Honk-honk! Time to toot my horn. The May 2013 edition of the Marine Corps Gazette published an article I co-wrote with an old boss. The elevator pitch? Future maritime forces need a robust forward-deployed presence in partner nations that gives naval forces awareness and informs greater context about the places in which they operate and possibly fight. These naval forces – Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard – should exhibit greater flexibility to come together or disperse to respond to crisis, and will be able to form a more suitable force to act early to address the burgeoning crisis. Think we could’ve used a little more operational flexibility at Benghazi?
No Cliff’s Notes here. Read for yourself: FMO_Article_MC_Gazette_May2013. The idea is called Future Maritime Operations.
While writing the article, I kept thinking about the above scene from the politically incorrect 1975 John Milius movie “The Wind and the Lion,” starring Sean Connery as a rebellious sheik (a Scot playing an Arab … WTF?!) who takes Americans hostage in 1904 Morocco. Teddy Roosevelt, played by Brian Keith, gets sick of negotiating for their release and sends in the Marines.
Hollywood has purged the Internet of any free versions of this scene, but it depicts an imperious Marine captain, with his sword at port arms, double-timing his company of grunts and sailors from the docks through the city of Tangiers to attack a Moroccan nobleman’s refuge. As they’re jogging through the city, European diplomats and locals stop and stare, with this question ready to tumble from their lips: “Where did all these Americans come from?”
Answer: From the sea, brothers and sisters. Marines belong on ships and no Navy ship is complete without Marines.
Marines belong on ships. Or as Admiral David Farragut said in 1862, “A ship without Marines is like a coat without buttons.” Marines were on U.S. Navy vessels of many stripes from the Corps’ inception in 1775 through the 1980s, sometimes a detachment no larger than a basketball team that squeezed aboard to be the captain’s muscle, board bad guys’ boats, and do whatever else he saw fit.
Roughly 150 years later, Marines will most likely be found on roughly 11% of the Navy’s 316-ship fleet. What the hell happened?
– Marines chafed at being multi-tasked to do anything unrelated to being a Marine (basic infantryman skills).
– Sailors viewed Marines as doing little more than eating, sleeping, shitting and working out (not far from the truth while a ship is in transit).
– The mostly land-locked wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
But those conflicts are winding down, budgets are being trimmed and everyone needs to get along to survive and thrive against future threats. It’s probably time to sew the buttons back onto Admiral Farragut’s coat.