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In 1961, at age 17, Ermey enlisted in the United States Marine Corps and went through recruit training at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego in San Diego, California. For his first few years, he served in the aviation support field before becoming a drill instructor in India Company, 3rd Recruit Training Battalion, at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, where he was assigned from 1965 to 1967.
Ermey was cast in his first film while attending the University of Manila in the Philippines, using his G.I. Bill benefits. He played a First Air Cavalry chopper pilot in Apocalypse Now, doubling as a technical advisor to director Francis Ford Coppola
By Sydney J. Freedberg Jr. on November 14, 2017 For the first time since December 1941, when Wake Island’s shore gunners sank the invading destroyer Hayate, Marine Corps artillery wants to kill ships. That could be a big boost for the Navy, which confronts ever more powerful Russian and Chinese fleets.
Army artillery is also exploring anti-ship missiles, and the Marines may buy the same one. The difference is that it’s the Marines who work most closely with the Navy and who land in hostile territory to seize forward bases to support the fleet. That role makes Marines the first choice for the first wave, while the larger but slower Army provides backup.
t also means the Marines need a highly mobile system that can come ashore with the grunts and keep moving to evade retaliatory fire while staying connected to Navy fire control networks. That’s a much more demanding mission than static coastal defense, the role of most anti-ship missile batteries around the world from Norway to Japan.
While the Marines haven’t committed to buying anything yet, they have requested information papers from industry, due on Nov. 30th, exploring a wide range of options. It might be the Army’s ATACMs, the Norwegian Naval Strike Missile, or something else. Based on interviews with four Marine officials, however, it’s clear they’d prefer a missile that can be fired from their existing HIMARS launcher, the truck-based High-Mobility Artillery Rocket System. Why? Because even if the Marines buy the minimum of new equipment for this new mission, it’s going to be “incredibly expensive” and tactically challenging.
For a small service like the Marine Corps, anti-ship missiles are “incredibly expensive,” said Kevin McConnell, deputy director of fires and maneuver on the Marine’s Combat Development & Integration staff. “Even if you consider (doing) a coordinated procurement with the Navy, it still becomes something far larger….than anything we’ve ever undertaken for ground (forces).”
A missile meant to find and a hit moving target, like a ship, is much more costly than one that just has to strike static GPS coordinates. Prices depend on variant and production run, but reported costs for the standard Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System (GMLRS) missile, used by both the Marines and Army, range from about $100,000 to $200,000 a shot. The larger Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS), fired from the same HIMARS and MLRS launchers, costs roughly $750,000 to $820,000. In contrast, McConnell told me, “your bottom-basement going rate on a Harpoon missile or a Naval Strike Missile is somewhere around $1.5 million.”
But buying the missile is just the start. You need to integrate it with a launcher, a fire control network and a supply chain. Don’t forget training and wargames and staff planning.
“This type of mission is well beyond anything Marine artillery currently does, so, in some regards, in my opinion, finding the right piece of ordnance is the easy part,” said Pete Dowsett, the senior analyst for HIMARS in the Fires program at Marine Corps Systems Command. “The more complicated part is the logistics tail… the training…how do those fire missions come from a sensor that we’re not normally linked to…. It’s a pretty complex problem.”
Above all, the Marines told me, their new anti-ship mission must work with and for the Navy. That requires “integration into the naval cooperative engagement network,” McConnell said. “I can’t fathom trying to locate and shoot at ships without the Navy running that show.”
Serving the Navy
For decades, the Navy has helped Marines land and fight ashore — as far inland as Afghanistan. Now the Marine Corps wants to return the favor by helping clear the seas.
Even 10 years ago, the Navy didn’t need the help. Now it does. Regional powers like Iran threaten coastal waters with shore-based missiles and short-ranged but high-speed patrol boats. Near-peers like Russia and China boost their ocean-going battle fleets with submarines, destroyers, and even aircraft carriers.
“For the past 70 years, the US Navy has had undisputed sea control when it wanted. That’s no longer the case,” said Art Corbett, who works in the concepts division of the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory. For the Marines, he said, “the last time we fought for sea control with the Navy was the Solomons campaign” in 1942.
The two services’ joint concept for Littoral Operations in a Contested Environment (LOCE, pronounced “Loki”) is reviving this concept of Marines supporting the fleet. “Any time Marines are going to be pointing missiles seaward, we’re going to be doing this, probably, at the direction of and in coordination with the Navy,” Corbett said. “This is… a naval, networked capability.”
Sharing targeting data with the fleet, Marine Corps anti-ship missiles would be in many ways an extension of the Navy’s Distributed Lethality concept. Distributed Lethality seeks to upgun every possible platform at sea — “ if it floats, it fights” — including lightweight Littoral Combat Ships and even currently unarmed auxiliaries, to multiply both the Navy’s options and an enemy’s problems.
The Marines would provide additional “distributed” firepower from Expeditionary Advance Bases. Carved out of hostile territory by landing forces, kept small and camouflaged to avoid enemy fire, EABs would support F-35B jump jets, V-22 tiltrotors, and drones, as well as anti-ship missiles for the fleet. It’s a high-tech version of Henderson Field on Guadalcanal (part of the Solomons) in 1942. Like Henderson Field, the EABs would provide a permanent presence ashore, inside the contested zone, to support Navy ships as they move in and out to raid and withdraw. The forces ashore are the anvil; the fleet is the hammer.
Shore-based anti-ship missiles wouldn’t be as mobile as ones on ships. But they might be more survivable. Islands don’t sink, after all. Plus, especially in jungle, mountainous, or urban terrain, the land provides far more hiding spaces for a truck-sized HIMARS than the open sea provides for a 400-foot-long ship. Once you launch a rocket, however, the enemy can see your location on radar and infra-red, so the missile batteries must practice “shoot and scoot” tactics: move to a firing point, launch, and move again to a hiding place before enemy retaliation rains down.
Executing such operations in practice, however, requires specialized and costly technology.
Technology & Its Limitations
The good news is that lots of friendly countries already have shore-based anti-ship missiles. The bad news is they may not fit with how the Marine Corps wants to operate: mobile, flexible, and aggressive.
The Marine Corps Request For Information asks for the state of the art because “we know many nations around the Pacific, many in Europe…have all had this kind of capability for decades,” McConnell said. “We would like to make sure it aligns with the Marine Corps concepts of being expeditionary, being able to move at will and being transportable by a variety of means. That was the subject of the RFI.”
“Several nations…. have created this standalone capability,” McConnell said (emphasis ours). “They command and control the missile, the radars, the sensors, in a unit that (only) does that kind of mission, that is permanently oriented on — to use an old term — coastal defense.”
“That kind of exquisite solution” — tailored for a single mission — is probably too expensive and too inflexible for the Marines, McConnell continued. Neither the Marines nor the Army can create a whole new type of unit for “a niche capability,” he said. Instead, the goal is to add anti-ship capability to existing rocket artillery without taking away any of its current capabilities to strike targets ashore.
There are two ways to do this, said Joe McPherson, deputy program manager for fires (i.e. artillery) at Marine Corps Systems Command: “One is modifying our existing missiles and the other would be trying to attempt to bring in missiles that already do this mission.”
Preferably, any new missile would be able to fire from the existing Army and Marine Corps launchers, the wheeled HIMARS and tracked MLRS. “I wouldn’t at this point exclude something like Raytheon-Kongsberg Naval Strike Missile,” said McConnell. “There is a potential that it’s capable of being modified to fire from a HIMARS.”
The Kongsberg NSM is competing for the Navy’s Over-The Horizon (OTH) weapon, which will go on the Littoral Combat Ship and future frigates. The Marines are working closely with the Navy, McPherson told me, and the specifications they’ve set are sufficiently close to the Marine Corps’ needs that “whatever missile they pick” is worth considering for a joint buy, which would significantly reduce costs.
Another potential joint buy is with the Army. In the short term, the Army and the Pentagon’s Strategic Capabilities Office are upgrading the ATACMS, the biggest missile the HIMARS and MLRS can launch, with a range of roughly 187 miles. The long-term solution might be the Army’s Long-Range Precision Fires (LRPF) missile, supposed to be be half the size with 67 percent more range.
However, the Marine Corps RFI only asks for “ranges of 80 miles or greater,” which means they are at least considering lighter, cheaper missiles that a unit could carry more of, trading range for staying power. The Marines are also willing to consider a less sophisticated and therefore less expensive warhead: one good enough to destroy small craft, like missile boats, and damage larger vessels, but probably unable to penetrate the defenses of a full-size warship with sufficient precision to deliver a killing blow.
“That might be the capability we end up with,” McConnell told me. “That might be enough.” (Especially, I might add, if Army units fire longer-ranged ATACMS or LRPF missiles from further back).
The downside is that even an 80-mile missile would need a relatively large launcher, like the HIMARS, and despite having “High Mobility” in its name, Clark is not sure the 12-ton truck is mobile enough for Expeditionary Advance Base operations. (The tracked MLRS is more mobile over rough terrain but weighs 22 tons). “I hope responses to the RFI will address mobility of the fires launcher,” he said.
“The main thing we’re looking for is really what’s in the realm of the possible, both near-term solutions and far-term,” McPherson said of the RFI. Once the data comes back in December, the Marine officials said, they’ll look at their options and start work on an official requirement.
“It’s probably one of the biggest highlights of my life, to be able to help a Marine unit during a firefight,” Cook told National Geographic.
The Barrett M107 .50-caliber long-range sniper rifle is a firearm made for the modern war on terrorism. Officially adopted by the U.S. Army in 2002 and boasting a 2,000-meter range, a suppressor-ready muzzle brake, and recoil-minimizing design, the semi-automatic offers “greater range and lethality against personnel and materiel targets than other sniper systems in the U.S. inventory,” in an assessment by Military.com .
While Barrett’s reputation of “flawless reliability” has made the M107 the sniper weapon of choice, the rifle is just like any other essential tool: It often breaks when you need it most. And that’s apparently what happened to one Marine Corps unit pinned down in a firefight, according to one of Barrett’s longtime armorers.
(This first appeared several months ago.)
Don Cook, a Marine veteran who’s been maintaining M107s for more than two decades, told National Geographic in 2011 that he one day received a call to Barrett’s workshop from a harried young Marine. During maintenance of the unit’s M107, the Marine had bent the ears of the rifle’s lower receiver; the next day, after engaging the enemy, they discovered the rifle wouldn’t fire consistently.
Despite the unit’s lack of tools (and time), Cook knew exactly what to do. The armorer instructed the Marines to use the bottom of the carrier to bend the ears back down. Within 45 seconds, the weapon was firing properly. “Thank you very much,” Cook says they told him, then he heard a dial tone. They had a firefight to get back to.
“It’s probably one of the biggest highlights of my life, to be able to help a Marine unit during a firefight,” Cook told National Geographic.
Watch him recount the incident himself in this excerpt from Sniper Inc, the National Geographic documentary about the Barrett family and the story of the M107 (the story begins at 9:26).
This article by Jared Keller originally appeared at Task & Purpose last month.
And those moves could mean the end of noncombat related “busy work” and could give a true picture for commanders from the squad level up of just how many trained troops they have ready to go and who’s leading them.
Joe L’Etoile is the director of the Close Combat Lethality Task Force. It is a group created earlier this year with the specific initial focus on giving Marine, Army and Special Operations troops at the squad level overmatch against any near-peer adversary or pacing threat.
Much of the early and some ongoing attention looked at equipment, from a better rifle or night vision to reducing the weight of body armor, helmets and batteries.
But at the annual Modern Day Marine military expo in Quantico, Virginia, L’Etoile, a retired Marine infantry lieutenant colonel who previously served as senior adviser on readiness to Secretary of Defense James Mattis, pointed out behind-the-scenes changes that could have an even larger impact.
That could end the decadeslong practice of grabbing bodies from other units to fill out the roster in the soon-to-deploy unit. Because ultimately, he said, that’s a losing game for the total force.
“We have to get away from this Ponzi scheme of transferring people from one unit to another to make a unit whole,” he said. “Because if the balloon goes up, that unit you just cannibalized is now in the hurt locker.”
L’Etoile told a sadly familiar story that many ground combat unit commanders faced during the height of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that continues today: the ‘on paper’ readiness of a unit versus the actual readiness.
“I’ve got scar tissue from this one, big time,” L’Etoile said. “The first time I took my battalion to Iraq I had seven 0311 sergeants out of the 27 I rated for my squad leaders.”
The next time he deployed every one of his new infantry lieutenants was straight out of Infantry Officer Course and had arrived within 90 days of deployment. And 30 of those days were for leave, and another 30 the Marines didn’t have their equipment to train with.
“I was doing flashcards to learn my lieutenants on the flight over,” L’Etoile said.
But the retired infantry officer isn’t whining. That’s just the way it goes when you get the call and troops are needed.
However, there are ways to do it better.
When it comes to truly measuring ready manpower, he said commanders have two questions to answer.
Those are, “assigned strength” and “on-hand strength,” meaning, how many people are assigned to the billets and spots on a unit roster and how many you actually have in those spots, ready to go.
There are a host of reasons why those numbers don’t match, from non-deployable status to Marines or soldiers in schools training. But some of the more troubling are under the form of Borrowed Military Manpower in the Army and Fleet Assistance Program in the Marines.
That’s when base commanders make a call for labor, be it gate guard, tax center assistance or lifeguard duty or handing out towels at the gym.
Both the Marines and Army have begun serious efforts to reduce those jobs that are not increasing lethality, L’Etoile said. In addition, they’re reprioritizing nonlethal training.
He’s not downing suicide awareness or sexual harassment/assault awareness. Those are important, and safety is important.
But new initiatives would give commanders more discretion to put lethality training at the top of the list, giving needed time to the nonlethal needs as that lethality training reaches satisfactory levels.
The question lingers though, of how commanders have a clear picture of their actual strength, their “out-the-door-now” readiness?
L’Etoile said both the Marines and Army have embarked on what he calls potentially department-level, “generational” change in measuring exactly that.
The Marine Corps has recently began inputting detailed squad data into its readiness reporting system. As it gathers, low-, mid- and top-level, commanders can see in a glance where the 648 Marine Corps squads are, how many have sergeants serving as squad leaders who have completed the Infantry Small Unit Leaders Course and how many haven’t, what percentage of squad leaders are sergeants, corporals or lance corporals and more.
On the Army side, “Objective T” is even more demanding, L’Etoile said.
“At the end of the day it is what I consider the ‘Holy Grail’ of readiness,” he said.
The goal is to match the manpower system to readiness.
“So that you have your people when you need them for the training cycle,” he said.
Maj. Bambi: Meet The Marine Who Was Disney's Famous Fawn July 31, 2015
Donnie Dunagan is a hard-nosed Marine, a highly decorated veteran of the Vietnam War who served for a quarter-century before retiring as a major. First drafted in the '50s and subsequently promoted 13 times in 21 years — a Corps record at the time, he recalls — Dunagan found the Marines a perfect fit. That is, so long as he could keep a secret.
A dark reminder of the past Dunagan left behind still lurked unspoken: He was Bambi.
As a kid, Dunagan did a brief stint as a child actor, and he was tapped by Walt Disney to be the voice of the lead in the 1942 Bambi, the now-classic animated film about a young deer learning about life in the forest. And not one of his fellow Marines knew.
"No chance!" Dunagan, now 80, tells his wife, Dana, on a recent visit with StoryCorps in San Angelo, Texas. "I never said a word to anybody about Bambi, even to you. When we first met I never said a word about it. Most of the image in people's minds of Bambi was a little frail deer, not doing very well, sliding around on the ice on his belly."
Now, imagine the man who was once Bambi as a commander in a Marine Corps boot camp, responsible for hundreds of recruits. Dunagan didn't want his recruits drawing any connections, mocking him or calling him "Maj. Bambi." So, he kept his mouth shut.
Of course, it got out eventually. Decades later, a Marine whom Dunagan had worked for several times, twice in combat, called him into his office in the early morning about a month before the two of them retired.
"I go in his office and he says, 'Dunagan! I want you to audit the auditors,' " Dunagan recalls. Swamped with other duties, Dunagan respectfully asked him: "General, when do you think I'm going to have time to do that?"
And, finally, the nightmare he'd harbored for years came true.
"He looked at me, pulled his glasses down like some kind of college professor. There's a big, red, top-secret folder that he got out of some safe somewhere that had my name on it. He pats this folder, looks me in the eye and says, 'You will audit the auditors. Won't you, Maj. Bambi?' "
When Dana asks him how his life is different from the way he might have imagined, Dunagan points out that all the wounds he suffered in service, all the honors he's earned along the way, still haven't changed a thing.
"I have some holes in my body that God didn't put there. I got shot through my left knee. Got an award or two for saving lives over time," he says. "But I think I could have been appointed as the aide-de camp in the White House, it wouldn't make any difference — it's Bambi that's so dear to people."
No matter how he tried to escape it, that voice from his past always found him.
"But I love it now — when people realize, 'This old jerk, he's still alive and was Bambi.' And I wouldn't take anything for it, not a darn thing for it."
Newspaper clippings of young Donnie Dunagan from the early '40s. npr.org
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