WASHINGTON — Infantry battalion experimentation over the past few years has provided vital, but not conclusive, information for the future heart of the Marine Corps.
There’s more to follow, but the Col. Christopher Bronzi shared some takeaways from the Modern Day Marine 2022 exhibit on Wednesday.
Most importantly, infantry battalions will be more distributed than ever, and that will be the new normal.
While these experiments continue, those responsible for Marine Combat Development are soon launching the next big experiment: the design of the Marine Littoral Regiment. This is the newest deck formation to execute a new kind of littoral-focused warfare with new tools and tactics.
The Director of the Marine Corps Warfighting Lab Experiments Division recalled his own experience as a young officer and how those experiences influenced his early deployments.
In 2001-2002, Bronzi said, he was an instructor at the Infantry Officer Course and participated in the “Project Metropolis” experiments. It was the Corps’ effort to figure out how to better fight in urban environments.
Once back in the fleet as a company commander, he saw his own units adopt new ways of organizing the company. Specifically, incorporate the Enterprise Level Intelligence Cell, or CLIC, and the Enterprise Level Operations Center, or CLOC.
These experiences reduced company-level assets and capabilities, which aided in later small-unit combat in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Recent infantry battalion experiences are taking some of these moves further, with the help of new technologies, he said.
“The new battalion really focused on a much lighter, more mobile and more lethal combat formation that would have the ability to deal with some of what we expect adversary capabilities to be and really understand and give sense to the future operating environment and to conduct distributed operations as the norm,” Bronzi said.
This translates into what were previously battalion-level functions being assigned to a company commander and his staff. The same flows down as platoon commanders are now able to bring company-level effects into combat, Bronzi said.
And the size and composition of the infantry battalion continues to evolve.
The Force Design 2030 update noted that initial planning had reduced the infantry battalion from 896 Marines to 735. This turned out to be a bit too small.
The document notes that battalions between 800 and 835 Marines are optimal.
There was public criticism over the experiments from high-ranking former Navy leaders and think tank experts concerned about the potential drastic changes to infantry units.
At a separate media event on May 5, Marine Corps Sergeant Major Troy Black made a point regarding the infantry battalion’s experiences.
“I’m an infantryman, and I’ll tell you right now, some things that have changed, that we’ve talked about and traded, by no means is a Marine Corps infantry battalion smaller than a army.” says Black. “The army has much smaller battalions than we do in any point of strength design.”
Three infantry battalions ― 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, “Typhoon” at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina; 1st Battalion, 3rd Marines, “Lava Dogs” at Marine Corps Base Hawaii; and 1st Battalion, 1st Marines, “First of the First” at Camp Pendleton, Calif. ― were selected over two years ago to be Force Design 2030’s experimental battalion.
Force Design 2030 Update 2022 is adamant that experimentation will reshape the infantry battalion.
“Results of the infantry battalions’ ongoing experimentation will lead to recommendations for improvements in the design and implementation of the service’s transition to infantry formations more capable of distributed operations,” according to the document.
And the three battalions, the combat lab, and other Marine units conducting independent experiments have provided a ton of data on what they’re working on the infantry battalion of the future.
“So over the course of two years, not only did we do experiments here in the untied states in five different states, but we also did experiments in the Philippines, in Japan,” Bronzi said. “It allowed us to take a look at the newly designed infantry battalion and how it would operate with new capabilities, new technologies in various environments, to include the mountains of Bridgeport, California, the mountains of West Virginia, cold climates. We’ve seen them operate in the deserts, we’ve seen them operate in the jungle.
Bronzi noted that the next steps for the Marine Littoral Regiment are being refined, with a plan for Littoral Regiment experimentation expected in the coming weeks.
The Corps recently converted 3rd Marine Regiment Hawaii to 3rd Marine Regiment Littoral. Currently, this unit has 2,478 Marines, an official said. The standard regimental size is over 3,000 Marines.
This could also see some interesting twists, the Force Design 2030 update noted that the experiments would not only see the Infantry Battalion as the “core element” of the Marine Littoral Regiment, but also the use of perhaps d an artillery battery or a reconnaissance battalion. as the base of the regiment.
The document also notes a new emphasis on reconnaissance and counter-reconnaissance, both of which have already been experimented with in the 2nd Marine Division, Bronzi said.
And regardless of the Seashore Regiment’s ultimate formation, those capabilities will reside at different levels, particularly within the core element around which the regiment is built and it will be “constantly forward” to deter adversaries, said Bronzi.
Todd South has written about crime, the courts, government and the military for several publications since 2004 and was named a 2014 Pulitzer Finalist for a co-authored project on witness intimidation. Todd is a Navy veteran of the Iraq War.