Allen B. West

The Walking Dead – is that what we’re setting up our Marine Corps to be?

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I’m somewhat enjoying the political pundits who sit around and posit on the current crisis with ISIS (Wow! That rhymes). I’m amazed how people have reduced our men and women in the U.S. military to the antiseptic terminology of “boots on the ground.” I find it quite disrespectful and would prefer the terminology we use in the military of “troops to task” – but of course that would require a Commander-in-Chief who had a freaking clue about what the task is, rather than what he believes the task not to be. And so when you look at the situation from that perspective, you begin to understand that Obama is deliberately decreasing our troop capability to meet the task — the global security requirements — at a most critical time.

And so with that introduction, I bring you this story about a piece of history that was lost this past Friday at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.

As reported in the Marine Corps Times, “Decades before the television show, a Marine Corps battalion decorated for extensive combat in World War II and Vietnam earned the nickname the “Walking Dead.” Now the 1st Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment, which also saw action in Iraq and Afghanistan, is being deactivated during a ceremony Friday at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune in North Carolina. The step comes as top U.S. military and political leaders are moving to trim the size of America’s military after more than a decade of war in Iraq and Afghanistan. Marine Corps historians say the battalion appears to have gotten the nickname because of its high rate of casualties during the Vietnam War. But the unit also has a reputation for heroism that included Medal of Honor recipients at Guam and Iwo Jima during World War II and two in Vietnam.”

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What concerns me is the statement that “top U.S. military and political leaders are moving to trim the size of America’s military.” History has taught America a harsh lesson about reducing its military – and it has always sent the wrong message to our enemies. At a time when the world is more volatile than ever, why should we reduce the size of the military — so we can expand the welfare nanny-state spending?

Marine Corps Times says “retired Marine Col. Wesley Fox, who received the Medal of Honor while leading a company within the battalion in Vietnam, said he resents the deactivation. “Not a better battalion in the world. I don’t know why they’re the ones who keep getting put on the bench but that’s the way it goes I guess.”

Of course the progressive socialists — and others — are going to scream that we spend more on defense than everybody else — well, that’s the price of leadership! We can curtail our defense spending to trim the fat out of the Department of Defense, but instead we’re cutting capability — not Pentagon staffing.

The lesson of history is that you don’t just cut your military capability because YOU think it’s a good idea — you do it if the global security environment supports such a decision — which at this time it does not.

If there is one force we should not be cutting it is our preeminent expeditionary combat force, the United States Marine Corps — and having served a three-year joint exchange assignment at Camp Lejeune, I know of what I speak.

I’m privy to some good backchannel military email list exchanges, and here is the concern as expressed by one retired senior Marine Officer, COL Doug R.:

“The core of the Corps is 27 Infantry Battalions. That amounts to less than 23,000 Marines. If the Corps is to be 180,000 that leaves 157,000 Marines. What are those 157,000 Marines doing? We have castrated the artillery and reduced tanks to smallest they have ever been. The Corps’ second largest MOS (Military Occupation Specialty) after 0311(Infantry designator) is admin. The promise of automation was supposed to change that. It didn’t. We have innumerable MOS’s we never had before. Many of them are small and specialized and do not train leaders and NCO’s. Finally, if we really, really want to get rid of infantry Bn’s at least keep the organizational identity alive. Perhaps the SOC (Special Operations Capable) units could be organized as “Battalions” and take the designator of 1/9 etc. But, I would prefer those units dust off the Raider Battalion heritage and use it. Bottom line, I have never seen us downsize in a way that I could fully understand.”

Insanely enough, we are degrading the base capability of the Marine Corps, its Infantry Battalion. It appears that the goal isn’t to examine the task but to cut the troops — horribly backazzwards.

In a response the 29th Commandant of the Marine Corps, General Al Gray had this to say, from his highly regarded experience, “The Corps should never go below 27 infantry battalion maneuver units unless the end strength clearly requires it which is not the case. In 1987, we inherited the same type of challenge when people signed up to cutting the infantry battalions to 24. Personally, this infuriated me since ever since the Hogaboom Board of 1954-5, we always tried to protect this overall concept. We finessed it by making the three LAV (Light Armored Vehicle) Battalions Mobile infantry units (even though we eventually wanted to have LAR (Light Armored Reconnaissance) units. As you know, we made them LAR battalions coincident with the restoration of the three infantry battalions.”

You see, this proven combat leader knew the ramifications of losing capability and sought out means by which it could be accommodated. This is our problem today — we have military leaders who aren’t standing up and challenging the Obama administration. They’re allowing our men and women to be sacrificed on the altar of progressive socialist egalitarianism and political agendas. The deactivation comes as the Pentagon plans to reduce the size of the Marine Corps by several thousand to 182,000 by 2016 and could cut further. The Corps’ wartime peak in recent years was more than 200,000.

When I was in the military the U.S. Marine Corps was referred to as “America’s 911 Force,” and indeed the Marines were ready — and able — to provide an immediate response to any developing crisis situation.

But if we continue to cut down into the bone marrow in a volatile world, who will answer the 911 call? Certainly you don’t think a drone will. There is no force more ready and prepared, on station, than a Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) MEU(SOC). However, the base unit of a MEU(SOC) is a Marine Infantry Battalion, which is being decimated. And understand, we are also cutting the other preeminent U.S. ground force, the U.S. Army, to 1940 pre-conscription levels — to go along with a post-World War I Marine Corps end strength.

Is this just another example of the “fundamental transformation” of America? General Gray offered these closing words in his email, “This too will pass and we will survive and, perhaps, overcome!”

Roger that sir, it will certainly pass, and I pray we won’t have to learn another hard lesson from history in the meantime. Semper Fi sir, from an Army Doggie.

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