Now that the focus of defense policy has shifted to the Pacific Ocean, there are questions about how the role of the Marine Corps should evolve. Within the Corps is a prevailing belief that it transformed into a “second land army” over the course of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan—to the detriment of the service’s core capability of amphibious operations. I believe that one way to return some maritime capability to the Navy is to reinstate Marine detachments (MarDets), which would “provide for operations ashore, as a part of the ships’ landing force; or as a part of the landing force of Marines from ships of the Fleet or subdivision thereof; or as an independent force for limited operations.”
The employment of MarDets dates to the beginnings of the Navy and Marine Corps in the Revolutionary War; they were also on early warships such as the USS Constitution . During the Cold War, detachments typically consisted of two officers with 35 to 44 enlisted Marines on cruisers and battleships, or two officers with 46 to 64 enlisted Marines on carriers. 1 Until the 1990s, Marines were regular components of cruiser, battleship, and aircraft carrier crews. But by the end of the decade, budget and manpower constraints had reduced the amount of Marines on carriers by half. Ultimately, MarDets were eliminated altogether.