Bedard: Marines can fill Iraq turns

By Sandra Jontz, Stars and Stripes
European edition, Saturday, August 16, 2003

ARLINGTON, Va. — If called upon, the Marine Corps would have no problem filling yearlong deployments in Iraq, Lt. Gen. Emil “Buck” Bedard, deputy Marine Corps commandant for Plans, Policies, and Operations told Stars and Stripes on Thursday.

The service would just do what it did during Operation Iraqi Freedom, said Bedard, who plans to leave the Marine Corps in October after 35 years of service.

“With the force in Iraq, for example, we went to a stop loss to stabilize units. We certainly relied very heavily on our reserves. In fact, we activated just about 50 percent of our reserve organizations,” Bedard said.

And the Corps would massage unit deployment schedules, as it did with units on Okinawa. Instead of rotating Marines out to their next assignment, leaders instead extended their tour on the Japanese island and sent intended replacement units to the war zone.

“We kept some of those forces over there [on Okinawa] for eight or nine months vice the normal six-month rotation,” Bedard said.

The Marine Corps has not been asked to contribute additional stabilization forces in Iraq, but Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. John Keane said in a recent Pentagon press briefing that the Corps could be tapped to supply forces for yearlong deployments if coalition nations don’t contribute enough.

“We will do it,” Bedard said. “First of all, our country is at war. If we’re asked to contribute to the rotation, if that’s required, we’ll look very, very heavily across our entire force to resource that, and we will do whatever our president and our secretary of defense feel is required,” he said.

As leaders “peel back this thing and look very closely at the lessons learned,” Bedard said, he sees triumph over triumph emerging among the Marines who helped in the fight to topple the former Iraqi government.

But not all was perfect.

Communications on the battlefield, while successful overall, presented problems.

“You’re always going to have some of that, and the reason being, is you’ve got legacy systems,” he said. “[But] the work-arounds make you successful on the battlefield. I don’t think we hit anything out there that we couldn’t overcome, and that we didn’t overcome, but you’re talking about a number of different [communication] systems that have been brought over over a period of time.”

And two things, in Bedard’s opinion, were missing from the Iraq battlefield.

“I just wish we’d had the MV-22 over there. I wish we’d had the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle, and both of those platforms could have increased the capabilities,” Bedard said.

The MV-22 Osprey is a hybrid between a helicopter and airplane and would replace the Corps’ aging fleet of transport helicopters. But it has been plagued with troubles, and had been grounded following two crashes that killed 23 Marines in April and December 2000. Testing resumed in May 2002.

The Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle is the next generation of amphibious assault vehicle, which looks like a small tank and can travel at a high spend on land and water. It will have a unique combination of offensive firepower and nuclear, chemical and biological protection and is slated to be fielded in 2007-2008.