M1A1s and the Corps

by 1stLt George R. Copeland

Maj Gunzelman, (MCG, Jun89) sounds a vital warning to the ground combat element (GCE) commander of the Marine air-ground task force (MAGTF). Employing armor assels so that they both support and are supported by other combat elements is an issue that has always been important to GCE planning. It will continue to be so into the foreseeable future.

However, Maj Gunzelman’s argument that the Marine Corps should not field the M1A1 because its superior capabilities are not “compatible” with other elements of the GCE is not supportable. The M60 tank presents virtually the same challenges for proper employment; the Marine Corps has proven itself adept at task organizing units to utilize them properly. If doctrinal guidance is adhered to and creatively interpreted, the M1A1 will make an even wider array of maneuver options available to the GCE commander.

Maj Gunzelman points out that U.S. Army infantry “fights from” the so-called “Bradley Fighting Vehicle,” not explaining how this can be done in a vehicle vulnerable to light machinegun fire. A Soviet motorized rifle regiment commander with this attitude who encounters a MAGTF is in for a rude surprise. His forces will be engaged by MAGTF assets long before they reach the forward edge of the battle area, will be further reduced by assets available to the GCE commander, and will arrive in the battle area depleted, deployed into their battle formations much too early, and canalized into “kill zones” where they will be easy targets for the antiarmor weapons of the GCE commander. Robbing the GCE of this tremendous asset because its capabilities are “too great” would be absurd.

Because of space limitation aboard amphibious shipping, the Marine Corps must remain lightly armed compared to the Army. However, this limitation necessitates that we adhere even more scrupulously to the tenets of maneuver warfare; we will never have the luxury of fighting a U.S. Army-style battle of attrition. The M1A1, with its superior speed and armament, will provide the GCE commander with a superb maneuver asset that will assist him in meeting this requirement.