Marine Corps tests company-level combat concept at RIMPAC
By OTTO KREISHER, Special Correspondent
Doing More With Less
the province of battalion command-
ers and their staffs have devolved to
the company commander,” but
changes to the company’s capabili-
ties have not kept up, Conway said.
“The reality is that a great deal of
work is needed to prepare the com-
pany commander for success in this
ever expanding role.”
Vince Goulding, a retired Marine
colonel and infantry officer who has
been driving ECO development as
director of the Warfighting Lab’s
Experiment Division, said the effort
grew out of a realization that
“company-level ops were struggling.
They were being asked to do things
at the company level they were not
trained, manned or equipped to do.
“A lot of it has to do with the
tyranny of distance,” Goulding said
in an interview at his Quantico, Va., office.
The RIMPAC test of ECO capped about seven years
of experiments at the lab that started with a broader
concept called Distributed Operations, he said. That
idea “got a lot of intellectual pushback,” including resistance from Conway.
“So we decided to take another approach. ECO is
the opening salvo of that.”
The Distributed Operations effort “led to a real hard
analysis of the training, equipping and manning of the
individual Marines and the units they are deploying
in,” Goulding said.
That resulted in changes in the training and professional military education for the young Marines and
junior leaders, he said. And, “more importantly,” every
infantry battalion received an additional $19 million in
equipment, most of which was for communications.
“Obviously, if we’re going to a distributed battlefield, you have to have comm,” he said. From that
A recent test of Enhanced Company Operations (ECO) capped
about seven years of experiments at the Marine Corps
Warfighting Laboratory that began as a broader concept called
■ Early Distributed Operations efforts resulted in changes in the
training and professional military education for young Marines and
■ The ECO test featured a 12-man company headquarters that
included a logistics staff noncommissioned officer, the senior
enlisted man as operations chief, a small scout section and a joint
■ The Warfighting Lab’s Technology Division has “developed a
world-class experimental communications system” to allow distributed Marines to maintain contact across the battlespace.
Changing battlefield dynamics have resulted in small combat units covering larger areas, fre- quently some distance from other friendly
forces. This trend to a “distributed” battlespace has led
the U.S. Marine Corps to experiment with ways to give
an infantry company the capability to successfully conduct extended, independent combat operations in a
space usually assigned to a larger command.
The experiment, conducted by the Marine Corps
Warfighting Laboratory, is called Enhanced Company
Operations (ECO). After several years of trials that
produced incremental changes, the more fully developed concept was put to a rigorous test in simulated
combat during the Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) exercise in Hawaii that concluded Aug. 1.
Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James T. Conway
had described the challenge in his October 2008
“Concept for Enhanced Company Operations” document. “Collective tasks and battlefield functions long