Move 4: Stability Operations

After evacuating Americans in 2025, the country degraded into a low-intensity civil war, with opposing political parties, criminal factions and motivated radicals using violence against the government. Eventually, the government got the upper hand militarily, but still had a large refugee and infrastructure problem. The country requested help from the UN to feed refugees and enforce a tenuous cease fire.

Here comes the U.S. We have ponied up to lead the JTF under the UNSC charter. The mission is: assist the host nation’s government to assist displaced persons, create stability required to allow displaced persons to return to their homes and to allow the government to begin to provide basic services to its people again. We expect this effort to last a couple years until we can transition operations to the host-nation, UN agencies, and NGO’s.

First item, a Seabase is great, but it is expensive. Probably in a timeframe of two years, we would be looking at repairing and opening a port to allow shipping to tie-up and offload to support operations ashore.

Another point was force protection for the connectors. In supporting operations ashore for a prolonged time, you will spend a lot of resources to protect the seabase and especially to protect the connectors going back and forth to shore. Positioning the seabase farther off shore provides more security to the big ships, but also puts the LCU’s and LCAC’s at more risk with a longer transit (perhaps even out to 20 miles or more off shore). Quickly, we realized a need, not only for lots of connectors, but for lots of escort and security craft.

It made sense to keep your higher level medical support on ship. It made sense to keep a lot of command and control on ship.

We used the MPS and Army pre-positioned stocks to build up forces ashore and refugee camps, etc. We planned on resupplying the forces ashore primarily by shipping for the two year operation. We figured 90% or more of your supplies could be forecasted well enough, so that the slow speed of shipping would still be acceptable. Certainly in the beginning of the operation, the MPF ship you loaded two years ago in Blount Island is what you get, but perhaps a few months into the operation, your cargo ship can be specifically loaded in the U.S. or elsewhere to support your unit. Still, we liked the concept of keeping a light footprint on shore, and keeping your “Iron Mountain” of spare parts and supplies on ship. It’s just tough to make it work.

The MPF-Future (MPFF) has an “extra” big-deck amphib (LHA/LHD) with enhanced aircraft maintenance facilities. In addition, the LHA/LHD and MLP of the MPF-F will provide thousands of berths, so you could fly-in the Marines or Soldiers and truly base them on a ship, and ride or fly ashore to conduct operations.

Consideration was given toward taking a whole MPF squadron out of action to support this kind of stability operation. Is it worth it to take the MPF squadron and the ability to outfit a rapidly deployed force out of action to support a stability operation for which you really only need a portion of the MPF stuff? Again, selective offload of cargo is vital.

Finally, an extended land campaign is not a core competency of the Marine Corps, (please ignore current land war), so it is difficult for us to plan a two-year operation supported from ships, we’re not necessarily set up for that, MPF is not necessarily designed for that. The MPF-Future will have a capability to sustain operations ashore from the seabase for a prolonged time, but so far that concept is briefed, but not bought. Even if we do develop the MPF-F, it is an expensive way to support prolonged operations ashore of multiple MEB’s or BCT’s. Company-sized or smaller FOB’s supported from a seabase for a long period of time are conceivable.

We realized very quickly, we need the Army and we need a port. Marines have an attention span of about 6 – 7 months, so we don’t set up the chow hall or PX until the second rotation of Marines. The Army is much better at thinking in long-term deployments of large forces. Am I actually asking for a Soldier’s help?….Got to go to sick call tomorrow.

Posted by LtCol Roger Galbraith, USMCR in Marine Corps
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    In stability operations, one of the first priorities has to be opening a port if for no other reason than to restore normal commerce in the nation. Once a port is open, you can still use your seabase for support but much of your connectors can be shifted from expensive LCACs/Helos and slow LCUs to JHSVs and commercial tug/lighters. Once a port is fully operational, it would seem to be counterproductive to continue a Seabase, beyond perhaps medical, aviation support, and Command and Control if for no other reason than your purpose is to support the country and shipping your material through the port provides work in the port and more rapidly restores normal commercial flow. Even then, as you transition to more NGO/UN/HN control, you need to coordinate with them and since they will be on land, you probably need to be as well.

  • LtCol Roger Galbraith

    Absolutely, once you get the port open, then, depending on the security situation ashore, and any footprint restrictions you may have, your seabase can shift some operations ashore to a less expensive land base.

  • CJCreamer

    I agree with USNVO in that once the port is secure and open, much of the assets could – and should – transition from Seabase to land. If the Seabase is to support any operation for a lengthy period of time, then it would be likely that the NGO/UN/HN elements must have a place to reside on the Seabase. In this scenario, the US Seabase would also store and support the international assets, along with the associated security along those connectors to move the assets from ship to shore or back. Would the Seabase be open to the NGO/UN/HN communities and organizations? What training and coordination must be done in advance to prepare all parties for such a working environment?


    I am not sure you need to have a place for the NGOs/UN forces need a place on the seabase or if they even would use it if it were available. They would probably see their role ashore with the people they are helping. What they will need, at least until your port is working, is access. Adding a modern day craneship to the seabase (or as a fulltime member of an MPF squadron for that matter) could pay huge dividends. If it includes a significant load of modular lighterage, a few pusherboats, and some mobile cranes as its cargo (and perhaps a load of humanitarian assistance goods, not much just 500 TEU or so), it could unload any ship onto lighterage for transit either ashore via tugs or to the platform for further transfer by LCU/LCAC. In any event, the ability to unload containerships and cargo barges without cranes is a significant capability.