The 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) is one of the principal means by which the tenets of the National Defense Strategy are translated into potentially new policies, capabilities and initiatives. The QDR will set a long-term course for DoD to follow and will provide a strategic framework for DoD’s annual program, force development, force management, and corporate support mechanisms. Several very important decisions have been pushed from the budget to the 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) for both the Navy and the Marine Corps. Unlike the Navy, budget cuts leading into the FY 2010 budget year did not predetermine several major, outstanding questions for the Marine Corps. At the top of the list is the specific role of Amphibious Assault, a capability question that will drive just about every major outstanding question surrounding the Marine Corps.
It is often highlighted the US Marine Corps has not conducted an amphibious assault since the Korean War, although technically this is not true. The Marine Corps has conducted 4 amphibious assaults in just the last 2 decades, which are among the 104 amphibious operations between the years 1990-2009. In two parts I list out the 104 amphibious operations conducted by the Marine Corps, earlier with the 66 amphibious operations between 1990 – 1999, and part two with the 38 operations between 2000 – 2009.
On the face of it, 2000 looks like a slow year with only 2 new amphibious operations. DETERMINED RESPONSE was a support operation in response to the bombing of the USS Cole in October by the 13th MEU(SOC), but the 13th MEU(SOC) was previously operating off East Timor supporting a UN humanitarian operation from September 14th-16th. The Marines only count operation STABILISE in East Timor once, beginning in 1999, but in 2000 the USS Juneau and the Bonhomme Richard ARG with the 15th MEU(SOC) supported operations in East Timor from January until March. The Marines list 6 ships operating as part of operation STABILISE in 2000, even thought operation STABILISE is counted in 1999 and not 2000.
The humanitarian mission to East Timor begun by the 13th MEU(SOC) in 2000 is not counted in 2001, but in 2001 the 11th MEU(SOC) supported that mission in April while the 15th MEU(SOC) supported that operation in September. The Marines count 5 new amphibious operations in 2001, all of them as part of operation ENDURING FREEDOM beginning in October when the Marines secured several airfields in Pakistan. Other operations conducted by the 15th MEU include the recovery of an Army UH-60 on October 20th, a strike operation on November 3rd in Afghanistan, and the 400 mile overland amphibious assault into Afghanistan conducted on November 25th. The 26th MEU(SOC) also conducted an operation into Afghanistan beginning on December 4th. In total the Marines list 5 amphibious operations in 2001.
2002 began with operation ANACONDA in March by ACE, 13th MEU. The Marines also list a strike operation as part of ENDURING FREEDOM conducted by the 22nd MEU(SOC)/ARG on July 5th. On September 19th the 24th MEU(SOC)/ARG conducted operation DYNAMIC RESPONSE in Kosovo, which was followed on October 28th with an operation by the 24th MEU(SOC)/ARG in Djibouti. The Marines list an operation including USS Mount Whitney around the Horn of Africa beginning on November 13th, but it is listed as a very generic ‘combating terrorism’ operation. In total, the Marine Corps list 5 amphibious operations in 2002.
In 2003 the Marines list a total of 7 amphibious operations, 6 of which are part of operation IRAQI FREEDOM. In total 17 ships are listed in three separate operations as a contingency for amphibious assault operations between February 16th and March 5th. On March 20 – 21 the Marines count two amphibious assault operations against Basra, by the 15th MEU(SOC) and the UK 3 Commando Brigade under the tactical control of I MEF. On March 28th the 24th MEU(SOC) conducted a reinforcement operation for IRAQI FREEDOM, and on April 15th – May 1st the 26th MEU(SOC) /ARG conducted a humanitarian support operation in Mosul. Finally as part of IRAQI FREEDOM, on October 13th the 13th MEU(SOC)/ARG conducted a humanitarian assistance operation on Al-Faw Peninsula. Lost behind the scenes, 4 ships participated in the embassy support and evacuation operation in Monrovia, Liberia in June, and again from August-October.
From February 23rd through June 25th, 2004 4th MEB/MAGTF-8 supported peacekeeping operations in Haiti for operation SECURE TOMORROW. From July to November the Belleau Wood ESG was involved in nation assistance and MIO in the Persian Gulf, including strike operations from Harriers in July. From December 7th – 20th th 3rd MEB responded to tropical storms in the Philippines. In late December, the 15th MEU(SOC)/Bonhomme Richard ARG, 9th ESB, USS Essex, USS Ft McHenry supported operation UNIFIED ASSISTANCE, the humanitarian assistance and disaster response operation to the devastating Southeast Asian Tsunami. There were 4 amphibious operations in 2004.
The first part of 2005 consisted mostly of follow up for UNIFIED ASSISTANCE, not counted in 2005 as any additional operations. Also in 2005 the USS Saipan supported a humanitarian operation in Haiti from February to May, and on October 8th the Tarawa ESG supported humanitarian operations in Pakistan following a devastating earthquake. The only other operation in 2005 was the 5 amphibious ships that responded to Hurricane Katrina. There were 3 amphibious operations in 2005.
On February 19th, 2006 the Essex ARG with the 31st MEU and 3rd MEB CE responded to a landslide in Leyte, Philippines for a humanitarian assistance/disaster response operation. Later in 2006, the 24th MEU and the Iwo Jima ARG, plus USS Trenton responded to embassy evacuation in Lebanon during the Hezbollah/Israeli war of 2006. From Feb-Aug the USS Peleliu and 11th MEU conducted strikes in Iraq, followed on September 9th – 12th with the Iwo Jima ARG and 24th MEU also conducting strike operations in Iraq. Beginning in November 2006 and lasting through November of 2007 the Boxer ARG/15th MEU and later the Bonhomme Richard ARG/13th MEU supported reinforcement operations in Al Anbar, Iraq. The Marines list the work of both ARGs as a single operation. Finally in December three ships supported the 31st MEU in a humanitarian response operation to the Philippines following Typhoon Durian. There were 6 amphibious operations in 2006.
From January to June 2007 the Bataan ARG/26th MEU conducted security operations around the Horn of Africa. Beginning in August the USS Kearsarge supported by the 22nd MEU conducted strike operations in both Iraq and Afghanistan. The Marines list the strikes of the USS Kearsarge twice, once for each war theater supported. Following Cyclone Sidr, the Kearsarge ARG/22nd MEU and later the Tarawa ARG/11th MEU, as well as other Marine units, supported SEA ANGEL II, a humanitarian assistance/disaster response operation to Bangladesh. While there were several overlapping operations continuous for long periods of time, there were only 4 unique amphibious operations conducted in 2007.
In 2008 the Essex ARG responded to Myanmar for CARING RESPONSE following the Typhoon there. From May-November in 2008 the Peleliu ESG supported strike operations in Iraq. These were the only two amphibious operations in 2008.
There have been no amphibious operations to date in 2009.
From 2000 – 2009 the Marine Corps conducted 38 amphibious operations including 3 amphibious assaults, 8 strike operations, and 27 other operations ranging from HA/DR, maritime interdiction, or embassy evacuation. I’ll be discussing the Marine Corps leading up to the QDR all week over at my blog Information Dissemination.