WASHINGTON: A special Marine Corps task force created specifically to drag the service’s amphibious operations into the 21st century will be sticking around for awhile longer, according to a top service general.
The current Amphibious Capabilities Working Group will be renamed the Ellis Group and be permanently assigned to Marine Corps headquarters in Quantico, Lt. Gen. Richard Mills, head of Marine Corps Combat Development Command said last week. The name pays homage to former Marine Lt. Col. Earl Ellis, considered to be the founding father of amphibious warfare. The group’s ongoing work will give the Marines “the seed corn for the changes” needed to update amphibious ops to the modern day battlefield, Mills said during his speech at the Surface Warfare Association’s annual symposium. Created last September, the group already wrapped up its initial review of Marine Corps amphib ops, the three-star general said. Group members will submit their final recommendations to top service brass by the end of this month, according to a service spokesman. Those recommendations will likely be folded into the Corps’ upcoming large-scale amphibious exercise, dubbed “Bold Alligator”, set for next month.
The September review put every every aspect of amphibious operations on the table. Everything from changing how Marines are resupplied ashore to use of unmanned surveillance drones during beach assaults were up for debate. Group members ran potential scenarios through multiple wargames to see if they’d fit into the Marines’ future vision of amphib ops. And in some cases, time-honored concepts on how Marines fight from ship to shore ended up on the cutting room floor. But senior service leaders seemed to be pleased with the task force’s work, prompting the decision to make the group a permanent fixture at Marine Corps headquarters.
The group’s next assignment will be to help plan and execute Expeditionary Warrior 2012 scheduled for March. The wargame will further flesh out the tactics, techniques and procedures tested during the Bold Alligator exercises. It will also look to build upon the group’s initial slate of recommendations for future amphibious ops. Results from the March wargame will also have “realistic inputs into the POM,” Mills said. The POM, or program objective memorandum, is the service’s plan on what weapons and equipment it plans to buy over the next six years. Building that POM, beginning with the service’s fiscal 2012 budget proposal, will be no easy task.
The Corps is expected to drop far below the 186,000-man total force it had initially aimed for once combat operations wind down in Iraq and Afghanistan. The service won’t be getting the 38-ship amphibious fleet it says it needs for future operations, leaving service leaders clamoring for ways to close that gap. On top of all that, the Marines still don’t have a viable replacement for the aging Amphibious Assault Vehicle. Their last attempt, the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle, was scuttled by the Pentagon due to cost overruns and schedule delays. The new Ellis Group seems to have their work cut out for them.