Monday, November 10, 2014

Happy Veterans Day and USMC Birthday To All My Fellow Marine Corps Vets

For Veterans Day and the Marine Corps Birthday, I thought I'd rerun this post on organization within the USMC. For all the info that's now outdated, I apologize. This is my best recollection of how it was when I was in.

First of all, unit organization is not totally cut and dried. Some units may be assigned to more than one operational group. For example, 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines is part of 1st Marine Division, but it also part of 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit - a quick-response interdiction force. But in general - and I'm just talking about combat arms here - the layout is this:

The Marine Corps falls under the Department of the Navy.

The Marine Corps provides the ground (and part of the air) combat arms for the two Fleet Marine Forces (Pacific and Atlantic), which also include naval forces. When I was in, my unit was part of FMF (fighting motherfuckers) Pacific.

Within FMF Pac is the 1st Marine Division (1st MarDiv). Anyone who's been in the Marines will recognize this:

1st MarDiv is based at Camp Pendleton, CA. The current commander is Major General Regner, who presides over 15,000 to 20,000 Marines. Other active Marine divisions are the 2nd, based at Camp Lejeune, NC, and the 3rd, based in Okinawa, Japan.

1st MarDiv is made up of the 1st, 5th, 7th and 11th Marine Regiments. When you read or hear that someone was in "5th Marines", they mean 5th Marine Regiment. I have no idea how it came to be that the "Regiment" designation was commonly dropped in speech and writing. In addition to these infantry regiments, 1st MarDiv includes 1st Combat Engineers, 1st Tanks, 1st Force Recon, 3rd Amtracs, and other units. Marine regiments are typically commanded by a Colonel, who oversees 3,000 to 5,000 Marines. My old regiment was 5th Marines:

Marine infantry regiments are usually (but not always) made up of a Headquarters Company and three infantry battalions. A battalion is usually commanded by a Lieutenant Colonel, who oversees 500 to 1,200 Marines. My old unit was 2nd Battalion, 5th Marines, or 2/5:

Infantry battalions usually consist of a Headquarters and Service (H&S) Company, three or so infantry companies, and a Weapons Company. The infantry companies are designated by the phonetic alphabet (A=Alpha, B=Bravo, C=Charlie, etc.). Weapons Company typically consists of both rifle infantry and support weapons (anti-armor, mortars, machineguns). My old unit was E/2/5. Infantry companies are usually commanded by a Captain, who leads 100 to 300 Marines.

Marine infantry companies are made up of three rifle platoons and a weapons platoon. The rifle platoons are designated as 1st, 2nd and 3rd. The weapons platoon (my old assignment) handles support weapons (recoilless rifles [video at 2:35], flames, and rockets, in my day - I don't know what they are now). Platoons are usually led by a 2nd Lieutenant, commanding about 40 to 45 men.

A rifle platoon is made up of three 13-man squads. Each squad consists of three 4-man fireteams and a squad leader (Sergeant). A fireteam has a fire team leader, a rifleman, an automatic rifleman, and an assistant automatic rifleman ("ammo humper"). In my era, all four carried M-16s, which could be selected for semiautomatic or fully automatic fire. Alternatively, automatic riflemen were equipped with M-14s with full-auto switches on them (a handful to shoot). I don't know what the current weapons are. The Marine fireteam is the basic tactical unit in combat, and typically moves 2-by-2: 2 providing covering/suppressing fire while the other 2 move.

I hope this helps those of you who enjoy reading my posts about Marine Corps history.

Disclaimer: A lot of this is from memory. It's been a few weeks since I was in, so overall organization may have changed some. In general, organization is fluid and flexible, depending on the situation (e.g., peace time vs. war time) and numbers of available troops. Numbers within a unit vary widely, depending on available manpower, type of unit, numbers of supporting troops, casualties, etc. Units are also reorganized and renamed over time. In other words, this is all ballpark. And I haven't even touched on the Air Wing or other supporting units. Any errors are my own.


Adam and Ramona said...

Many thanks to all for your service to our country.

Struck by a Turtle said...

God bless the good guys.