The Missourian's Dec. 13 reprint of the Joplin Globe's editorial on the Marines caught my eye, as might be expected.
Well-intentioned and, for the most part, accurate, it addressed the proposed restructuring and resizing of the Marine Corps and cautioned that budgetary pressures should not trump strategic or tactical (my addition) reality.
The Globe editorial traced the history of the Marines as "soldiers of the sea," an expeditionary extension of Naval sea power against threats in the littoral or coastal regions of the world.
In 1927, the Marine Corps was given the mission of advancing the doctrine of amphibious warfare, along with establishing the Fleet Marine Force as an amphibious force in readiness for seizure of advance bases.
The editorial also correctly stated that the Marines were never intended as an adjunct force of and for the U.S. Army in the conduct of long-term land warfare.
However, the inference that World War II saw the Marines as first being so engaged is in error.
Enjoying a deeper pool of officers and NCOs with combat experience because of participation in "small or banana wars," the Marines played a central role in World War I, notably in repulsing the German's June 1918 offensive in Belleau Wood and counterattacking to carry the battle to successful completion.
The Marine Corps continues to reaffirm its role as America's expeditionary force in readiness.
Task-organized for combat deployment as Marine Corps Expeditionary Units, Marine Expeditionary Brigades and Marine Expeditionary Forces, the Marines own a unique capability to be the first to fight by launching air/ground/logistics teams into combat on short notice.
Beginning with the Marine Expeditionary Units' battalion landing team with its task-organized air support and logistics component, moving up to the Expeditionary Brigades' regimental landing team, supported by a Marine Aircraft Group, to the Expeditionary Forces' Marine Division and Marine Aircraft Wing, the Marines have the capacity to project a force ranging in size from 2,500 to more than 20,000 Marines to any location where they might be needed.
Consisting of three Marine divisions, three Marine aircraft wings and three Force Service support groups, the Fleet Marine Forces plus the necessary base support facilities, the U.S. Marine Corps is not an inexpensive member of the nation's national defense apparatus.
Consequently, particularly when funds are tight, the question arises: "How can the United States justify the cost of a corps of Marines that merely duplicates the mission of the U.S. Army?
The answer is easily found in the Defense Department's budget. Including all the Navy's amphibious ships, the Marine Corps represents but 8.5 percent of that budget.
For that, America gets 31 percent of the nation's ground forces, 15 percent of ground troop brigades, 12 percent of its fighter/attack aircraft and 19 percent of its attack helicopters — obviously a bargain-priced insurance policy.
Of interest also is the average cost per active duty member. A Marine costs the taxpayer $63,333; a soldier, $72,781; a sailor, $76,694; and an airman, $78,701.
It appears, too, in the general/flag officer ranks. The Air Force is the highest with a ratio of one flag officer to 1,000 airmen, compared with the Navy's one to 1,279 sailors, the Army's one to 1,808 soldiers and one to 2,350 for the Marines.
Consequently, as the nation's expeditionary force in readiness, task-organized in self-sustaining combat teams to be the first deployed to a theater of operations, it is penny wise and pound foolish to contemplate a major reduction in the U.S. Marine Corps.
With the cost comparison portrayed above, the Marines obviously continue to provide the most "bang for the taxpayer's buck."
Each of the four services under the Department of Defense is assigned a specific mission; nevertheless, these missions often overlap and equally often complement one another.
Accordingly, after securing a beachhead or a salient inland, there often remains a mission for the Marines in addition to the Army's heavier follow-on forces.
Additionally, the Marines' amphibious and over-the-horizon capabilities offer a maneuver potential of striking an unsuspecting enemy on his flanks or in his rear.
The U.S. Marine Corps does not duplicate the U.S. Army's mission but has a long and successful history of deploying to wherever it is ordered and accomplishing its assigned mission, by land, sea or air.
Except for some good-natured banter, there is no actual interservice rivalry. Marines ask for nothing beyond fighting their country's battles as United States Marines.
There are Army officers and soldiers, Naval officers and sailors, Air Force officers and airmen, but from our commandant to the newest boot-camp grad, we are all called Marines.
Former President Ronald Reagan said it best: "Some people spend an entire lifetime wondering if they made a difference in the world. But, the Marines don't have that problem."
If everybody could be a Marine, it wouldn't be the Marines.
J. Karl Miller retired as a colonel in the Marine Corps. He is a Columbia resident and can be reached via email at JKarlUSMC@aol.com.