As the U.S. looks anew at its interests in the Pacific, the Army and Marine Corps will soon resume joint training aimed at enhancing their forcible-entry capabilities, a top general said March 14.
The two services are planning a series of exercises likely to take place in North Carolina, where tens of thousands of soldiers and Marines are based at Fort Bragg and Camp Lejeune, which are located just 90 miles apart. With the future security environment uncertain, and an end in sight to combat operations in Afghanistan, the services are discussing ways to leverage complimentary capabilities, said Lt. Gen. Richard Mills, the Corps’ deputy commandant for combat development and integration who serves also as commander of Marine Corps Combat Development Command in Quantico, Va.
“As we look at new strategies, as we look at potential areas of operations in the Pacific, I think it’s very natural that the Marines and the Army discuss it … should we have to go somewhere where people don’t want us to go,” Mills said.
Mills conducted an afternoon teleconference with reporters to address the Corps’ plan to cut 20,000 active-duty personnel and the resulting force restructuring those reductions will necessitate. The service’s authorized end strength will fall from 202,100 today to 182,100 over the next five years, driving unit consolidations and eliminations at Marine Corps installations worldwide.
The Army is poised to drop by about 80,000.
Soldiers and Marines have long participated in joint exercises, going back to the 1980s and 1990s when they participated in Operation Bright Star in Egypt. They’ve also worked side by side in Afghanistan and Iraq, but operations in those theaters have taken priority over their habitual training.
Mills described the coming exercises as a “rebirth of some old relationships.”
“I don’t think it’s particularly new or amazing. … We’re all getting smaller, and we know now that we’re all going to fight together on a future battlefield, so it’s very natural,” he said.
Mills recalled that between Bragg and Lejeune, soldiers and Marines have conducted amphibious, airborne and linkup exercises. He and his staff are in talks with the Army to schedule some battalion-level exercises that would eventually grow into larger events, he said.
Mills declined to speculate on the timing of these exercises, except to say that it would be “in the near future.”
“With today’s money concerns,” he said, “large-scale exercises have to be carefully thought through and planned before you simply agree to them.”