“After nearly a decade of constant warfare and with a new commandant arriving shortly, the time has come to redefine the purpose and size of the Marine Corps,” said Defense Secretary Robert Gates
“After the surge ends in Afghanistan, they’re probably going to reduce some,” Gates said in a speech to the Marines’ Memorial Association. “They’ve gotten too big.” Gates told the crew of the destroyer USS Higgins that while the Navy would not likely continue to downsize, the Marine Corps is on its way to a reduction.
For Marines, the legacy of Iraq and Afghanistan has been forged fighting door-to-door down urban streets, in desert wadis and through mountain passes — far from the shorelines Marines have been trained to invade.
(Gee, I guess these people never heard the words to the Marine Corps Hymn)
Marine Corps Hymn Lyrics
From the Halls of Montezuma
To the Shores of Tripoli;
We fight our country’s battles
In the air, on land and sea;
First to fight for right and freedom
And to keep our honor clean;
We are proud to claim the title
of United States Marine.
Our flag’s unfurled to every breeze
From dawn to setting sun;
We have fought in ev’ry clime and place
Where we could take a gun;
In the snow of far-off Northern lands
And in sunny tropic scenes;
You will find us always on the job
The United States Marines.
Top Marine Corps leaders, including outgoing Commandant Gen. James Conway, for years urged the Pentagon to allow the service to return to its amphibious roots and stop employing them as a “second Army.”
The last Marine did not leave Iraq until early this year, long after the commandant called for their removal from that country. Both wars, Conway frequently notes, have created a generation of Marines who have trained and fought but never stepped foot on a ship.
On Thursday, Gates said he’s recognized “an anxiety” about the future of the service, particularly “the perception being that they have become too heavy, too removed” from their roots.
But he noted that while the historic image of Marines remains etched in massive beach landings, in reality and in law the service is tasked to carry out “such other duties as the president may direct.”
In the past 60 years, Marines have fought in Korean mountains, Vietnamese rice paddies and now, he recounted, the “urban alleys of Anbar province and the dusty, rugged Helmand province of Afghanistan.”
“Looking ahead, I do think it is proper to ask whether large-scale amphibious assault landings along the lines of Inchon are feasible,” Gates said, referring to the Marine invasion during the early days of the Korean War that turned the tide against North Korea.
It also calls into question what weapons and equipment Marines should carry into battle. Current anti-ship missiles, he said Thursday, may require Marines to debark from ships up to 60 miles from the shore. Already one pet acquisition project of the Corps, the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle, is under scrutiny.
“We clearly need to have amphibious capability,” he said, “the question is … how much. Finding the right tools for the job will depend on how the military plans to use the Corps.
“In Iraq, Marines — as is often the case — were handed some of the roughest real estate and saw some of the most brutal and deadliest fighting of the conflict,” Gates said. “Places like Fallujah and names like [Maj. Douglas Alexander] Zembiec and [Cpl. Jason] Dunham will take their place in Marine Corps history along with the legends of the past,” naming two Marines who died in that battle, the latter a posthumous Medal of Honor recipient.
Gates said he did not want to “preclude” the discussion and it will be up to the incoming commandant, Gen. James Amos, if confirmed by the Senate, to undertake that “intellectual effort.”
“Ultimately,” said Gates, “the maritime soul of the Marine Corps needs to be preserved.” STARS & STRIPES
THE FINAL INSPECTION
The Marine stood and faced God,
Which must always come to pass.
He hoped his shoes were shining,
Just as brightly as his brass.
‘Step forward now, Marine,
How shall I deal with you?
Have you always turned the other cheek?
To My Church have you been true?’
The soldier squared his shoulders and said,
‘No, Lord, I guess I ain’t.
Because those of us who carry guns,
Can’t always be a saint.
I’ve had to work most Sundays,
And at times my talk was tough.
And sometimes I’ve been violent,
Because the world is awfully rough.
But, I never took a penny,
That wasn’t mine to keep…
Though I worked a lot of overtime,
When the bills got just too steep.
And I never passed a cry for help,
Though at times I shook with fear.
And sometimes, God, forgive me,
I’ve wept unmanly tears.
I know I don’t deserve a place,
Among the people here.
They never wanted me around,
Except to calm their fears
If you’ve a place for me here, Lord,
It needn’t be so grand.
I never expected or had too much,
But if you don’t, I’ll understand.
There was a silence all around the throne,
Where the saints had often trod.
As the Marine waited quietly,
For the judgment of his God.
‘Step forward now, you Marine,
Walk peacefully on Heaven’s streets,
You’ve borne your burdens well,
You’ve done your time in Hell.’