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Mar-16-2012 04:26printcomments

The Elimination of the U.S. Marines

With two major air bases on the west coast already closed, new substantial cuts to the Marine Corps look like the beginning of the end.

U.S. Marine in Iraq, 2008 - photo by Tim King
U.S. Marine in Iraq, 2008
Photo by Tim King,

(SALEM) - In an increasing age of mercenary warfare, many will find massive reductions in the U.S. Marine Corps more than alarming. Saddled with bad press; some well deserved and some not, the Marines remain the most efficient fighting force on the planet.

Those of us who write about this legendary military organization have seen the writing on the wall for some time. The reasons are not perfectly clear, but I suspect we have a decent fix on what is taking place.

The Marine Corps and the Marines are not always the same thing. The news that the Corps will eliminate four battalions and 12 air squadrons - a big chunk of the Marine Corps, already by far the nation's smallest and busiest military group, is significant.

The Marine Corps has 70 flying squadrons, now it will have 58. That is a loss of roughly 1/6th of the Marine air strength. They are gutting the smallest group that does the very most always while equipped with the very least.

I was in the Marines, specifically in the 3rd Marine Air Wing; and I have covered both the Iraq and Afghanistan wars where I flew with Marines and covered their operations. As a first-hand witness both in peace and war, I have to say I am shocked over the newly announced reductions, and the fact that the Marines will cut resources from all three air wings.

CH-53 helicopter over shoulder of Marine MP at Al
Asad Marine Air Base, Iraq, 2008. Photo by Tim King

Marines have their critics, they make mistakes - that happens when people are trained to be effective warriors for their country, but when they do mess up there is no mercy; they are held accountable. If there was no military conflict, then it would make sense to do away with the entire military, but dismantling the very best and smallest, on what looks like an irreversible course, is a large mistake.

The Marine Corps fills such a large role for its reduced numbers that it serves the needs of taxpayers at the most efficient level; the politicians are allowing this illogical process to happen. They apparently want to steer America out of the liability zone by using mercenaries like the former Blackwater, now XE; with a horrific reputation of evading war crimes due to their classification as 'contractors', rather than maintain the nation's most useful service. It would cost a lot less to keep the Marines and boot the contractor/mercenary force, who charge big for their deadly services.

Oh that's right, the Marines are not a service, soldiers and sailors love to remind Marines of that... Marines are a Department of the U.S. Navy. This certainly has never been a positive contributing factor as rivalries can be strong and Marine Corps funding elusive at times.

According to information released today by the Marine Corps Combat Development Command and relayed by Megan Eckstein, the 'grunts' who are the backbone of the Marine Corps, will also see a dramatic reduction in numbers.

The Marine Corps' 27 Infantry battalions will be reduced to 23; again reduced roughly by one sixth; 8 infantry regiments will be cut to seven; ten tank companies will be reduced to eight, which is a 20% cut; 3 of 15 light armored reconnaissance companies will cease to exist; a reduction of 1/5th.

In regard to numbers, Megan Eckstein wrote:

Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune in North Carolina will face the steepest cuts, losing 5,800 Marines, including some at nearby Marine Corps Air Station New River. MCAS Cherry Point in North Carolina will lose 2,100. In California , Twentynine Palms will lose 2,500, MCAS Miramar will lose 1,200 and Camp Pendleton will lose 2,300.

Gee, I wonder why the Marine Corps would want to reduce so many Marines from Camp Lejeuene... could it be the terrible water contamination that has led to countless illnesses and deaths; almost always cancer?

The problems that contaminated our U.S. military bases are largely rooted in ignorance and deceit. The manufacturers have always known how dangerous their poisons are; we are talking about Dow and Monsanto, among others, but they did not adequately inform the military - its customers, of the dangers.

If and when they might have done so, there was a breakdown in communicating that information to the people on the ground actually dealing with the chemicals, fuels, solvents, etc. Everyone screwed up and they're getting ready to do it again.

The base where I served most of my enlistment, Marine Corps Air Station El Toro, is a highly documented an EPA Superfund site that was closed in 1999, along another nearby base that was used for helicopters, MCAS Tustin.

These were the two primary west coast Marine Corps aviation bases. Their closures were, in my opinion, part of a long-range plan to eventually close down the Marine Corps entirely, and it seems this latest round of reductions in force are part of the same.

I suspect that the Marine Corps and the Dept. of the Navy know that they can't remain immune from responsibility to Marine families and civilian employees at Camp Lejeune; and after admitting the base is contaminated, the VA too is paying for plenty of related care.

It is what they should do, the responsibility should be toward the Marines themselves, they deserve far more than what they receive, and all U.S. military veterans are blocked from suing the federal government due to the highly questionable 'Feres Doctrine', which shields the government from legal responsibility to those who served in uniform.

The underlying tragedy of it all, as shown to Americans recently on MSNBC documentary, 'Semper Fi- Always Faithful'; is that the government knew about the toxic contamination for a long time and they kept the Marines and their families from understanding what was taking place. So many people died.

Jerry Ensminger was a career Marine, a Master
Sergeant, when his young daughter fell ill from
cancer connected to Camp Lejeune's deadly,
toxic water. Photo courtesy: Jerry Ensminger

Marine Corps Master Sgt. Jerry Ensminger had 25 years under his belt in his beloved Marine Corps; this Vietnam Veteran had been a drill instructor, responsible for training thousands of new recruits. But when Jerry’s nine-year-old daughter Janey passed away from a rare type of leukemia, his structured world began to collapse around him.

Weesie Vieira said of the program in the article MSNBC Presents 'Semper Fi: Always Faithful':

As a grief-stricken father, he spent years struggling to make sense of what had happened—how could an otherwise healthy nine-year-old suddenly become so fatally ill? His search for answers led him to a shocking discovery: the Marine Corps base where his family had lived for years was the site of one of the largest incidents of water contamination in US history.

For thirty years, the drinking water at North Carolina’s Camp Lejeune Marine Corps Base was highly contaminated by toxic chemicals, with some chemical levels at nearly 280 times the legal amount.

Years later, it is estimated that nearly one million Marines and their families may have been exposed to extremely high levels of carcinogens through the water...

Camp Lejeune Marine Jim Fontella survived
Vietnam, and then became one of over 70 to battle
male breast cancer- rare but not at this Marine base.

The stories we have reported about the base include more than 70 male breast cancer patients who either served at Camp Lejeune or lived there as civilians or members of other services. Of course women Camp Lejeune Veterans also suffer breast cancer., but the rate of male breast cancer cases is literally unprecedented.

I believe there was no question about the condition of Camp Lejeune and El Toro with top Marine and Navy commanders and their bosses; the Marines in particular, knew about the dangers for years before releasing the information to the public. At Camp Lejeune they actually forged numbers for years regarding Benzene contamination, only one of so many toxic realities of this place.

We have written at great length and even have a brand new book that will be published soon about El Toro ('A Few Good Men - Too Many Chemicals' by Tim King & Robert O'Dowd); long story short, it was a very important base and its existence seemed paramount to a level of military strength for Southern California that had existed since WWII. Today it is a toxic white elephant and will only become more of a liability for the city of Irvine over time, count on that. They actually planned to turn the toxic contamination site into an expensive series of subdivisions and a park for kids to play in. It is truly an obscene story.

The property should have remained with the military. The base saw major operations in World War Two, Korea, Vietnam, Desert Storm, and then it was closed after so many years after its final starring role, as the base of operations for actor Will Smith's character, a Marine FA-18 Hornet pilot in 'Independence Day'.

Marine Corps sacrifices are marked all over the world.
Afghanistan - 2006 photo by Tim King

I don't think politicians have the right priority; the smallest and most effective component of the military, one with the most successful programs for treating its wounded warriors (Not that many do not slip through the cracks of the system) should be maintained and properly funded.

Marines are the most disciplined and trustworthy Americans in uniform; sometimes they are the dead opposite because they are human beings, but most are decent, sincere, intelligent, bright and devoted. Every nation and government in history has a military, I hate war but support those who take on that hard role. The Marines do this the best and pay the highest cost on a personal level.

In many cases, after they have served and reached an understanding of what life and war are really about, they become peace warriors and can make the best writers.

Over the years, those at the top of this food chain, could have saved the day. I have respect for the present Commandant, Gen James F. Amos; he has been very supportive of the Wounded Warrior program, which our Writer Coral Theill, has explored in detail. I wish him well at this difficult time and commend the Marines for their positive work in this world.

This is my emotional rant, you can read the official stories and gather the numbers through many other sources, I'm sure this was all fairly inevitable and getting people off Lejeune is a good idea, no doubt about that. However I predict we will not be seeing the Corps a whole lot longer.

See: Marines to cut four battalions, 12 air squadrons - Chicago Tribune


Comments Leave a comment on this story.

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Anonymous July 2, 2016 10:47 pm (Pacific time)

Ted Carr

Bob O'Dowd April 20, 2012 6:16 pm (Pacific time)

The Airborne troops I knew were good men; comparable in many ways to the Marines I served with. After my discharge from the Corps, I later worked for a two star Army General who had been with the 82nd Airborne. He was one of the smartest gentlemen I ever had the pleasure to work for in 30 years of government service. Just for the record, I doubt if “Anonymous” ever served in the Airborne and he sure is no history bluff. For the record, there is no instance in which the Airborne during WW II jumped into a fire fight to save Marines. The Army and Marines landed on Okinawa, the last battle of WW II, and fought for some 80 days side by side. Two Marine Divisions landed on the Rock. The 1st MARDIV and the 6st MARDIV. The 2nd MARDIV was held in reserve and released before the battle ended--a definite error on the Army’s part (they were in Command). The 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions record in Europe is outstanding. They jumped into Normandy in June 1944 at night. Not an easy feat, even when not being shot at. The Germans had flooded the fields and many drown before they could release their parachute harnesses. Anyone who fought against the Japanese in the Pacific—Army or Marines—deserve our respect and gratitude. The Japanese with few exceptions did not surrender. It was literally a fight to the death.

Anonymous March 22, 2012 8:49 am (Pacific time)

Paper: Marines down on Obama. The Marine Corps Times previews its cover story about anti-Obama Marines at their 'Battle Rattle' blog. // confidential/marine-times-investigates-anti-obama-marines/438681

Anonymous March 16, 2012 7:46 pm (Pacific time)

A dose of Socialism injected. and entitlements are a mandatory part of any successful Western Democracy. The US has long been on the decline with Capitalism as its sole ideology

Anonymous March 16, 2012 9:51 pm (Pacific time)

Oops! I miswrote re: Okinawa, it was "20" years earlier. And a few misspellings also, have been up for several days looking for pet dog.

Editor: I hope you find it.

Anonymous March 16, 2012 9:41 pm (Pacific time)

Tim King the Airborne was not around in WWI, understand? We came about in the early 1940's. My below quote "Many times going back to the PTO during WWII..." The PTO stands for "Pacific Theatre of Operations." When I went to Vietnam in May 1965, my Airborne unit left from Okinawa, where it had been since my predesessors essentially took the Island 30 years earlier as the Marines did clean up. You earlier alluded to "esprit de corps" which all top units have, and certainly I agree that some Marine units are worthy of that characteristic. I am going by my experience, and documented history. As far as the type of Airborne you came across, they sound as some fringe losers. Recall it was the 173rd Abn. Bde. that first jumped into Afghanistan and later in northern Iraq to set up the future offensives. I recall recently while up at the VA Hospital pushing a Nam buddy to Dental on the 2nd floor someone asked If we had been in the Marines, in unison we replied truthfully, "Our IQ's were too high!" Tim back in late 1966 they flew a number of us Airborne to see Bob Hope. On the other side of the audience in front were a bunch of Marines. They started cat calling us as "falling bird crap." We started tossing tear gas grenades at them, they left very quickly. It was all essentially good natured fun for us, except they knew they would lose if they tried anything with us. You should also realize that I'm just razzing you, but with gobs of reality/truth, so I assume you never served in combat with the Airborne, or the Marines, correct? By the way all who served in the Airborne were volunteers, everyone of us. Oh sure there are those who had been drafted, but Jump School was only on a volunteer basis. During my jump school only 42% finished. What was your rate for plain ol' boot camp? As one trained for even more elite Airborne sun units it became increasingly difficult to pass these training programs. We are professionals, and once Airborne, always Airborne.

Tim King: If it makes you feel better, I said the Airborne are a group I respect, Believe what you want to believe.

Anonymous March 16, 2012 6:26 pm (Pacific time)

I dare say, historically and currently, the top elite military unit of reasonable size is the Airborne. Their espirit is second to none. Many times going back to the PTO during WWII, the Airborne parachuted in to save the Marines. It was these same paratroopers who blew up Japanese airstrips and ordinance to minimize enemy attacks on these Marines. When it comes to quick deployment anywhere in the world, or in America, when you need a large force, it is the Airborne. I can appreciate Marine pride, but it is paratrooper professionalism that they get trumped by. Talk to some Marine WWII infantry to verify how their butts were saved by my brothers...Many Force Recon back in my time when their Marine hitch was up came and attempted to get into our more elite Airborne units. A few actually made it, but very few. When the going gets tough, you will always find the Airborne helping pull the weaker along. It is our burden I guess.

Tim King: I know the Airborne, when I was with their soldiers in Iraq they told me things like, "I was going to join the Marines but I didn't score high enough on the ASVAB" and "I was going to go Marines, but I knew the training would be too hard".  I always thought it was funny that they seemed so compelled to make excuses for not having joined the Marines when they found out I had been one.  The Marines saved the Army twice in WWI at Belleau Wood and that is why the Marines didn't fight in Europe during WWII, to avoid that same embarrassment.  I believe the Army is very respectable, but you are funny at best.  Honestly, I recognize your MO here and I think you're full of it from word one anyway, I don't believe you ever wore anything but a boy scout uniform. 

Bob Gallagher March 16, 2012 9:29 am (Pacific time)

Sit down, relax, take a pill and 10 deep breaths. You wrote a mash-up of about 6 different stories there. Focus. I will only address one of them. The USMC isn't going anywhere. Remember Reagan's 600 ship Navy? It's about half that now. Every service has seen slashing cuts. The Marines have a unique and critical role in national defense. You can rest assured that 100 years from now socialists and entitlementists will still be attacking America from within, Obama will be remembered as a dismal one-term failure, and Marines will still be doing what Marines do.

Tim King: Bob, as you know from this site, Marines are outspoken and become very effective when they engage the public, I fear this integrity scares the unscrupulous members of  the government.  

Anonymous March 16, 2012 7:58 am (Pacific time)

So all the blathering about "protecting" us and fighting the "war on terror" must not be very damn important afterall. Now our "enemies" will all know we have even less defense. Great, they'll e glad to hear the news. Stupid government we have, just incredibly stupid.

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