Stay Light To Maneuver

by Maj J.T. Walker, USAF

Many MCG articles seem far off the mark when it comes to maneuver warfare. Maneuver warfare by a MAGTF is a possibility provided MAOTF leaders are creative and audacious. But instead of looking for maneuver warfare successes in deep land battles employing heavy mechanized forces, Marines should examine some of the more successful amphibious battles where light infantry outmaneuvered and annihilated the defender.

Two excellent examples are available from World War II-the capture of Singapore by the Japanese Army and MacArthur’s capture of Lae, New Guinea. In each of these, we find powerful static forces overcome by light mobile forces. The crushing blows came from forces that appeared where the defender did not expect them and could not react.

The power of maneuver warfare is generated by momentum. The elements are velocity and mass. Marines spend too much time on mass-on LVTs, tank battalion, self-propelled artillery. Such a force is tied to land lines of communications. A much better example of maneuver can be taken from III MAF’s recent Joint Airborne/Air Transportability Training (JA/ATT) 83-2. In that exercise a MAU was moved by airlift 1,800 miles then employed into battle. Given, the combat power was minimal, yet the airlift force that moved the MAU consisted of only 2 C-5, 12 C-141, and 4 C-130 sorties. The MAU was tactically sustained by three C-ISOs flying multiple sorties.

I have followed the MCG since 1980. If the GAZETTE reflects the professional thinking of Marines then I say that professionalism is lacking in the Corps. Not one Marine has written in detail on how to support a maritime pre-positioning force by airlift; not one Marine has written about deploying or employing an air contingency battalion. I challenge Marines to think and write about air mobile MAGTFs-a more sensible approach to maneuver warfare.