation combat elements of Marine air wings, of which there are three each in active service.
The Marine Expeditionary Brigade (MEB) is a MAGTF with between 3,000 and 20,000 Marines, with 30 days worth of supplies.
The smallest MAGTF is the Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), with 1,500 to 3,000 Marines. A MEU is the typical deployed formation embarked aboard the amphibious ships of a Navy ESG. The MEU carries out missions ranging from conventional amphibious operations to peacekeeping and the rescue of American citizens and other civilians endangered by civil insurrections. The MEU is usually commanded by a Marine colonel, and carries aboard ships 15 days worth of supplies.
Dependent upon the size of the force in question, the ground combat element of a deploying MAGTF may include infantry, engineers, reconnaissance and headquarters units; 155mm field artillery; M1A1 main battle tanks; light armored vehicles and amphibious assault vehicles. Aviation combat elements include the aviators and support personnel for variously composed fixed-wing and rotary-wing aircraft units.
Marine Corps aviators fly a variety of aircraft, including F/A-18C/D Hornet strike fighters, AV-8B Harrier II short takeoff/vertical landing attack planes, EA-6B Prowler electronic warfare planes, KC-130 Hercules tanker/transports, CH-46 Sea Knight transport helicopters, CH-53 Sea/Super Stallion helicopters, and UH-1 and AH-1 utility/attack helicopters.
Marines also perform specialized missions worldwide. For example, more than 1,200 Marines serve as security forces at approximately 130 U.S. embassies and consulates in 117 countries.
Among the Marine Corps other major commands are:
Marine Corps Combat Development Command
Headquartered at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va., the Corps’ advanced warfighting capabilities and materiel are developed and produced by the Marine Corps Combat Development Command, under Lt. Gen. James N. Mattis, and the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory, under Brig. Gen. Randolph D. Alles, who also serves as vice chief, Office of Naval Research.
Marine Corps Systems Command
Also located at Quantico, Maj. Gen. William D. Catto leads Marine Corps Systems Command, which is responsible for acquiring and supporting the vehicles, weapon systems and equipment used by the operational force.
Marine Corps Logistics Command
Led by Maj. Gen. Willie J. Williams, Marine Corps Logistics Command, based at Albany, Ga., provides integrated logistics support and supply services for the Marine Corps, including depot level maintenance and management of strategic prepositioning capability.