For the U.S. Marine Corps the year 2009-and the decade it capped-conveyed a sense of déjá vu. In the early decades of the 20th century, Marines fought in a major conventional campaign ashore followed by a series of "small wars." Concurrently, the Corps split its intellectual and institutional energies between supporting current operations and developing the sea-based power-projection capabilities envisioned by its leaders as vital to the success of future operations. Thus far, in the 21st century this pattern is repeating itself-albeit at a much faster pace.
In the 1920s Marines had a three-year hiatus between the pacification of the Dominican Republic and their return to counterinsurgency duties in Nicaragua. In 2009, their successors did not enjoy a similar respite, inasmuch as operations in Iraq were still under way even as Marines were returning to Afghanistan in force.
This seemed to suit the Marine Corps just fine, however, starting with the Commandant, General James T. Conway. With the situation in Iraq steadily improving, in the fall of 2007 General Conway went public with his opinion that the aggressive fighting qualities and expeditionary character of his Corps would be more appropriately employed combating a resurgent and implacable adversary in the inhospitable terrain of Afghanistan. Judging by their re-enlistment rate, his warriors appear to agree with their tribal chieftain. When asked if the transition was generating a morale problem, the Commandant responded, "If I've got a problem, it's with the other 190,000 Marines who want to go to Afghanistan. They're still a little long in the lip these days, awaiting their opportunity-a lot of them, of course, combat veterans out of Iraq."1
The year began with Marine Corps forces in Iraq numbering approximately 22,000 personnel. They were members of I Marine Expeditionary Force (MEF)-Forward, commanded by then-Major General John F. Kelly, and were fulfilling a rotational commitment in Al Anbar Province as Multinational Force-West (MNF-W). With violence and casualties in the province at record lows, Iraqi citizens went to the polls on 31 January for the second time since the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime. In a ceremony at Al Asad Air Base nine days later, General Kelly relinquished command of MNF-W to Major General Richard T. Tryon, as II MEF-Forward began the Marine Corps' last rotational deployment of a major command in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Meanwhile, at the beginning of the year Marine Corps troop strength in Afghanistan was about 2,600-a mere 12 percent of the number in Iraq. Despite that disparity, the 2,200 Marines and Sailors of Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force-Afghanistan (SP MAGTF-A)-and a few hundred more serving as members of Marine Corps special operations companies, training teams embedded with Afghan security forces, or in staff and liaison assignments-represented the expanding counterinsurgency effort in that country. SP MAGTF-A had deployed the previous November and assumed responsibility for the area of operations previously held by a task force formed around 2nd Battalion, 7th Marines.
Since the 19th century, the Marine Corps has often satisfied emergent expeditionary contingencies by aggregating units from far-flung locations. The formation of SP MAGTF-A exemplified that practice, with units drawn from home stations spread between Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, and Okinawa, Japan. Colonel Duffy W. White and his 3rd Marines' regimental headquarters provided the command element. The ground-combat component included an infantry battalion and the first High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) battery deployed to Afghanistan. A composite aviation squadron-made up of capabilities from all three MEFs-and a newly formed combat logistics battalion provided the remaining elements of SP MAGTF-A.2 Building upon the foothold established by their predecessors, SP MAGTF-A would serve as a transition force for expansion into a Marine expeditionary brigade (MEB). SP MAGTF-A was assigned an area of operations encompassing portions of Farah and Helmand provinces.
Just as the Marines had drawn one of the most difficult areas of Iraq-Al Anbar-their turf in Afghanistan is exceptionally challenging. A mixture of mountain and desert terrain, it is intersected by few paved roads. The seasonal weather changes are extreme, with strong winds exacerbating the cold and generating frequent sand storms. Helmand province is especially important to defeating the insurgency. It produces about half of the world's opium, which the insurgents use to fund operations. Its porous border with Pakistan to the south is a major route for Taliban recruits, supplies, and illicit drugs. These conditions place a premium on engineers for mobility enhancement and aircraft for troop movement, logistics, and fire support, meaning that the Marines of SP MAGTF-A enjoyed a distinct operating advantage over the smaller, ground-combat arms task force they relieved.
Given the foregoing, SP MAGTF-A's initial operations supported both counterinsurgency and force expansion. In January, Operation Gateway III secured the 43 kilometers of Route 515 connecting the district centers of Delaram and Bakwa in Farah Province, opening a road to support both commercial and military use. This operation involved 3rd Battalion, 8th Marines and Afghan National Army (ANA) soldiers conducting patrols and clearing nearly 30 improvised explosive devices (IED), as well as Combat Logistics Battalion 3 constructing three combat outposts along the route. Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 269 provided close air support for the troops on the ground and Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 466 delivered nearly 95,000 pounds of construction materials. With the security situation much improved, Afghan villagers began digging irrigation ditches along the route to improve crop production. Additionally, at Camp Bastion in Helmand Province, Marine Wing Support Squadron 371 constructed 1.9 million square feet of aircraft parking area to accommodate the anticipated influx of aircraft.
Operation Pathfinder, conducted in March, exemplifies follow-on operations by SP MAGTF-A. The Marines provided support to Afghan National Police (ANP), who led a series of cordon and search missions in Farah Province. These efforts netted 11 suspected insurgents, along with explosives, IED-making materials, and small-arms ammunition. Subsequent operations included attacks on insurgent strongholds, carefully planned and executed to avoid civilian casualties.
These operations were, by necessity, focused on relatively modest objectives owing to the still rather limited size of the force relative to the area of operations. That situation changed dramatically in May-June, however, with the arrival of about 8,000 additional Marines. On 29 May Brigadier General Lawrence D. Nicholson, Commanding General, 2nd MEB, assumed responsibility for the area and all Marine Corps forces previously under SP MAGTF-A. Redesignated Marine Expeditionary Brigade-Afghanistan (MEB-A)-"Task Force Leatherneck" in Regional Command South parlance-General Nicholson wielded a far more potent force than his predecessor.
Colonel White remained on board to command Task Force Leatherneck's ground combat element, Regimental Combat Team 3 (RCT-3). Like the command he had just relinquished, RCT-3 was composed of units drawn from all over the Corps, but on a much larger scale. He now had three infantry battalions and artillery, light armored reconnaissance, and combat engineer battalions under his authority. Marine Aircraft Group 40, under the command of Colonel Kevin Vest, provided the aviation combat element. Like RCT-3, it was task-organized from geographically dispersed units. These included a fixed-wing attack squadron, an aerial refueler-transport squadron, an unmanned aerial vehicle squadron, a light-attack helicopter squadron, and two heavy-lift heavy-helicopter squadrons as well as aviation control-and-support capabilities. Combat Logistics Regiment 2, commanded by Colonel John Simmons and composed of combat logistics and engineer support battalions, served as the combat logistics element for Task Force Leatherneck.3
This increased combat power was put to good use by Task Force Leatherneck during Operation Khanjar, which commenced on 2 July. Acting simultaneously with British forces, the Marines pushed into the Helmand River valley in a major offensive to secure the province prior to the Afghan presidential election. This advance involved a combination of vertical envelopment and ground maneuver into Taliban-held areas never before penetrated by coalition forces. It was conducted by the 1st Battalion, 5th Marines, the 2nd Battalion, 8th Marines, the 2nd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, and elements of the Afghan National Army (ANA) 205 Corps. Operation Khanjar was "the most significant Marine Corps operation since the battle of Fallujah in 2004, and the largest helicopter insertion since the Vietnam War."4
The suddenness and rapidity of the multiple actions-and the size of the forces involved-appeared to take the Taliban off-guard. The town of Dahaneh, which had been under Taliban control for four years, was secured after a three-day fight in which one Marine and 20 insurgents were killed. In another town, Khan Nishen, the raising of the Afghan flag over the old fort, the establishment of a police station, and the conduct of a shura with the district governor all signaled the assertion of government control over the area.5 According to Lieutenant Colonel William McCollough, commanding officer of 1st Battalion, 5th Marines, "This was the first time in over a year that this many elders felt safe enough to travel to the district center and make their concerns known."6
Operation Khanjar also offers insights into MEB-A's overall approach to counterinsurgency. Three major activities are discernible: (1) expanding the capability and capacity of the ANA and ANP to improve security; (2) improving governance and promoting economic development to dissuade local citizens from supporting the insurgency; and (3) penetrating Taliban sanctuaries to kill or capture the hardcore ideologues and criminals. Assuming that a Taliban leader fleeing for his life is unlikely to pose much of a threat to the population or its government, this last feature appears to be a critically important complement to the first two.
As the summer progressed, Task Force Leatherneck continued to expand its area of influence. In August, elements of 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marines and 2nd Reconnaissance Battalion began Operation Eastern Resolve II, aimed at improving security in and around the villages neighboring the abandoned town of Now Zad prior to the elections on 20 August. The Marines established positions in the village of Dahanna in order to interact with the population. "It puts a human face on who we are," according to First Lieutenant Jared Sprunk. "We are doing everything here-the full spectrum of counterinsurgency operations."7
As the tempo of Marine Corps counterinsurgency operations increased in Afghanistan, by late summer those in Iraq were clearly subsiding. In September two RCTs, the major portion of II MEF-Forward's ground combat power, were homeward bound. A significant milestone occurred on 23 September, as the number of Marines in Iraq fell below that in Afghanistan. As re-deployment was underway plans were already in the works for a phased rotation of units in Afghanistan. On 2 October, 1st MEB, under Brigadier General Joseph L. Osterman, was activated at Camp Pendleton for eventual relief of 2nd MEB. RCT 7, under the command of Colonel Randall P. Newman, replaced RCT-3 on 25 October. The relief-in-place of subordinate battalions was phased through October and November.8
As units in Afghanistan were being rotated, those in Iraq continued to be reduced. In a ceremony at Al Asad Air Base on 2 November, Brigadier General Robert S. Walsh and his 2nd Marine Air Wing-Forward relinquished control of air operations over Al Anbar province to Colonel James S. O'Meara and Marine Air Group 26 (Reinforced). That event signaled the end of Marine air wing-level operations in Iraq. From February 2004 to that date, rotating Marine air wings had flown almost 300,000 sorties, moving 800,000 passengers and more than 100 million pounds of cargo, while also providing countless close-air-support sorties.9
Four days later another Marine aviation milestone occurred with the arrival of the first MV-22B Ospreys deployed to Afghanistan. Ten Ospreys flew in to Camp Bastion Airfield from the USS Bataan (LHD-5) Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) operating in the Indian Ocean. The aircraft were transferred from Marine Medium Tiltrotor (VMM) Squadron 263 (Reinforced), of the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), to VMM 261 of MEB-A. Lieutenant Colonel William Depue, executive officer of VMM 261, noted that the Osprey's speed and range will "cut the size of the area of operations in half."10
The Ospreys were employed in their first major offensive action, Operation Cobra's Anger, beginning in the early morning of 3 December. They supported a vertical envelopment by Company K, 3rd Battalion, 4th Marines and a Marine reconnaissance unit, Task Force Raider, into the north end of the Now Zad valley to sandwich Taliban forces between those units and a combined force of U.S., British, and ANA troops attacking overland from the south. The operation also included the first use of the Marine Corps' new Assault Breacher Vehicle (ABV). Built on an M1 Abrams tank chassis, the ABV has a full-width mine plow, dual line charges, and a lane marking system. The Now Zad valley, a major Taliban thoroughfare, had been heavily mined by the enemy to protect their lines of communication, resulting in the population's exodus from its principal town. Cobra's Anger was therefore designed to establish sufficient security to allow de-mining and, ultimately, repopulation of Now Zad.
As Cobra's Anger was unfolding, Headquarters, Marine Corps announced on 7 December that an additional 8,500 Marines and Sailors would deploy to Afghanistan as part of the recently announced troop build-up. This included deployment of the 1,500-man Task Force 1st Battalion, 6th Marines from Camp Lejeune before the end of December. Additionally, the earlier plan to have 2nd MEB relieved by 1st MEB was revised, with I MEF-Forward (800 personnel) now designated to become the command element for a force that would, with the addition of RCT-2 (6,200 personnel), raise Marine Corps troop strength in Afghanistan to 19,000 in the spring of 2010.11
At a Pentagon press briefing on 15 December, General Conway noted that there were fewer than 5,000 Marines in Iraq, and that the Marine Corps had removed 95 percent of its major equipment deployed to that country. When asked if there was the infrastructure in Helmand province to receive the planned influx of troops, the Commandant took exception to the notion that Marines would require such support. "That is not a description of the United States Marine Corps. I mean, that's what we do for the nation. That's what being expeditionary is all about . . . move rapidly, live on what is to everyone else a moonscape, and do what has to be done."12
Military Engagement and Crisis-Response Operations
While combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan receive the lion's share of public attention, sea-based Marines are very quietly conducting a wider range of military operations. These activities are exploiting the utility of the Navy-Marine Team-especially amphibious forces-for discreet engagement activities as well as rapid and effective crisis response. Forward-based or rotationally deployed ARG/MEUs have traditionally performed these activities. Increasingly, ARG/MEUs are being complemented by the episodic deployment of smaller, task-organized forces to conduct engagement-and-response operations with an expanding set of global partners.
On 15 January, for example, the USS Nashville (LPD-13) kicked off Africa Partnership Station 2009. Embarked were a Marine advisor team, Seabee detachment, medical personnel, and civilian specialists from 20 different countries. They visited Senegal, Ghana, Nigeria, Cameroon, and Gabon to conduct activities aimed at improving maritime safety, security, and environmental stewardship, as well as humanitarian and civic assistance.
On the other side of the globe, the Essex ARG/31st MEU began the year with a more traditional series of military engagement activities.13 These began with Cobra Gold 2009, 4-17 February, during which Marines and Sailors from Thailand and the United States refined their amphibious assault, raid, and noncombatant evacuation skills, followed by live fire training ashore. Shortly thereafter elements of the 31st MEU practiced urban operations and mortar gunnery with Marines from the Republic of Korea during Foal Eagle 2009, beginning 10 March. Following that the Essex ARG/31st MEU went to the Republic of the Philippines 16-30 April for Exercise Balikatan 2009, which included amphibious raids, combined-arms live fire, and proactive humanitarian assistance.
In the Western Hemisphere, during April SP MAGTF-24 sailed on board the USS Mesa Verde (LPD-19) to begin the 50th evolution of UNITAS-the oldest recurring combined exercise conducted by U.S. naval forces.14 Dubbed "UNITAS Gold" in honor of that anniversary, it ran concurrently with Partnership of the Americas 2009 and involved security cooperation events with Marines from Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, Peru, and Uruguay as well as soldiers from Canada.
In July, the Essex ARG/31st MEU conducted another major bilateral exercise, Talisman Saber 2009. This event involved more than 20,000 U.S. and 10,000 Australian servicemen and women. After landing, the 31st MEU conducted training with the 3rd Royal Australian Regiment. While en route back to Japan afterwards, the USS Denver (LPD-9) was diverted to conduct disaster relief in Taiwan in the wake of Typhoon Morakot. On board were the 31st MEU's Landing Support Platoon and Navy MH-53E Super Stallion helicopters needed to lift food, medical supplies, and earth-moving equipment. This work began on 17 August and continued for about a week. It was conducted without fanfare due to political sensitivities regarding the "One China" policy-providing an example of how seabasing can provide decision-makers with discreet options to accomplish diplomatically delicate tasks.
Closer to home, on 13 July U.S. Marines and Sailors began a three-week exercise with their counterparts from six South American neighbors: Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Peru, Colombia, and Uruguay. Hosted by the Corpo de Fuzileiros Navals of the Brazilian Navy, Exercise Southern Exchange 2009 focused on improving interoperability and enhancing peacekeeping and disaster-relief capabilities. The exercise, which included U.S. Marines from II MEF embarked on board the USS Oak Hill (LSD-51), culminated with a three-day peacekeeping exercise.
During the summer 31st MEU conducted its semi-annual turnover of subordinate air, ground, and logistics elements and then deployed for its certification exercise in a "small deck" ARG composed of the USS Denver, Harpers Ferry (LSD-49) and Tortuga (LSD-46).15 The exercise was curtailed when the ARG/MEU was tasked to provide relief for multiple natural disasters. They quickly re-task organized to form a special purpose MAGTF, including CH-53E Super Stallion helicopters, on board the Denver. This force delivered tools, temporary shelters, and 130,000 pounds of food to survivors of the 7.6-level earthquake in West Sumatra Province, Indonesia, that occurred on 30 September. The balance of the ARG/MEU proceeded to the Republic of the Philippines in response to Tropical Storm Ketsana and Typhoon Parma. From 2-12 October they delivered 1.5 million pounds of food, 39,000 bags of clothing, and 650 cases of water. Upon completion of these humanitarian missions, the 31st MEU conducted Exercise Forest Light with the Japanese Self Defense Force and supported the Korean Incremental Training Program. Later in the fall the ARG/MEU was again reconfigured around the USS Essex (LHD-2) and subsequently participated in the Seventh Fleet's Annual Exercise, which included visit, board, search and seizure training with the Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force.
Elsewhere in the Pacific, while en route from San Diego to the Middle East, the Bonhomme Richard ARG/11th MEU closed on Guam, Saipan, and Tinian with the expectation of having to perform disaster relief in the aftermath of Typhoon Melor.16 Fortunately, the storm changed course and the Marianas-islands already indelibly inked into Navy-Marine Corps history-were not significantly impacted. The ARG/MEUs progression across the Pacific, however, was marked by proactive humanitarian and civic assistance missions in Timor-Leste, Indonesia, and Thailand.
Back in the Western Hemisphere, the Marine Corps' first Security Cooperation MAGTF set sail in October aboard the USS Wasp (LHD-1) for Southern Partnership Station-Amphib 2009.17 Their three-month deployment included security cooperation and proactive humanitarian events with countries such as Belize, the Dominican Republic, and Jamaica, conducted under the larger umbrella of the Partnership of the Americas Maritime Strategy.
In the Mediterranean, on 12 October the Bataan ARG/22nd MEU, operating with the Egyptian Army and Navy as well as Pakistani and Kuwaiti Marines, commenced a combined amphibious-assault exercise near Alexandria, Egypt, as part of Bright Star 2009.18 The Bataan ARG/22nd MEU had delivered MV-22s to Afghanistan, conducted maritime security operations, participated in seven major-theater security cooperation events in the Fifth and Sixth Fleet areas of responsibility, and served as the Central Command theater reserve before being relieved by the Bonhomme Richard ARG/11th MEU in November. Almost immediately after reporting to Fifth Fleet, the latter conducted bilateral training-including an over-the-horizon amphibious assault-with the Kuwaiti 25th Commando Brigade on Bubiyan Island. Following that event the Bonhomme Richard ARG/11th MEU assumed maritime security duties in the region.
As a naval expeditionary force in readiness, the Marine Corps is optimized for crisis response and sea-based power projection. Although it operates in the maritime, land, and air domains, the Corps is not designed to dominate any of them the way its sister services are. Rather, the Marine Corps is optimized to be expeditionary-to "get there" fast and do whatever has to be done, whether it's accomplishing the mission with the resources at hand or paving the way for a larger joint, interagency, or multinational effort. Historically, the key to "being expeditionary" has been a high level of readiness.
Combat losses as well as the harsh operating environments in Iraq and Afghanistan have taken their toll on Marine Corps equipment readiness, especially tactical vehicles. The Marine Corps has sourced equipment globally to support forces in those countries, taking gear from non-deployed units and strategic programs like maritime prepositioning. As a result, the equipment available for non-deployed units to use for training or other emerging contingencies has diminished. For example, the overall supply rating of Marine Corps units in Afghanistan is nearly 100 percent, while for units at home stations it is less than 60 percent. Additionally, to meet the operational conditions prevalent in Iraq and Afghanistan new types of vehicles, as well as upgrades to the old ones, have increased the size, weight, and overall numbers of the Marine Corps' rolling stock, exacerbating what is already the most constrained aspect of amphibious lift. This will necessitate a restructuring of the vehicle mix to more appropriately satisfy the competing demands of conducting sustained counterinsurgency operations ashore and maintaining expeditionary readiness.
General Conway has reported to Congress that Marine Corps equipment shortfalls are serious and that the impact on readiness is significant. He has estimated that "the cost of restructuring the Marine Corps' tables of equipment from Fiscal Year 2012 through FY 15 would be $5 billion and the cost to reset for the Marine Corps will be $8 billion." The latter figure includes $3 billion requested in FY 11 for Overseas Contingency Operations and "an additional $5 billion reset liability upon termination of the conflict."19
So, while the Corps was able to adequately equip and support its Marines in the field and afloat during 2009-and will likely continue to be able to do so in the immediate future-the Commandant foresees and is clearly concerned about a longer-term problem. In making his case for resources, General Conway reminded Congress that the Marine Corps provides great value to the nation. As of December 2009, almost half of the enlisted force was in the three lowest pay grades and the ratio of officers to enlisted Marines, 1:9, was the lowest of any service. More than 136,000 Marines, 67 percent of the Corps, were in deploying units. For 6.5 percent of the baseline 2010 defense budget, the Marine Corps provides 17 percent of the nation's active ground-combat maneuver units, 12 percent of the nation's fixed-wing tactical aircraft, and 19 percent of the nation's attack helicopters.20
It remains to be seen how Congress will respond to the Marine Corps' equipment needs. For a service with a long and proud history of enduring privation-of making do with less-these concerns are important but secondary. Marines have always espoused a philosophy of "equipping the man" rather than "manning the equipment." The Marine Corps measures its true wealth in the quality and quantity of its Marines. By that standard of measure, in 2009 the Marine Corps enjoyed riches beyond belief.
The Commandant has reported that the Marine Corps continues to recruit and retain the highest quality people. The demands of sustained operations in Iraq and Afghanistan have not adversely affected personnel readiness or the resiliency of the force. The majority of Marines currently serving joined after our nation was already at war. They understand that Marines are supposed to train hard, deploy often, and-when necessary-fight and win battles. Indeed, that is why they joined.
Three years ago the Marine Corps was granted permission to add 27,000 personnel by the end of FY 11, raising authorized end-strength to 202,100 Marines in the active component and 39,600 Marines in the Selected Reserve. That growth was completed in FY 09-two years ahead of schedule-and with no compromise in quality. The Marine Corps exceeded its recruiting goals, both in numbers and standards, while also surpassing reenlistment objectives. In fiscal year 2009, 98 percent of all Marine recruits were high school graduates-3 points higher than the Corps' own objective and 8 points above the Department of Defense standard. First-term Marines reenlisted at a rate of 33.7 percent, far exceeding the normal retention rate of 24 percent, while 78.6 percent of subsequent-term Marines reenlisted again-the highest rate in history. By the end of December 2009, the Marine Corps had already achieved 77 percent of its first-term and 82 percent of its subsequent-term reenlistment goals for all of FY 10. These results are a testament to the esteem in which the American public holds the Marine Corps, as well as to the morale and dedication of those already serving in uniform.
Officer procurement was similarly successful. In the Naval Academy's Class of 2009, for example, 270 graduates chose to become Marine officers-the highest number in history for the second year in a row. The Marine Corps also attracted top-quality officer candidates from civilian colleges. One newly commissioned officer, for example, drew some media attention due to his father's prominent position as manager of a major league baseball team. A recent graduate of the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania, Second Lieutenant Nick Francona was quick to dismiss any inference that his academic credentials and desire to serve are unusual. He pointed out that his officer peers, who include a Fulbright Scholar, are both smart and tough. "There are a lot of people in the Marine Corps who could be doing a million other things and be successful, but they chose to do this." As to why, he offered, "There are bad people out there, and you sign up to be one of those who confront them. That's your job, and we want a chance to do our job."21
In summary, the individual Marine-active or reserve, officer or enlisted, freshly minted "boot" or crusty "old salt"-remains the heart and soul of the Marine Corps. Highly trained, well educated, and physically fit, these motivated and consummately professional "Soldiers of the Sea" make the Corps what it is-ever ready to go anywhere and do whatever it takes to accomplish the mission. Of all the facts presented in this review, the last is the most poignant to report: In 2009, 65 of these extraordinary Americans were killed in action or died of wounds suffered in combat against their nation's foes.
2. Specific units included: 3rd Battalion, 8th Marines; Battery D, 2nd Battalion, 14th Marines; and Combat Logistics Battalion 3.
3. The MEB-A command element was supported by a headquarters group provided by 5th Battalion, 10th Marines. The ground combat element included: 1st Battalion, 5th Marines; 2nd Battalion, 8th Marines; 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marines; 3rd Battalion, 11th Marines; 2nd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion; and 1st Combat Engineer Battalion. The aviation combat element included: Marine Attack Squadron 214; Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron 352; Marine Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Squadron 2; Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 169; Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 362; and, from the Reserve component, Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 772. The combat logistics element included Combat Logistics Battalion 8 and 8th Engineer Support Battalion.
4. Staff Sergeant Luis R. Agostini, "RCT-7 takes over counterinsurgency operations in Afghanistan," www.marines.mil, 26 October 2009.
5. A "shura," or consultation, may be considered the equivalent of a colonial New England town hall meeting.
6. RCT-3 press release, "First Marine RCT in Afghanistan concludes historic deployment," 26 October 2009.
8. Once that was complete, RCT 7 was composed of: 1st Battalion, 3rd Marines; 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marines; 3rd Battalion, 4th Marines; and 3rd Battalion, 10th Marines.
9. MNF-W press release, 6 November 2009
10. Corporal Thomas J. Hermesman, "Osprey joins the fight in Afghanistan," www.marines.mil, 6 November 2009.
11. HQMC Media Branch News Release, 7 December 2009.
12. DoD press conference, 15 December 2009.
13. 31st MEU (Col Paul L. Damren) was composed of BLT 3/5, HMM-262 (Rein), VMA-211, and CLB 31, embarked in the amphibious assault ship Essex (LHD-2), amphibious transport dock Denver (LPD-9), and dock landing ships Harpers Ferry (LSD-49) and Tortuga (LSD-46).
14. SP MAGTF-24 included elements of II MEF, 2/24, HMM-764, and 4th MLG.
15. New 31st MEU composition was BLT 2/5, HMM-265 (Rein), VMA-513, and CLB 3.
16. 11th MEU (Col Gregg Olson), included BLT 2/4, HMM 166 (Rein), and CLB 11 embarked in the amphibious assault ship Bonhomme Richard (LHD-6), amphibious transport dock Cleveland (LPD-7), and dock landing ship Rushmore (LSD-47).
17. The SC MAGTF included elements of II MEF Headquarters Group, 2/9, and HMH-461.
18. 22nd MEU (Col Gareth F. Brandl), included BLT 3/2, VMM 263 (Rein), and CLB 22 embarked in the amphibious assault ship Bataan (LHD-5), amphibious transport dock Ponce (LPD-15), and dock landing ship Fort McHenry (LSD-43).
19. This and all subsequent data in the "Readiness" section is drawn from General James T. Conway's statement before the House Armed Services Committee, 24 February 2010.
20. 6.5 percent of DoD budget represents FY10 USMC Green dollars and Direct Blue (Navy) dollars.
21. Gordon Edes, "Franconas Leaders on Field, Ground," ESPNBoston.com, 23 December 2009. 2LT Francona's father, Terry Francona, is the manager of the Boston Red Sox and won the World Series in 2004 and 2007.