Monday, July 18, 2016

TDG #7-16R: Defend the Airfield, Part I*

*originally published in March 1992.


Beginning with the fall of communism in the early 1990s, the past several years have witnessed tremendous changes throughout the world. You find yourself the commanding officer of the 1st Special Infantry Company in a provisional rifle battalion that has been formed recently and deployed (without major attachments) on a deployment for training to Dull Garrison Island in the northern region of the Indian Ocean. In part, the deployment maintains presence and replaces the more expensive regular deployment of amphibious forces. It also provides familiarization and training for potential leaders of the local defense force forming on the island.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Are You the Next Napoleon?

For tacticians at the tip of the spear

TDGs return to the Gazette. (Photo by LCpl Nik S. Phongsisattanak.)
In war there is no substitute for experience, no substitute for the intuitive skill that comes from repeated practice. Tactical decision games are a practice field for the tactical leader. This article explains why and how.

Think of the Great Captains of military history—Alexander, Hannibal, Frederick the Great, Napoleon, Genghis Khan. We hold these men in high regard because we recognize them as military geniuses, as true masters of the art of war whose mastery of the art form clearly eclipses the mass of the merely competent. Clearly, the art of war places high demands on the intellect of military commanders, and any professional continually strives toward mastery.

Monday, January 11, 2016


"The Marine Corps," as LtGen Van Riper pointed out in a great 2015 discussion on MCDP 1, "has a long history of intellectual activity in terms of the doctrine that was developed for amphibious operations, heliborne operations, small wars," etc.  Our 29th Commandant, in a statement before the Senate Armed Services Committee in 1989, emphasized the need for the Marine Corps to always work to exploit new technologies to maintain its competitive edge, as the Corps did with the helicopter and AV-8B -- and as it was working hard at the time to do with the MV-22.  Our 36th Commandant reemphasized this need in his planning guidance, challenging the Corps to "innovate and adapt" for the future.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

The Strategic-Level Logistics Challenge

Source: MCDP-4, Logistics
In 2011, the Marine Corps faced a logistics challenge: The initial stages of our retrograde and redeployment from Afghanistan were getting underway, and we needed a detailed disposition plan, or "playbook," for all of our ground equipment in theater.  We didn't want to bring back equipment that we didn't need, as that would have driven up transportation costs and made us vulnerable in future audits.  For all the equipment that we did need, we needed to develop detailed "reset" strategies (i.e., which equipment items would we replace; which items would we ship to the depot for depot-level recapitalization; which items would we ship straight to the MEFs for field-level repair; etc.).  This playbook would need to be informed by several things, including our total requirement (i.e., approved acquisition objective, or AAO) for each equipment item (this was a moving target, as AAOs were on a downward glide path commensurate with our planned force-structure drawdown), the condition of each equipment item, item sensitivities (e.g., controlled cryptographic items), etc.  Compounding the challenge of pulling together numerous data points for nearly a thousand different types of equipment (without the benefit of a single system that integrated all the required data) was the fact that multiple Marine Corps organizations owned pieces of the required data and information (e.g., the Deputy Commandant for Combat Development and Integration owned the requirements data/info; Marine Corps Systems Command and the Program Executive Officer for Land Systems owned the life-cycle data/info; and the Deputy Commandant for Installations and Logistics and Marine Corps Logistics Command owned the sustainment data/info).  The Deputy Commandant for Installations and Logistics, as the Marine Corps's senior logistician, was ultimately responsible for development of the Service's equipment retrograde and reset plan, but the task required unity of effort across the entire ground equipment stakeholder domain.

Friday, August 21, 2015


Others follow you for what you are, because they believe in you and what you do. You look in a mirror to see how you look. You look in the faces of others to know what you are.
Earlier this year, the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies published a great compilation of leadership thoughts and quotes from our 29th Commandant.  From Dr. Paul Otte's introduction:
Always more willing to talk about others than himself, we ... sat for over forty hours as General Gray spoke without notes, but with powerful emotions about the Corps and the Marines he continues to serve even today. We were able to gain greater insight into this very special Marine who "took what he got, and made what he wanted." This book is a compilation of the many sayings we have heard and heard repeated, as they have been shared from one Marine to another.
Grayisms can be viewed and downloaded here.

"Read it, study it, take it to heart."

Sunday, August 9, 2015

The "Readiness" Challenge

There is no single word more central to the Marine Corps's identity, ethos and national purpose than ready.  In the wake of the Korean War, the 82nd Congress recognized the "vital need for the existence of a strong force-in-readiness," and directed that the Marine Corps maintain itself as a force -- and the force -- "most ready when the nation is least ready."  FMFM 1 acknowledged and institutionalized this mandate, stating that "[a]ll peacetime activities should focus on achieving combat readiness."  The 36th Commandant, in his planning guidance, reaffirmed this, stating: "To meet the expectations of the American people, everything we do must contribute to our combat readiness and combat effectiveness."

We define readiness in the Marine Corps (and across the Department of Defense) as "the ability of [our] forces to fight and meet the demands of the national military strategy."  With the myriad Congressionally mandated readiness reporting requirements that exist, measuring readiness often proves challenging.  It's often said that measuring readiness involves both art and science, and while quantifying the results and outputs of numerous readiness inputs is sometimes difficult, commanders can generally say of readiness what Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart famously said of obscenity in a 1964 Supreme Court case: "I know it when I see it."