February 18, 2008

Are the Marines really coming around on MTTs?

Charlie keeps a close eye on the musings of the Commandant of the Marine Corps. Mostly because, in her informed opinion, he just doesn't get it. But, as with LTG Odierno, it's important to recognize when leaders try to learn. So hats off to Gen Conway.

First, the Marines may begin deploying whole battalions as military transition teams:

The Corps may soon deploy entire units as training teams in Iraq, rather than stitching together units one Marine at a time, according to its top officer.

“What we’ve taken a look at is the idea of partnering Marine battalions with Iraqi battalions as a more efficient way to accomplish training and backstop the Iraqis,” said Commandant Gen. James Conway, in an e-mail response to questions. “We see training teams as being a requirement in this long war, even in the wake of Afghanistan and Iraq.”

If true, this is great. (Btw, how does this fit into the rubric of FMTUs and MCTAG? Anyone?) The article goes on to say the Marines are still recruiting MTT augmentees, so she's a little confused on that front. Maybe they're sending battalions with volunteer augmentees? It's definitely a discussion worth having...working out the personnel and rotation issues associated with repeated advising deployments is going to be a key task for both the Army and Marine Corps in the next few years.

Speaking of which, CMC issued new promotion precepts last fall to treat transition team tours the same as other deployed operational MOS assignments (like battalion XO and S3).

“Promotion board members recognize that Marines on transition teams and individual augments serve in billets of vital interest to our war effort, and that Marines are filling these billets in lieu of key operational billets within their [military occupational specialty] traditionally coveted for career progression and competitiveness towards promotion,” Conway wrote in the Nov. 2 message.

Promotion board precepts will now be amended to instruct the board that transition team duty be weighed equal to traditional officer billets, he said in the bulletin.

“In fact, our stats on promotion to major, lieutenant colonel and colonel are proof positive that the records of Marines who roger up for IA or TT duty are no less competitive than their operational counterparts,” Conway said in his e-mail. “Getting to the fight and doing well once there will go a long way in making a Marine’s record competitive.”

Here again, we'll have to see how this actually shakes out in practice. (The Chief of Staff of the Army famously issued a similar directive during the Vietnam War. Charlie will leave it as an exercise for the reader to determine how that worked out.) But these efforts, combined with the new plans for security cooperation MAGTFs suggest that the Corps may be serious about advising business. At a minimum they're thinking big thoughts, and look as though they may be about to put their money where their mouth is.

Any word on parallel muscle movements in the Army? (Some of the harshest complaints Charlie has heard recently came from Army officers coming off MTT deployments...)