View Full Version : Corps gives commanders guidance for managing time while at home

12-06-05, 01:33 PM
December 12, 2005
Corps gives commanders guidance for managing time while at home
By Gidget Fuentes
Times staff writer

OCEANSIDE, Calif. — The days of six-month deployments followed by 12 to 18 months at home before deploying again are long gone. As 2006 opens, grunts will look forward to their third consecutive year of the “7-7-7” rotation cycle.

The Camp Pendleton-based I Marine Expeditionary Force is preparing for a return to Iraq and continues to deploy units for combat operations in Afghanistan, aboard Navy ships and on continuing rotations to the forward-deployed naval forces in Japan. The cycle of a seven-month combat tour followed by seven months at home before another seven-month deployment has meant little time at home to rest, regroup and retrain for that next deployment.

On top of that, some battalions and squadrons face their second or third combat tour or overseas deployment in less than three years. There’s growing talk of deployment fatigue.

And it’s unclear how long the 7-7-7 rotation will remain in effect. In the meantime, however, Marine Corps training officials are developing a program to give unit commanders a blueprint to help them manage those precious months at home between deployments.

Officials at Training and Education Command at Quantico, Va., are calling it the battalion enhancement program. It’s being developed by groups looking at changes to infantry training, training standards, equipment needs, manpower issues and other initiatives such as distributed operations.

The idea is to provide a modified building-block approach that enables a battalion to turn over its personnel, refresh individual combat skills, get small-unit leaders to school, and acquire weapons and equipment. At that point, the battalion can begin training in earnest to build up platoon, company and battalion competencies to be certified for combat — and doing all that with enough leave periods before and after deploying.

It’s a tall order when you consider that seven or eight months at home between rotations has become the norm. But establishing a formal system, which could accommodate shorter or longer periods at home between deployments, is possible, officials said.

The idea is, when a unit returns from deployment, “we coordinate when the new Marines arrive … [and] individual training that takes place for the small-unit leaders,” said Lt. Col. Chris Carolan, transition branch head and officer in charge of the Marine Corps Warfighting Lab’s distributed operations working group.

It’s a busy time.

“We’d want to get new equipment to the Marines as early as we can in the training cycle so they’re comfortable with it,” Carolan said.

The battalion enhancement period could last about two months, he said. Ideally, a unit returning home will get a month for leave and personnel turnover.

“We want to make sure the leadership in the battalion gets on deck early … and sends the Marines to the appropriate courses,” he said. “Squad leaders can go together to build up on their skills” and then train their Marines.

After the two months, the battalion kicks its training plan into high gear. For some deploying units, it could include Mojave Viper, the new capstone course at the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center at Twentynine Palms, Calif., that incorporates the longer security and stabilization operations course and live-fire combined-arms exercise. Other changes stemming from the new infantry training and readiness manual and ongoing education, manning and training initiatives are expected to further shape it.