If you browsed Marine Corps Times’ website today, odds are good that you saw my story about the Corps launching two new Marine expeditionary brigade headquarters capable of leading joint task forces in times of crises.
Most of the information comes from an interview last month with Lt. Gen. George Flynn, deputy commandant for combat development and integration. As head of the Marine Corps Force Structure Review, he’s one of the few Marines around right now in position to describe some of the heavily anticipated changes expected as the Corps resets for life in the 21st century.
Flynn said the Corps has begun to develop new, one-star MEB headquarters that will be called on in times of crises to lead joint task forces. Forces will be called on as necessary, with one MEB falling under Marine Corps Forces Central Command and the other falling under Marine Corps Forces Africa Command. Combined, those two regions cover most of the world’s unstable countries.
There’s at least one thread that isn’t clear, however: While officials acknowledge the plan is to base the MARCENT MEB at MARFORAF headquarters in Germany, they are more tight-lipped about the plan for the one in MARCENT and U.S. Central Command.
“I think the final location for the MARCENT MEB will have to be decided by a joint working group between headquarters Marine Corps and the Central Command,” Flynn said. “I think it’s too early to say where the flag is going to be permanently planted.”
When you circle back to the planning guidance now-retired Commandant Gen. James Conway issued last summer, however, one possible plan becomes more clear. Officers planning for the future were directed to expect the Corps would “establish a forward headquarters, with enablers, for U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Central Command in Bahrain.”
The guidance also said Marine leadership had decided to “establish one or more one-star level JTF headquarters within the combatant commands” while ensuring the rest of the Corps received adequate resources.
CENTCOM, commanded by Gen. James Mattis, is based at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Fla. So is MARCENT. There are other MARCENT elements in Bahrain, however, and a company of Marines with Fleet Anti-Terrorism Security Team is based there to assist in embassy reinforcement and other missions that are needed in CENTCOM’s area of operations.
Adding to the intrigue, it was expected that Brig. Gen. Brian Beaudreault, the Corps’ deputy director of MARCENT, would be stationed in Bahrain, according to a newspaper report written from his promotion ceremony last summer. The event was attended by Assistant Commandant Gen. Joseph Dunford.
Regardless of the outcome, it appears the Corps will put an increased emphasis on getting to crises first, something that already was a strength due to the service’s Marine expeditionary units. It’ll be interesting to see how all this plays out in coming months.