For many years, the United States Marine Corps has been defined by its youth. But leaders now are saying that will change as the branch shifts its attention to new threats.
According to Military.com, nearly 50 percent of the USMC is composed of junior enlisted ranks, with most leaving the Marines after one four-year term.
However, those in charge are planning to highlight the need for more veterans on the force.
“Small units, including infantry squads, need to be led by a staff sergeant,” Commandant Gen. David Berger wrote in an update to his 10-year force design plan, Military.com reported in late April.
“Putting staff noncommissioned officers in those roles will be a big cultural change for the service, which pushes leadership and decision-making far down the chain of command,” the outlet reported.
Infantry squads currently are led by corporals or sergeants. Yet as the USMC recognizes the possibility of a conflict with China, it has begun to implement necessary changes.
“You can’t accelerate experience and maturity,” Lt. Gen. Eric Smith, deputy commandant for Combat Development and Integration, said, according to Military.com.
“… If we’re going to be operating in a disaggregated environment where you have 75 Marines throughout the first island chain — at times under duress, in competition and in crisis — you need that really seasoned, mature decision-making capability.”
“There is an age component to that.”
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Since at least the turn of the century, the USMC has focused primarily on relatively small-scale desert warfare. A potential conflict with China or even Russia would be a massive change.
Military.com reported that the USMC’s new focus will be on protecting the United States Navy ships by using “high-tech unmanned technology” from land. For example, the outlet said that instead of firing artillery rounds 25 miles, Marines might be asked to fire naval-strike missiles 100 miles or more.
“You want somebody who has done that a couple of times,” Smith said.
As usually is the case, these upgrades will come at a price.
Staff sergeants in the E-6 paygrade typically make about $3,300 a month, about $1,000 more than the lance corporals at the E-3 rank who currently lead infantry squads, according to Military.com.
“To make up the difference, the Marine Corps is planning to drop 10,000 personnel by 2030 to reach an end strength of about 174,000,” the outlet reported.
In a way, even this depletion in numbers could be an improvement for the USMC.
Because so many first-term Marines are accepted each year, many leave the corps annually. Maj. Joshua Benson, a Combat Development and Integration spokesman, said the USMC loses about 20,000 junior Marines in an average year.
Now, fewer Marines might be accepted, but they will be encouraged to stay in the corps longer. That will create a seasoned military force, as well as healthy competition for young Americans who wish to join.
“What it says to those potential recruits that are in high school right now is, ‘You’re going to want to bring your A game. You’re going to want to make sure that you are the most qualified,’” Smith said, according to Military.com.
“If you wish to join the Marine Corps that’s doing these kinds of difficult, challenging tasks inside of the engagement zone … it’s a competition. And I hope everybody’s ready to compete.”
These changes suggest that the United States Armed Forces are taking the threat of a potential conflict with China seriously. While other USMC leaders have suggested similar changes in the past, the branch now seems ready to take action.
On Sunday, former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger said a cold war between the United States and China could take place if relations do not improve, Business Insider reported. He warned that the nuclear capabilities of the two countries exceed those of the U.S. and Russia during the Cold War.
“For the first time in human history, humanity has the capacity to extinguish itself in a finite period of time,” Kissinger said.
Obviously, no one wants to enter a nuclear war with China and risk mass destruction. However, it must be made clear that the many human rights abuses from the Chinese Communist Party, including the mistreatment of Taiwan, will not be tolerated.
The USMC is sending a powerful and necessary message to China that if the need arises, America is ready to fight.
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