Turning the Page to a New Century
Exciting Times for the Marine Corps
By Arthur P. Brill, Jr.
LIEUTENANT COLONEL ARTHUR P. BRILL JR., USMC
(Ret.), is a feature writer based in Washington, D.C., who commanded
a Marine rifle company in Vietnam, served as a Marine Corps public affairs
officer and, later, as a spokes-man for the State and Justice Departments
and for President Reagan's Organized Crime Division. He writes frequently
on national-security issues for Sea Power and other defense publications.
Few people noticed the tall, flight-suited Marine slowly stride across
the floodlit tarmac to the Marine C-9B transport aircraft at Andrews
Air Force Base last August. Gen. James L. Jones Jr.'s first trip to the
Western Pacific in his new job was the last time a Marine commandant
would visit his commands there in the 20th century. The Corps' "golden
age" took place in the Pacific theater during World War II. Rising
from only 4,000 Marines in 1900, the Corps' strength peaked at 485,000
in 1945. Their Pacific exploits led to today's modern Marine Corps--a
thriving, combined-arms force poised for exciting times in the infancy
of this new century.
On the way to Korea, a midmorning refueling stop at Wake Island offered
Jones and his small traveling party a brief respite from an onslaught
of faxes, e-mails, and phone calls--even at 30,000 feet over the mid-Pacific,
a service chief does not escape the bureaucratic reach of the Pentagon.
The memorial to those who gallantly defended Wake Island in 1941 is
a short walk from the large and cozy 1950s-style air terminal. Inside,
a smiling cook in crisp whites stood behind an assortment of fresh fruit,
hot coffee, and pastries. Nearby, a middle-aged woman with long blonde
hair sold Wake Island T-shirts.
Jones and several others squeezed into a van for a bumpy guided tour.
Wake Island is home to 126 civilian employees and dependents of the Army's
Space and Missile Defense Command. They live in one-story cement typhoon-proof
buildings and eat in an inviting old mess hall. The island's facilities
have 300 empty beds in the event a transport aircraft remains there over-night.
There is no wait to tee off on the six-hole golf course--with its dirt
fairways and artificial tees and greens.
Rusted coastal guns dot Wake Island's flat and vegetated landscape,
their muzzles pointing toward the water. With so much beach area to cover,
how could 397 ground Marines--supported by a 59-man fighter squadron,
72 Navy personnel, six U.S. soldiers, and civilian contractors--possibly
have held off the Japanese invasion force that appeared following the
attack on Pearl Harbor? Wake Island will always be remembered for those
Later, as Jones' aircraft took off, the man destined to lead Marines
into the 21st century glanced down at the island surrounded by white
beaches, green lagoons, and the deep, endless blue sea. He saw the Marine
Corps' glorious past, a heritage that makes its future both possible
"As we turn the page into a new century, we should remember the
warriors who went before us," Jones later told Marines on Okinawa. "We
are walking over the foxholes of people who spawned an era of prosperity
for this nation that is the envy of the world. They are wondering if
we will be as good as they were."
Both Jones and his predecessor, Gen. Charles C. Krulak, came from Marine
families who were part of the "greatest generation." Jones
publicly applauds Krulak's immense contribution that enabled the Corps
to transition effortlessly into the new millennium. "There is nothing
broken in today's Corps," Jones said. "If I did nothing in
the next four years, the organization would flourish. The Marines we
have today would make that happen. The Marine Corps is better today than
it was yesterday, and it will be even better tomorrow."
Making a Good Corps Better
Across the Corps, it is apparent that this is a wonderful time to be
a Marine. Post-Cold War world events and the political-military outlook
for the 21st century reaffirm the need for a robust, forward-deployed
Navy-Marine team. Recruiters and drill instructors are producing quality
Marines, the Corps' major acquisition programs are humming, and last
year's readiness problems are 50 percent alleviated, thanks to recent
increases in defense spending. Despite this rosy overview, however, Jones
will not be a "caretaker" commandant. He intends to make a
good Marine Corps better. "Generally, we are making Marines well
today, but to ensure that we succeed in future battles, we need to focus
more on our operating forces," said Jones. "They need more
Jones has given himself six months to shape his policies. Some are already
in place. On 1 July 1999, Jones gathered his general officers at the
Double Tree Hotel in Arlington, Va. A day earlier, they had attended
his stirring passage of command ceremony at the Marine Barracks in Washington,
D.C.. He explained his Commandant's Guidance and issued approximately
60 "taskers" to various entities at Marine Corps headquarters
(HQMC) on questions he wanted answered. He asked, for example: Should
we reestablish brigades? Are Marines enjoying themselves? What is the
impact of the Crucible (a 54-hour, intensely challenging capstone to
recruit training)? Are Marine Expeditionary Units (MEUs) organized properly?
"Gen. Jones gives us very broad guidance. Our taskers said, 'How
about looking at this for me,'" said Lt. Gen. Jack W. Klimp, deputy
chief of staff for manpower and reserve affairs. "What a neat opportunity.
We go back with what we think is best for the Corps," Klimp said.
Jones also told his generals when he was taking leave and where he was
going. "If I don't take leave, they won't, and the people who work
for them won't," said Jones. He clearly wants his Marines and their
families to enjoy military life. With 45 percent of all Marines married,
Jones maintains that family support is essential to the health of the
Marines are working harder and playing less as the Corps' culture has
assumed more narrowly defined moral overtones in recent years. Some of
the activities that used to bring Marines together socially are fading
from today's scene. Few can question the need for young Marines to adopt
the Corps' time-proven ethics and values system. However, over time some
overzealous commanders and senior enlisted noncommissioned officers (NCOs)
have created unrealistic performance and behavior standards--a "zero
defect" mentality that can lead to ruined careers for the slightest
Jones is convinced today's quality Marines try to do the right thing
and that they can be trusted to take care of themselves and each other.
While he will not condone deliberate actions--such as stealing or taking
illegal drugs--he is urging commanders to exercise positive leadership
and to forgive minor mistakes. "The Marine Corps tries to be perfect
every day in an imperfect society. We should not have unrealistic expectations," said
Jones. "When rounds go down range on the battlefield, we have no
choice but to trust one another. Trust is essential in everything
Although retention is satisfactory, it is being watched closely. The
Corps cannot afford to lose its trained Marines unnecessarily. Jones
is keeping the Corps' standards high. His Commandant's Guidance--which
emphasizes the leadership concepts of trust, tolerance, unit before self,
and saying "yes" to reasonable Marines' requests--should help
nudge the Corps back to a more balanced perspective.
With fewer lawmakers, opinion leaders, and family members who have served
in the military, no uniformed service can survive being isolated from
the American people. Jones also wants the Corps to stay connected to
A Focus on Operations
While Jones gets plaudits for his "inside-the-beltway" experience
and know-how at the nation's seat of government, he is primarily a "grunt" who
has commanded everything from an infantry platoon to a Marine division.
A Silver Star recipient for heroism in Vietnam, Jones is concerned about
those tactical units that are understrength and short in some skills.
Jones also questions the wisdom of a "fleet assistance program" that
strips people from operating units to help run Marine bases.
"There are three kinds of Marines, those in the operating forces,
those who just left, and those who are trying to get back," said
Jones. In his view, they deserve more attention. In the late 1980s, when
Jones worked for then-Commandant Gen. Alfred M. Gray Jr., the Marine
Corps dropped the fourth rifle company from its active infantry battalions
because of manpower shortages. Gray never intended for the fourth company
to disappear entirely from the Corps' structure.
"It gives an infantry battalion more firepower, allows it to sustain
itself longer, and [enables it to] do more things," said Jones.
Though he cannot man the additional units, Jones wants the issue studied.
One option is to add the fourth company to its structure on paper. Another
is to designate Marine Corps Reserve rifle companies to augment some
of the 24 active infantry battalions during crises. Current war plans,
however, call for Marine Reserve infantry regiments to fight as units.
When Jones commanded the 2nd Marine Division in 1994, he augmented three
different infantry battalions that deployed temporarily to Guantanamo
Bay, Cuba, with Reserve rifle companies.
"The Reserves were very professional. I couldn't tell the difference
between them and the active units," recalls Jones. He supports the
Corps' total-force concept and appreciates having 42,000 active Marine
Reserves assigned at 192 locations and deeply imbedded in U.S. society.
Jones predicts the Reserves will play a significant role in "home
defense" to help counter terrorism and the possible use of weapons
of mass destruction in the United States.
An Unstable World
Intelligence experts still believe that no major conventional warfare
threat is on the horizon. "Who will challenge us in the next few
years?"asked Lt. Gen. John E. Rhodes, commander of the Marine Corps
Combat Development Command (MCCDC), Quantico, Va. But the lack of a large-scale
conventional threat does not mean that the future will be free from conflict
or other threats to U.S. security interests.
In recent years, two Marine studies said the Corps needed 5,000 more
Marines to handle the increased operational tempo imposed by the U.S.
response to global strife and instability. Today, 33,500 Marines are
forward-deployed around the globe--assigned to MEUs, stationed overseas,
and engaged in exercises abroad. "This reflects the strain and stress
our young people are under," said Maj. Gen. Gary L. Parks, commander
of the Marine Corps Recruiting Command.
The Corps' ideal solution to ease its current operational tempo is a
4-to-1 rotation base that gives its deployed units two years at home
between deployments vice 18 months in the present 3-to-1 system. The
matter is under study, but it will never happen until the Marines get
more maneuver units. "Before we ask Congress for an end-strength
adjustment, we will try to fix it internally," said Jones. "We
will organize to fight the way we want."
Jones is aiming for personnel changes by the 2015 timeframe--the long-anticipated
milestone when Marines can execute their future warfighting concept,
Operational Maneuver From the Sea (OMFTS). By then, enemy threats could
change, and most of the ships and hardware projected in Navy and Marine
Corps acquisition programs will be in service. Because its new equipment,
aircraft, and vehicles will be faster, larger, and more efficient, the
Corps is revamping its tactics and structure. The road to 2015 will be
evolutionary, not a speed-run, and Jones will probably convene another
Force Structure Planning Group (FSPG) study to guide the Corps to 2010. "This
latest FSPG doesn't make us OMFTS-capable. It is a first lily pad that
gets us in the direction of 2015, but it only carries us out to 2005," said
The Corps' leadership agrees that more Marines are needed for today's
missions, but Jones must be satisfied the problem cannot be solved internally--a
difficult challenge in light of past cuts to the Corps' support structure.
Jones could request an end-strength adjustment as early as this year
when the service chiefs testify before Congress on the president's FY
2001 budget request. Both Congress and the Department of Defense (DOD)
must support any proposed manpower increase to prevent the Corps from
having to pay for it--5,000 more Marines would cost $300 million per
year or $1.5 billion over five years. "We could afford funding it
from our procurement account, but I don't think we want to afford it," said
Lt. Gen. Michael J. Williams, deputy chief of staff for programs and
resources. "We would have to delay modernization again."
Thus far, Jones wants the consensus of his senior general officers before
moving on major Marine issues. These key decisions will continue to be
made at quarterly "three-star offsite" conferences.
Requesting more people in a tight budget climate is no small matter,
but informed observers say that no Marine has a better chance of success.
Jones knows the intricacies of Washington's policy and political system,
and his leadership inspires trust. While other branches of the U.S. armed
forces likely will seek some growth to offset the effects of the past
decade's defense drawdown, only the Marine Corps has demonstrated a consistent
ability to recruit sufficient numbers of qualified recruits for the All-Volunteer
"It would be difficult for the other service chiefs, with both
recruiting and retention problems, to ask Congress for an increase," said
Parks. "Only our commandant can do that."
Attracting Quality Recruits
Marine recruiters entered 2000 by making mission for 54 consecutive
months. They continue to enlist quality people--95 percent are high school
graduates--who exceed DOD's mental standards for recruitment. Both Jones'
guidance and tomorrow's battlefields demand high-caliber Marines. "When
you get into the complicated world of the 'three-block war' and the 'CNN
effect,' you have to have quality young people or they aren't going to
perform," said Parks.
The heroes of the Corps' recruiting success story are the Marine recruiters
who work 70-hour weeks. They face enormous pressure in not wanting the
Corps' recruiting streak to end on their watch. Should Jones seek and
obtain an increase to Marine end strength, his recruiters likely will
produce them--provided the increase is phased-in over several years.
Parks is optimistic for the future; he has 52 percent of his 2000 mission
goal already in the "pool" of committed recruits. His goal
is 55 percent by this time in 2002.
"The entire Corps is focused on recruiting. We have a band of warriors
out there who prepare for their mission like it was combat," said
Jones. "They attack with the same warrior ethic, and they succeed."
To replace 37,000 Marines a year, the Corps enlists approximately 800
people each week--roughly the equivalent of an infantry battalion. The
first members of the promising "Millennium Generation" turned
17 years old a few weeks ago. It is hoped that these followers to the
so-called latch-key "Generation X" will be more team-oriented
and disciplined. Research suggests that they grew up under the supervision
of more adult role models who instilled in them a sense of rules, respect,
"We have great hopes based on the indicators. Some say they are
similar to the G.I. Generation," said Parks. "Our challenge
is to market our Corps to them."
The Corps is evaluating its nationwide recruiting market to give every
recruiter an equal chance of success. By FY 2004, recruiters will relocate
to growing areas (e.g., Las Vegas, Nev.). "We will fish where the
fish are," said Parks. "The environment is changing, and we
can't stand still."
About 85 percent of Marine recruits receive enlistment guarantees for
their military specialty, but these result in shortages in some of the
smaller occupations such as intelligence and electronics. The 70 specific
jobs for which guarantees are now provided will decrease to 15 occupational
areas. A Marine could work in any number of related jobs in that area. "Instead
of selling the kid on being a brain surgeon, we'll sell him on being
a surgeon," said Klimp.
The number of U.S. Naval Academy (USNA) graduates entering the Corps
will rise above 16 percent. Normally, about 155 of 900 USNA graduates
elect for commissioning as Marines. The total number is not expected
to exceed 200. The Corps seeks to maintain a balanced, well-rounded officer
corps that is educated in diverse academic disciplines at universities
and colleges from around the country.
"We are putting the man and the woman back into manpower," said
Klimp who is implementing many of the points in Jones' guidance. "We
are making a tremendous effort to say 'yes' to Marines, and when we do
say 'no' there is a good reason."
Warfare Community Advocacy
The new commandant's scrutiny of the Corps' personnel and operational
areas also extends to the organization, functions, and practices of his
staff in Washington, D.C. Jones praises the HQMC aviation department
for its know-how and the way it represents the aviation community in
Washington. "We're now doing that for the other communities," Jones
The plans, policy, and operations department (PP&O), headed by Lt.
Gen. Raymond P. Ayres Jr., is the advocate for the ground community and
the command elements. The new head of installation and logistics, Lt.
Gen. Gary S. McKissock, is the advocate for bases, stations, and the
combat service-support community. Prior to 1999, both departments informally
watched over those areas. McKissock's "integrated logistics" program
promises savings in money and manpower, but only time will tell. Other
so-called "better-business practices" have not paid off yet--a
possible reflection on the lack of a clear emphasis found in other services'
When Jones had Ayres' job in 1996, he established a "war room" to
enable HQMC to become more aware of the external environmental factors
that influence the battle for resources within DOD and the federal government.
The White House, Congress, DOD, the other armed services, defense contractors,
and the news media are all participants. The "war room" effort
faded when Jones left, but it is back in business. Helping to prepare
the Corps for the next Quadrennial Review in 2001 will be its key test.
"Intelligence drives operations in battle," said Jones who
wants to revitalize that career field. By next fall, a general officer
will head Marine intelligence--a move that should spark a renaissance
in the warfare specialty and groom Marine officers to serve in intelligence
billets on joint staffs. Also, Marine reconnaissance units will be reorganized
again. A "recon" company will be assigned to each Marine Expeditionary
Force (MEF), and a recon battalion will be assigned to each Marine division.
The Corps also is studying its artillery capability. The lightweight
155mm howitzer is 6,000 pounds lighter than the current M198 model, but
it is still heavy for maneuver warfare. A mix of rockets, mobile 120mm
mortars, and some MLRSs (multiple launch rocket systems) could be added
in a few years.
Jones is changing the titles of his senior officers at HQMC. When authorizing
legislation is passed, he will call them "deputy commandants"--not
deputy chiefs of staff. The Corps has not had a chief of staff at HQMC
For the first time in 10 years, the Corps also is evaluating the validity
of the MEU's 29 missions--particularly its sensitive "black-suit-type" tasks,
including extremis hostage rescue. Each MEU is assigned to operate in
separate geographical areas with different requirements. "In my
view, MEUs don't have to be mirror-imaged," said Maj. Gen. Jan C.
Huly, who heads the Operations Division conducting the review. "But
they should at least have some core capabilities to offer CINCs [commanders
Prior to Desert Storm, the Corps could give DOD's unified warfighting
commanders three levels of forces--ranging from a 2,000-person MEU to
an MEF of 37,000. A Marine Expeditionary Brigade (MEB) was the third
tier with about 16,000 people assigned. After 1991, the MEB was renamed
an "MEF Forward," and the brigade capability was benched. Jones
is bringing the brigade back. He is an advocate of the Maritime Prepositioning
Force (MPF), and each of the three MPF squadrons and the prepositioning
sites in Norway are designed to support a MEB-sized force. "People
understand brigades, not 'MEF Forwards,'" Jones said. "I want
the joint world to know that we have a middle tier."
The Navy-Marine Corps Team
Cooperation between the Navy and Marine Corps is tight today--thanks
in part to Secretary of the Navy Richard Danzig's emphasis, the availability
of some additional defense funding in the FY 1999 and 2000 budgets, and
the close relationship Jones enjoys with Adm. Jay L. Johnson, chief of
naval operations. The two discuss key issues in regular meetings of the "Big
Eight" group consisting of Jones, Johnson, and several key deputies.
"We are the answer now. If the nation didn't have a Navy-Marine
team it would have to invent one," said Ayres. Jones sees no true
adversaries in any service, particularly in the Navy. Having served as
director of the Navy staff's Expeditionary Warfare Division (N-85), he
understands the problems, competing priorities, and friction associated
with tight resources and the expeditionary issues that are so vital for
Marines--amphibious ships, naval surface fire support, counter sea mine
measures, and sea basing.
Generally, the Corps thinks these programs are headed in the right direction.
The LCACs (landing craft, air cushion vehicles) are being modernized,
and the LPD 17 amphibious transport dock program is moving forward--albeit
with some cost growth and schedule slippage. The aging Tarawa-class big-deck
amphibious assault ship (LHA) will eventually be replaced by an improved
version of the Wasp class having a projected service life extending beyond
2050. As part of this future acquisition program, the Corps is studying
how to accommodate its improved OMFTS systems most effectively. In the
meantime, an additional Wasp-class ship (LHD 8), authorized and funded
by Congress in FY 2000 despite its absence from the president's budget
request, will replace the USS Tarawa--which was commissioned in 1976--in
Other top Navy expeditionary-warfare programs of critical interest to
the Corps include ongoing efforts to counter shallow-water mines and
to improve the Navy's surface fire support systems. Over-the-horizon
(OTH) sea basing is another important requirement tied to the future
The Lessons of Kosovo
Although NATO's short 11-week war with the Former Republic of Yugoslavia
did not generate a heavy demand on strategic sealift for resupply and
sustainment of deployed U.S. forces, it demonstrated that U.S. reliance
on foreign ports can impede operations. A stronger, more determined military
adversary--equipped with improved long-range weapons systems--would increase
the risk to U.S. logistics during forward-deployed operations. The availability
of improved MPF ships in the 2015 time frame will enable U.S. warfighters
to end their reliance on foreign ports by allowing designated air-contingency
Marines to fly directly to a theater of operations to embark aboard MPF
ships, sail for several days under austere conditions, and then launch
attacks from OTH.
These Marines also would be resupplied from MPF ships during follow-on
operations. These improved MPF vessels will be relatively inexpensive
logistics platforms to enable sea basing--not combatant amphibious ships.
Nevertheless, some aircraft carrier proponents have voiced concerns that
such sea-basing concepts will threaten future carrier-based aviation
programs. Nonetheless, the long pole in the tent for OMFTS is an OTH
The present force of aging MPF ships is tied to the use of ports to
offload its vehicles, equipment, and supplies--they would be unable to
resupply OTH Marines in the combat scenarios envisioned for the 21st
century. The effort to replace them is moving slowly. "People are
trying to study this to death," said retired Marine Lt. Gen. Paul
K. Van Riper, who issued the initial future MPF concept paper several
The 26th MEU performed well during Operation Allied Force and its follow-on
peacekeeping Operation Joint Guardian in Kosovo last summer, proving
once again that Marines are good peacekeepers because they are good warfighters.
The Corps is preparing for future "three-block war" missions
in urban areas. Jones wants Marine combat training to be more realistic
and better integrated. A two-star general will soon head the Training
and Education Division at MCCDC and assume that role Corps-wide.
The Marine Warfighting Laboratory ("the Lab") may get busier
during the years ahead. Jones supports experimentation, and he thinks
the Corps is an ideal testing ground for DOD. The Lab learned from its
experience that there are no easy answers in urban combat--casualties
remain high. With limited success thus far, it continues to experiment
with the conduct of training exercises in metropolitan areas. Rhodes
said technology may begin to help urban warriors in five-years' time--the
answer may lie in better tactics combined with improved lethal and nonlethal
weapons. "A big part of peacekeeping is deterrence. We do that by
flying around and by using precision weapons," said Lt. Gen. Frederick
McCorkle, deputy chief of staff for Marine Aviation. "Some of our
aircraft can put a precision round through a window."
Marine air continues to be used extensively during national crises.
In 1999, Marine aircraft helped enforce U.N. "no-fly" restrictions
over Iraq and participated in NATO's Kosovo air war. Sea-based AV-8B
Harrier V/STOL (vertical/short takeoff and landing) aircraft, assigned
to two forward-deployed MEUs, were used in Kosovo, along with two Marine
F/A-18D Hornet squadrons deployed to Taszar, Hungary, and 12 Marine EA-6B
Prowlers at Aviano, Italy, and Incirlik, Turkey.
"We showed the world how to deploy expeditionary forces and to
quickly set up an expeditionary airfield," said McCorkle. "Our
aircraft and crews were ready. Our Marines did everything from high-
and low-level maintenance to rear-area security. In the future, we'd
like to operate with our EA-6Bs from the same place."
Filling Critical Needs
The Corps' air-warfare capability will vastly improve with the future
acquisition of the V/STOL version of the joint strike fighter (JSF).
Better weapons--including precision-guided munitions and precise digital-laser-targeting
systems--also are coming. Until the JSF and MV-22 tiltrotor Osprey arrive,
Marine air will be challenged to keep its aging aircraft flying. The
AV-8B Harrier's support and maintainability problems are especially troublesome.
HQMC estimates that 25 to 30 percent of the Harriers will be grounded
in January 2000. Eventually, it hopes to get more operating.
The first MV-22s will deploy with an East Coast MEU in 2003. The Corps
is now selecting pilots and preparing for the training phase. VMMT 204,
the training squadron at MCAS, New River, N.C., will receive its first
of 12 Ospreys next month. The MV-22 will be supported by 19 operational
simulators throughout the Corps. Experts predict that the U.S. Army will
buy hundreds of MV-22s once the aircraft proves itself operationally--offering
the real potential for the Corps to reduce unit costs.
Marine air has seven KC-130J Hercules transports on order--and wants
more. But the Marine Corps is headed toward an all-V/STOL force, and
the eventual replacement for the C-130 and CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter
could be a tiltrotor variant that will land on ships. In the battle against
enemy air defenses, among the many options to replace the EA-6B Prowler
in 2014 is a tactical unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV).
UAV technology is improving quickly, and experts predict UAVs will replace
most manned tactical aircraft by mid-century. Combat UAVs, costing $1
million each, will stay airborne for eight hours. Surface-to-air missiles,
costing $200,000, will destroy $30 million airplanes and be capable of
pulling three times the 'G-forces' that the best military pilots can
"The JSF may be the last manned tactical jet," predicts McCorkle,
who has a Navy flag officer as deputy. "I'm wearing wings, and I
don't want to hear that--but technology is surpassing what the human
body can do."
Until then, and the introduction of the DD 21 land-attack destroyer,
Marine air will be the most reliable and lethal fire support that ground
Marines will receive. Marine airplanes will perform many of the nation's
battles in this century, but supporting Marines is their foremost task.
"Kosovo was a team effort between the 'grunts' and the aviators," said
McCorkle. "Just like Desert Storm, it was the kid on the ground
who made them wave the white flag. Our job is to get him to the fight
and make sure that he wins."
Jones: "Exciting Times For the Corps"
Marines are still using aging aircraft, vehicles, and equipment, but
Congress produced about 50 percent of the $10 billion the Corps needs
to fill unfunded requirements between 2000 and 2005. On the ground side,
the lightweight 155mm howitzer program is on track, and the first advanced
amphibious assault vehicles (AAAVs) are scheduled to achieve their IOC
in 2006. Anticipating its huge AAAV expenditures ($1 billion a year for
five years), the Corps tried to stock up on the number of generators,
forklifts, Humvees, five-ton trucks, and other support equipment in its
aging inventory. As a result, the Corps' Humvee-replacement backlog was
reduced from 14 years to seven years. "Many critical needs were
filled," said Williams. "We didn't get everything we asked
for, but we've done well."
Some of the $5 billion--to be spent over six years--covered increased
pay and compensation initiatives, two-thirds went into modernization,
and other dollars were allocated for procurement, construction, and quality-of-life
For the first time in years, the Corps' maintenance backlog is shrinking--not
growing. "We've neglected our infrastructure a long time. It didn't
get broken overnight, and it won't get fixed overnight," said Williams.
The Marine Corps still considers the Pacific to be the nation's most
vital area of interest. Five of the eight largest U.S. trading partners
are in northeast Asia. The 18,000 Marines of the III MEF in the Western
Pacific are the most forward-deployed Marine operating force, scattered
from East Timor to Mount Fuji. Marine eyeballs also are fixed firmly
When Jones landed at Osan Air Base last August, Patriot missiles and
camouflaged bunkers stood along the runway. Seoul's 13 million people
were bustling, cosmopolitan, and prosperous--yet an underlying war-zone
atmosphere persisted. The Seoul Hilton's lobby was crowded with visiting
U.S. military officers wearing battledress utility "cammy" uniforms.
In Seoul, the 75 Marines assigned to U.S. Marine Forces, Korea, coordinate
Marine Corps training and contingency planning for the peninsula. In
event of hostilities, they will escort Marine units to assembly areas.
The III MEF's Marines often train there, working closely with Republic
of Korea Marines, mainly in the Pohang area, about 160 miles southeast
North Korea is unpredictable--11,000 artillery pieces are positioned
against Seoul and 500,000 soldiers deployed within 15 miles of the Demilitarized
Zone. When Jones toured the Joint Security Area at Panmunjom, several
North Korean officers peeked through the windows of the armistice building
at "conference row." Later, Jones told Marines at Iwakuni,
Japan, only 350 miles from the DMZ, "You are in the most dangerous
place on earth."
The relocation of the Corps' air station at Futenma on Okinawa remains
unresolved. Jones flew over several potential relocation sites, and the
Japanese government may decide soon. Although liberty incidents, oil
spills, and vehicle accidents are still sensationalized by the local
news media, relations with the conservative-leaning new Okinawan government
are better than ever.
"The Japanese and other countries where Marines train are watching
the Vieques controversy closely," said Marine Maj. Gen. Charles
F. Bolden Jr., deputy commander of U.S. Forces Japan. If the U.S. military
loses use of live-fire training ranges at Vieques, it could have grave
readiness implications and repercussions at the Corps' training sites
around the world.
The Marines and their families in Japan enjoy a decent quality of life
in modern facilities paid for by the Japanese government. In FY 1999,
the Japanese funded $297 million in new construction, with one-third
slated for a runway-relocation project at Iwakuni Air Base.
Okinawa was a nostalgic visit for Jones. His uncle fought on the island
in 1945, Jones passed through on his way to Vietnam in 1967, and he served
there many times in subsequent assignments. At the rugged Marine Corps
Jungle Warfare Training Center, Jones spoke to a rifle company clustered
around a clearing in the dense canopy. The 32nd Marine commandant was
moved when the commander gave him the unit's guidon. It was the same
company Jones had served with in Vietnam.
"This will hang in my office," Jones said, cloaking his emotions
as his remarks summed up his outlook for the next four years. "Don't
think things can't happen here. Stay ready. Remember who you are and
enjoy yourselves. These are exciting times for the Corps, and they will