After 13 years at war in Afghanistan and nine in Iraq, some Marines
found themselves engaged in combat
operations during 2015 in Iraq and Syria
against the forces of Islamic State in Iraq
and Syria. A Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Forces-Crisis Response
(SPMAGTF-CR) in the Persian Gulf
region has flown air strikes and provided
other support to U.S. Central Command.
Also, AV-8B Harrier II pilots have flown
strikes from amphibious assault ships in
the Persian Gulf.
At the same time, the Marine Corps is
returning to its expeditionary amphibious roots as it focuses on the Asia-Pacific
region in accordance with the January
2012 Defense Strategic Guidance. The
Corps is expanding its presence in the
region, having established a regular rotation of units to northern Australia for
joint training, and is restoring and modernizing equipment and material for its
units in the Western Pacific.
The Marine Corps is emphasizing its
close relationship with the Navy and its
ability to project power from the sea.
Forcible entry remains a primary capability. It also has experimented with
alternate forms of shipping for amphibious lift.
Ray Mabus, as secretary of the Navy,
oversees the Marine Corps’ budget of
approximately $24 billion. The service is
led by Gen. Robert B. Neller, an infantry
officer, who succeeded Gen. Joseph F.
Dunford Jr. to become the 37th commandant of the Marine Corps in September.
Dunford became the chairman of the
Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Neller has assumed the task of
reshaping the Marine Corps to whatever
force levels will be allowed by constrict-
ed defense budgets. The Corps considers
186,800 Marines to be the level needed
to meet steady state requirements, as
well as be able to go to war. Whether it
can sustain that level in the budget cli-
mate remains a question. The current
troop level is about 184,000.
The Corps also has restructured its
Marine Expeditionary Brigades as rapid-
response forces for specific geographic
regions, while continuing to deploy
Marine Expeditionary Units with am-
phibious ready groups. In addition to the
SPMAGTF-CR in the Persian Gulf, the
Marine Corps fields a SPMATF-CR in
Europe to respond to African crises. In
2015, this unit provided humanitarian
relief to West African nations suffering
from an outbreak of the Ebola virus.
The top acquisition priorities for the
Corps are the Amphibious Combat
Vehicle (ACV) and the F-35B Lightning
II joint strike fighter. The ACV is need-
ed to replace the AAV7 assault amphibi-
ous vehicle that has served since the
early 1970s. The Corps’ first F-35B
squadron was declared operational in
Transition from the CH-46E helicop-
ter to the MV-22B Osprey tiltrotor trans-
port aircraft was completed in 2015. The
CH-53K King Stallion heavy-lift helicop-
ter made its first flight in 2015. n
U.S. Marines with Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, 2nd
Marine Division, unload out of an assault amphibious vehicle Oct. 30, 2015, dur-
ing Integrated Training Exercise 1-16 aboard Marine Corps Air Ground Combat
Center Twentynine Palms, Calif.