The U.S. Marines Are The World's Best Amphibious Force, But That May Not Remain True For Long

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Note the following: The U.S. Marine Corps turns to virtual training, which units can use to simulate amphibious training, at least with some approval, even when no ships are available. However, the GAO criticized the virtual efforts because it did not take into account the tasks in which Marines would train, how much time is available for training and how it can be measured whether virtual training works.
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The U.S. Marine Corps is arguably the best amphibious warfare force in the world. However, a new report from the Government Accountability Office suggests that lack of training could affect the amphibious ability of the Marines.
The problem is not with the marine amphibian units stationed at sea, which would be at the forefront of the event of war in Korea or in the South China Sea. The problem is that relentless overseas commitments have put so much strain on marine resources that it cannot do the other training it needs to maintain its competitive edge.
A review of readiness data from 2014 to 2016 showed that "Marine Corps units were unable to complete training on other priorities for amphibious operations," the GAO report said. "These shortcomings include training for home station units to support emergency requirements, exercises at the service level, and experiments and concept development for amphibious operations."
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The main reason was the lack of enough amphibious ships to maintain operations abroad and to train home stations. All 23 naval units surveyed by GAO researchers identified the lack of ships as their biggest training problem. The U.S. Navy fleet of amphibious vessels has dropped from sixty-two in 1990 to thirty-one today, although four new vessels are planned to be added by 2024.
In addition, seventeen of the twenty-three units complained that they could not train due to lack of access to training areas, especially if units to be used in training facilities were to get the first crack. Almost half of those surveyed indicated that training was hampered by ship maintenance, bad weather, or the transit time it took the amphibious ship to reach the training area. Oddly, only five out of twenty-three naval units reported that deployments or the need to prepare for upcoming deployments actually affected their training.
On the surface, this appears to be another symptom after September 11th, due to too many US military commitments and insufficient resources. GAO also blames the US Marine Corps and Navy for the problem. For example, when naval amphibious ships are released for training, the Marines send the available units, not those that should take precedence.
Neither of the services has used alternatives to the lack of delivery. “These alternatives could include using additional training opportunities during the basic training phase of an amphibious ship. Use of alternative platforms for training, such as B. Naval Prepositioning Force ships; Use of smaller naval or pier ships to meet training requirements; and leveraging development and operational test events, ”said GAO.
The U.S. Marine Corps turns to virtual training, which units can use to simulate amphibious training, at least with some approval, even when no ships are available. However, the GAO criticized the virtual efforts because it did not take into account the tasks in which Marines would train, how much time is available for training and how it can be measured whether virtual training works.
Michael Peck is a contributing writer for national interest. It can be found on Twitter and Facebook. This first appeared in 2018.
Image: Flickr.
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