What has the Marine Corps
lost and gained from its experience in Iraq?
MAGNUS: I think we’ve seen the
temporary loss of some of our core
competencies like combined arms
training, which you would absolutely need if a major war were to break
out somewhere else. We could all
argue about the probability of that,
but our job is to be ready even when
the nation is least ready. We have
captains and gunnery sergeants who
haven’t done ship-to-shore operations, tankers that have not been
routinely firing their tanks, and we
have not been doing the kind of
combined arms training we used to
do at Twentynine Palms.
We’ve been focused on counterinsurgency operations and transition training team operations. And
that focus has been exactly right for
the war we are in. But we’ll regain
those other skills as soon as we
have 202,000 Marines and/or see a
drop in the demand level.
What we’ve gained is a generation of warriors that I think will be
compared to the World War II generation because of the duration
and intensity of complex joint and
combined arms operations they
have participated in. The Marine
Corps has been at war now for
We’ve been in high-intensity operations since 2003
— five years in Iraq. You have got Marine gunnery sergeants who have sat on mountaintops in Afghanistan
instructing Afghan battalions in leadership and in tactics. You’ve had Marine sergeants and Marine captains
who have been advising Iraqi battalions and Iraqi
police forces in their precincts on how to do security
I think there is a tremendous amount of battle savvy
that Marines — from the level of corporal on up —
have learned through even only one, but, in many
cases, repeated deployments. This is a generation of
war leaders. They’ve dug wells, painted schools, handed out soccer balls, cooperated with Special Operations
forces to go after high-value targets. They’ve done
tsunami relief, and then the next year they’ve been in
Afghanistan. This is a very versatile experience and
much different than the experience we had in World
War II, which was amphibious assault, amphibious
assault, amphibious assault, and we were good at that.
What was the most glaring oversight in terms
of funding the Marine Corps in the 2009 budget request?
MAGNUS: Not enough money. I am deeply concerned
about the ability of the Navy to be able to build the 313
ships on any reasonable schedule. I am, of course, concerned about the overall willingness of the nation to supply sufficient money and funding to be able to sustain
and modernize 202,000 Marines. That’s a main concern.
If you don’t have enough money for ships, then you
take money from aircraft production, and you still
don’t have enough money for ships, but now you don’t
have enough money for airplanes. Will the budgets
continue to grow like they have in the past seven
years? Highly unlikely.