Preparing for Maneuver Warfare

by L.C. Carter

Re Mr. Lind’s “Preparing for Maneuver Warfare” (Jun84). One does not have to buy all that Mr. Lind is selling to agree with the thrust of his article or to appreciate his continuing interest in our growth and health. The discouraging aspect of his article is that he felt he had to write it. Most of his points have appeared in the pages of the GAZETTE over the years, but the problems they relate to still exist. It remains for the responsible officers to respond to his specific criticisms of specific schools at MCDEC (and it is my understanding that many of his observations are no longer valid), but one is hard put to dispute his views on increasing the emphasis on military history, strengthening faculties, focusing the selection process, strengthening noncommissioned officer (NCO) education/development (convincingly corroborated by Capt Trowbridge’s “Training Staff NCOs” in the same issue), increasing the NCO role and responsibilities, and reorder some basic priorities. Imagine a civilian having to write “we need to make ‘preparing to win in combat’ the guiding, overriding priority in the allocation of our time, our dollars, and our rewards.” There is a good deal of room for discussion on what combat the Marine Corps needs to prepare for and how best to prosecute that combat, but there can be no argument about institutional priorities. That they are unclear, wavering, or perverted is a charge that ought to concern every Marine.

by Maj C.J. Gregor

The Jun84 issue of the GAZETTE is but the latest in a long string of issues that provide numerous points to ponder of significance to the Marine Corps as a fighting organization and the individual Marine as a professional. Mr. Lind’s article, in particular, was well-thought-out, well-written, and perceptive of some of our problems and possible solutions. We Marines have many areas to work on if we are to become as professional in action as we portray ourselves in words. Sometimes our own hype may even blind us to self-correctable shortcomings. I would only ask Mr. Lind to share his military insight within his occupational sphere of influence, i.e., the Congress, in order to enable that august body to provide the necessary, unified national leadership and national strategy that is currently lacking but necessary to mold the Armed Forces in general and the Marine Corps specifically into an even more battle-ready organization. The Military Reform Caucus does not appear to have accomplished many tangible results in the past two years. . . .

by Capt S.G. Duke

Though I agree with many points made by Mr. Lind, I felt somewhat incensed by his comments concerning the Amphibious Warfare School. In an effort at justifying his thesis for reeducation of the Marine officer, he cites two multiple choice questions that admittedly may not belong on an intermediate-level Service school’s final examination. What Mr. Lind fails to mention are the numerous hours the school’s tactics department devoted to maneuver warfare (commonsense tactics), and an indepth professional battle studies program. Additionally, the school conducts many tactical exercises without troops on actual civil war battlefields utilizing Marine versus Soviet scenarios. I found that on each of these exercises the tactics instructors encouraged the type of free-thinking that he so ardently advocates. The author also fails to inform the GAZETTE’S readership of an eight-hour exam administered to students that requires them to write an in-depth battalion reinforced operation order and complete fire support plan. The success of the student’s effort is largely based on finding the Soviet’s surfaces and placing the Marine Schwerpunkt on the opposing gaps. . . .

As long as the Marine Corps’ current policies on officer career patterns and the limited opportunity for service with the Fleet Marine Force exist, Marine schools will have to continue to teach officers what they should have already learned. As a force that may be overcommitted yet will refuse no mission, the Marine Corps must have capable and proficient platoon leaders, company, and battalion commanders vice potential field marshals on all levels of command. As an analogy, a football team that has not first mastered the basics of blocking and tackling will win few games by trying to master the end-run and the long-pass first.

Mr. Lind is a fine and accomplished writer who invokes healthy debate that may contribute to finding solutions to problems facing the Marine Corps. However, as a professional he should be above providing the misleading type of examples he cites as indications of the curriculum taught at one of our finer institutions.

by Maj William A. Woods

Mr. Lind’s recent contribution will leave some readers gnashing their teeth, wringing their hands, or tearing out their hair. Some may even go so far as to hope that Mr. Lind will never write again. How dare a mere civilian who has never served a day of his life in the military Service and probably could not even pass our physical fitness test tell us how to run the Corps. How could the editorial board allow such a piece to slip through?

Unfortunately, Mr. Lind’s article has the hot sting of truth in it. . . . The changes he argues for, particularly those concerning the education of our officers, are substantial and far-reaching. To institute even the minimal called for would require a monumental redirection of our thoughts on war. Those seniors who possess the power to make such changes will have to be of exceptional character-officers who can struggle through the suffocating muck of bureaucracy and lesser minds to break free into the clear, brilliant light of reason.

Like the Doomsday prophet, I too will point my finger and sound the warning. Listen to what Mr. Lind is saying. Heed his words. Shake off this encroaching antiintellectual lethargy we have slipped into. Begin by putting aside the running shoes and taking up the books. Perceive yourselves as military officers and not as “rangers” and “cowboys.” Pursue the study of the art of war with a vengeance and learn the art of conducting operations and tactics. Stop seeking the illusive safety in memorizing techniques and laundry lists of “how to.” When assigned to a Service school, challenge your instructors by presenting innovative approaches to problems. Demand excellence in your schooling and in your training. In the field, welcome free play exercises and seek opportunities to have your unit officers involved in wargaming. Learn how to critique exercises tactically. Engage your contemporaries and seniors in discussions on operations, tactics, and military history. Establish an officers’ library and allow time for study and reflection. All these things and more we can do. Accept the challenge of learning about this business of war. It is not easy and will require much hard work, but the rewards are inestimable. . . .

by Maj H-C. Peterson, Jr.

It was interesting to read Mr. Lind’s article. . . . and then to read 1stLt Berger’s comment that 3d Battalion, 7th Marines had developed relatively new concepts (building blocks) for organizing command posts for high speed warfare.

What Lt Berger and his battalion have been doing (creating an austere mobile command post (CP)) is not new at all, although it certainly is important. I recall doing much the same thing with a regimental CP when serving with the 1st Marines a few years ago; I also recall that 1st Battalion, 4th Marines was working out a mobile CP very similar to what Lt Berger described, back in 1980.

My point is obviously not to get bogged down in establishing who first established the austere mobile CP. What is curious is Bill Lind’s point that we are not studying history very well and the case in point presented almost on the same page. If Marine Corps schools and commanders had been studying “history” (to include after action reports from exercises, GAZETTE articles on “how we did it,” and battle memoirs from the past), then we would not be rediscovering the wheel (or the wheeled CP) every few years.

One cannot help but be inspired by Lt Berger’s enthusiasm for an exciting way to do war-the austere mobile CP does allow the commander and his close staff to focus on fighting the battles and campaigns. We can only hope that we do not have to read in the GAZETTE of 1994 about how Lt Banotz and 2d Battalion, 9th Marines have just discovered the new concepts of the mobile CP.

by J. Manter

Two pieces in your Jun84 issue of MCG caught my attention: “Preparing for Maneuver Warfare” by William S. Lind and “Training Staff NCOs” by Capt J.B. Trowbridge. Both referred to improvements to upgrade the Marine Corps’ noncommissioned officer (NCO) corps; Lind recommends a significant differential status between E-3 and E-4, stiffer promotion and training standards, and specific responsibilities within the company-level unit distinct from commissioned officer duties and allowing these latter to practice a more “professional” form of officership; Trowbridge makes a specific suggestion for an 0369 (infantry platoon sergeant’s) qualification training course.

My views stem from my days as a corporal during the late 1960s and early 1970s including a half tour with the Fleet Marine Force (FMF) in Vietnam, and a chance to view Britain’s Royal Marines on an exercise in the Philippines. At that time, the enlisted Marine received little serious preparation for the grade of E-4, especially in the infantry field. I am aware that three to four week courses exist now for the budding Marine NCO, however, I believe that the Corps is still regarding junior NCO training as it did during the Vietnam years. Specifically:

  • Because initial enlistments were limited to two or three years, it was felt that a high initial investment in the junior NCO’s training would never bring an adequate return. Understandably, with the draft and subsequent high turnover rates, more responsibilities were vested with the staff NCO body. Presumably these attrition rates have been moderated and units have a more stable population of Marines.
  • The staff NCO was expected to impart enough of his experience to bring the new corporal “up to snuff.” I did not find this to be so, and regularly saw corporals assume platoon sergeants’ roles in Vietnam. Once our platoon was even commanded by a PFC for a short time.
  • NCO training courses, such as existed, rarely exceeded a month’s duration, and were filled with headquarters troopers from the divisional level. Training was oriented to drill and garrison subjects, rather than fieldwork. These courses did not determine promotions; no requirement existed to complete them for a set of stripes.

My observations of Her Majesty’s Royal Marines, limited though these were, left me with a high respect for the Royal Marine “junior leader.” On the section (their squad) level, I believe he was clearly superior to his American “cousin.” These factors contributed to his high level of competence and effectiveness:

  • An initial enlistment of nine years. Promotion was slow and the young Marine had the benefit of time to train and develop before being promoted; his maturity level was quite a bit higher with three years or more behind him as a junior enlisted man compared with the U.S. Marine’s one or one and one-half years.
  • Much more extensive initial training-upward of nine months, including recruit, shipboard, amphibious, field, commando, and specialist training. The average U.S. Marine Corps “grunt” had seldom received more than four months initial training.
  • Most significantly, the Royal Marine junior leader had successfully completed a “junior leader’s course” of eight weeks duration-on top of service in a commando with its requisite amphibious, mountain, jungle, and field training.

I noted with interest the chart included in Capt Trowbridge’s article on required instruction for NCO promotion within the Anglo-Saxon military establishments. Most required longer initial training for their infantry elements. All required two months or more of qualification training to achieve the junior NCO rank. . . . With all due respect to Capt Trowbridge’s recommendations for staff NCOs in the 03 field, I believe that the road to upgrading the Marine Corps’ body of NCOs is to start at the junior levels. I submit these ideas for consideration:

  • That the infantry training course for recruit-training graduates be extended to 8 weeks, perhaps 12 weeks if airmobile and amphibious indoctrination is thrown in. . . . In the present peacetime situation, with longer duty tours and enlistments, there is time to polish the young Marine before he joins the FMF.
  • That the rank of E-4 be attained, in the 03 field, at any rate, only through the successful completion of a junior leader’s qualification course. . . . The emphasis must be on “how to” field work; the polish of parade ground and garrison oriented training can be added later.
  • That the Marine Corps observe the junior leader training of foreign Allies and draw some ideas on directions for such training in the Marine Corps. Good places to start would be with the Royal Marines junior leader’s course, or with the Canadian Army’s squad commander’s course at their Combat Training Centre in our own backyard. One has to bear in mind the respective national and institutional differences of these forces, but nevertheless useful ideas could be gleaned.

I submit these not so much in criticism of present or past training systems, but in the hope that other Marines could become the kind of junior NCO which I wish I had the opportunity to become during my short service.

by LtCol William C. Curtis

The GAZETTE gets better and better! While I enjoyed all the articles in the Jun84 issue, I was particularly interested in those by William Lind and Capt Trowbridge.

Recently, I served with a small number of Royal Marines and Royal Netherlands Marines. That experience, plus observations in Hong Kong and the United Kingdom in the early 1960s, cause me to agree completely with the crying need to improve our NCO corps.

Promotion warrants are, all too often, little more than certificates of good attendance. One cannot blame those that receive these promotions so much as those who do the promoting. I personally share guilt in that respect.

When officers devote most of their time to “ensuring” that the routine (albeit extremely important) gets done, men they are nothing more than a second set of NCOs. They resent it; the NCOs resent it; and the troops are bewildered.

The role of NCOs as stated in a number of official documents is frequently not the role in practice. Again, this is not the fault of the NCO corps, but to those who provide guidance and direction.

Well, what to do? Those ideas presented by Mr. Lind and Capt Trowbridge deserve careful thought. I would offer a few of my own:

  • Reinstitute the draft; even a limited one might have the salutary effect of reminding that service is part of citizenship.
  • Freeze the pay for junior enlisted personnel.
  • Pay BAQ, VHA, and BAS only to E-As with over 4 years of service and higher pay grades.
  • Dramatically increase the pay for all NCOs.

These, seemingly radical, steps would have extremely positive results:

  • Decrease personnel costs of the active military.
  • Discourage, rather than subsidize, early marriage by our youngest personnel.
  • Decrease commissary, hospital, housing, and moving costs.
  • Encourage greater numbers of high quality junior Marines to aspire for admission into the NCO ranks and career force.

These ideas, of course, merit careful study before implementation. While they may appear rather negative at first blush, they are not designed to punish younger Marines. On the contrary, they are designed to encourage excellence and reward performance. My personal observations are that most younger people are not aware of the pay system prior to enlistment. Rather, they enlist for travel, training, prestige, a challenge, and the like and only become aware of such things as BAQ, BAS, commissaries and so on after they arrive at their first duty station.

It seems to me, that a large number of well-intentioned people have established laws, regulations, and policies that fly in the face of all those things that develop unit cohesiveness and unit esprit. Maybe this trend can be reversed.