1st Marine Division Lessons Learned


I came across this document at Global Security. It outlines a lot of issues that the 1st Marine Division encountered in Iraq and notes recommended actions. Good stuff. Here are couple that I found particularly interesting:

Topic: Light Armored Regiment And Battalion Organic to the Marine Division

Discussion: During OIF, nimble, hard-hitting LAR units proved themselves highly versatile and employable across the spectrum:
– In advance guard, screening, covering force missions
– Put together under the ADC, three LAR Battalions executed a 150 mile attack beyond Baghdad to Tikrit and Bayji
– Dominating in stabilization operations.

They can be the most lethal, versatile force on the battlefield if we:
– Add the best FAC suite equipment available
– Add an assault gun/120mm mortar.

We should also consider use of the Army Stryker vehicle to defray R&D costs/lower unit cost.

Recommendation: 7th Marines become an LAV Regiment to work in cooperation with a DS towed artillery battalion and tank battalion. One independent LAR Battalion remains to source MEUs and provide the Division Commander with his own GS LAR capability.

Most of the critics of the Army’s Stryker LAV (mentioned from time to time on MO) choose to ignore the fact that the Marines’ LAVs performed extremely well during the invasion of Iraq. (I believe that “DS towed artillery” stands for “direct support.”)

Another that interested me concerned the Recon units.

Topic: Use of Reconnaissance Battalion in a Non-doctrinal Role

Discussion: The Division used the 1st Recon Battalion in non-doctrinal roles during OIF. The Battalion was provided enough mobility assets to become a separate maneuver unit and be attached to one of the Regimental Combat Teams. They were used as a battalion to screen the Division’s flank, as an attack force to capture the Qalat Sikar airfield, a blocking force in Al Kut, and a raid force in Baqubah. These different mission capabilities provided versatility to the Division and Regimental Commanders and were a tremendous force multiplier.

Recommendation: Rewrite the mission statement of the Division’s Reconnaissance Battalion to include the non-doctrinal roles performed in OIF.

The Recon guys, with their specialized training and equipment, acted like a sort of “step-up” unit, and were able to perform duties normally assigned to heavier line units. I think we’re going to be seeing more and more of this as time goes on. There just isn’t anyone left to go toe-to-toe with us in a stand-up fight. The more “irregular” types in the US military will expand and be used to combat the irregular fighters that we’re going to be facing.

I’ve written before about the Marines wanting some AC-130 gunships of their own. This is maybe the document that started the ball rolling:

Topic: AC-130

Discussion: In OIF, distances between the Forward Line of Troops (FLOT) and Wing Forward Operating Bases (FOB) were such that the Wing found it difficult to support the CAS requirement with assets with significant FLIR capability and sufficient time on station. The AV-8B with the lightning pod has a significant FLIR capability, but usually had just 15-20 minutes of time on-station, which could be extended with tanker support. Once the target was located the Harrier only has the ability to drop 500 pound or 1000 pound bombs (it can strafe with a limited number of rounds if a gun pod is mounted). By contrast, the AC-130 has the capability to loiter in excess of 6 hours and combines a first-rate sensor suite, including unequalled FLIR capability, with an impressive and scaleable array of armament: 105mm howitzer, 2x 20mm (or 25mm) chain guns, and 40mm cannon.

In future as in recent conflicts, the Marine Corps will fight in a permissive airborne threat environment because the coalition has secured air supremacy early. In this environment, the Marine Corps needs an organic AC-130 capability. Current USMC C-130 maintenance capability, both at the “O” Level (Operations) and “I” Level (Intermediate), does not extend to maintenance of some AC-130 avionics and ELINT equipment, so an upgrade to capability would be required. However, the cost and increased burden on C-130 maintenance support would easily be justified by the overwhelming combat capability the AC-130 brings to the fight.

Recommendation: With the introduction of the C-130J, buy two of the admittedly expensive AC-130 variants in order to enhance MAGTF firepower.

(MAGTF stands for “Marine Air Ground Task Force”.) This report notes the problems with relying on Harriers for close air support, and those same issues apply to most jet aircraft. We really need to address the troop-support issue. Why we don’t buy more A-10s is beyond me.

It doesn’t appear that anyone anywhere really likes the 9mm pistol.

Topic: M4 as Replacement for the Service Pistol

Discussion: To increase firepower in the Division, the M-4 Carbine should replace the pistol as the T/E weapon for many pistol bearers in the Division. Durability and maintenance challenges must be corrected as a prerequisite for the M-4s use. If durability issues can be resolved, the M4 would be an excellent replacement for the 9mm pistol.

Recommendation: After correcting the identified durability and maintenance deficiencies, the M4 replace selected 9mm pistols in the Division.

Reports like this aren’t any good if no one acts upon them, and the recommendations contained aren’t necessarily the right course to take. But it demonstrates that some in the Marines are looking long and hard at their performance in Iraq and trying to improve their capability for the future.

You’ll notice that they didn’t ask for a single $250 million jet fighter.