Improving Maneuverability in Infantry Battalions: A Simple Solution
Infantry battalions are the primary unit the Marine Corps uses to fight and win battles, a key component to winning those battles is reliable and responsive logistical support. Currently, infantry battalions do not possess medium lift tactical vehicles on their Table of Equipment (T/E), and must rely on outside units to provide support for movement of troops and equipment. If a battalion commander had the ability to quickly transport a platoon without requesting support from an outside unit, that battalion would be capable of generating greater combat power by improving their speed and focus on the battlefield.1 Marine Corps should provide infantry battalions a limited organic ability to move troops via motorized medium lift vehicles by adding five Medium Tactical Vehicle Replacements (MTVR) to a battalion’s T/E.
USMC Fox Company, 2nd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment (2/5th MARS), Marines dismount from a MK-23 Medium Tactical Vehicle Replacement (MTVR) 7-ton cargo truck during convoy training operations being conducted on Delta Prospect Range (Range 400), aboard Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center (MCAGCC), Marine Air Ground Task Force Training Center (MAGTFTC), Twentynine Palms, California (CA).
Manning and equipping a battalion with the assets necessary for victory is of the utmost importance. To successfully employ an infantry battalion, the commander must be responsive to logistics requirements and be able to maneuver their forces on the battlefield quickly and efficiently.2 Currently, infantry battalions have a limited ability to transport Marines and equipment with the vehicles organic to the unit. Infantry battalion’s have High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle (HMMWV) variants which are due to be replaced by the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV), neither are sufficient for transporting large numbers of Marines and heavy cargo. Infantry battalions have a sufficient number of licensed vehicle operators and vehicle mechanics to drive and maintain the logistics vehicles and equipment, adding five more vehicles will have a minimal effect on personnel staffing.3
Because infantry battalions have limited transportation capabilities, they must rely on higher headquarters or adjacent units to provide transportation of Marines and equipment. Many times these options do not provide consistent and reliable support. For example, infantry regiments have a small number of MTVRs on their T/E and support all four infantry battalions within the regiment. This limits a battalion’s ability to have dedicated medium lift support at all times due to regiment having to support other battalions, which decreases operational tempo. Other units such a Combat Logistics Battalion (CLB) provide support to infantry battalions both in garrison and forward deployed. The CLB is the most capable unit to support the logistics requirements of infantry battalions. The relationship that a CLB and infantry battalion has when forward deployed as a Battalion Landing Team (BLT) is typically efficient and effective because the CLB is dedicated to supporting only one infantry battalion. This relationship is not as effective in garrison; there, a CLB is often supporting several other units at the same time. The lacking relationship can cause significant delays in support for training and exercises because there may not be assets from the CLB available due to competing support requirements. Battalion logistics personnel are often forced to look outside these units for support to units that they may have a personal relationship with in order to secure the support needed to continue training. This mechanism is not the preferred method to rely on as it centers on personal relationships rather than procedures. While the CLB is the primary source of medium lift support for the battalions, a secondary option is requesting support from the artillery battery that becomes part of the BLT. The artillery batteries have MTVRs on their T/E and can often support battalions. However, this is often not a reliable or recommended course of action because the MTVRs that the battery has are the only means they have to move their artillery, ammunition, and Marines. Taking that ability away from them even for short periods can seriously limit their capability. Using the battery as logistic support should only be used as a last resort.
Alternatively, providing infantry battalions a limited organic medium lift capability offers a better option to enhance their speed and maneuverability in the event logistics support is unavailable. Adding five MTVRs to an infantry battalion T/E will improve maneuverability and speed while reducing the support requirement for logistics units allowing both the infantry battalion and logistics units to avoid delays and interruptions in their own training and missions. The added assets will benefit infantry battalions in garrison and training, because they will have a capability to move a limited number of troops around the training areas instead of having to rely on higher and adjacent units. Not only will they be able to move Marines, but they will also be able to move equipment such as the M149 water trailer that requires a medium lift vehicle to move. Battalions will still rely on their Regiment, CLB, and other supporting units for larger, more cumbersome movements of Marines and equipment. The benefits of having a limited medium lift capability while forward deployed will allow the battalion commander the opportunity to directly task and employ a limited medium lift capability within the battalion quickly, rather than coordinate with supporting units. Marines will all be trained to the same battalion combat and convoy operation standards and the Marines within the battalion’s motor transport platoon would be the vehicle operators and have a more intimate working relationship with the infantry Marines they are transporting. This will enhance unit cohesion and effectiveness.
A USMC MK-23 MTRV cargo truck equipped with a M2HB .50 caliber heavy machine gun mounted on top, carries Marines assigned to Battery/F, Battalion Landing Team, 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marines, 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), Special Operations Capable (SOC), as they move out in a convoy of vehicles headed to an allied position in Iraq, during Operation IRAQI FREEDOM.
While soliciting input from subject matter experts, a few opinions on the suggestion of adding medium lift vehicles to infantry battalions were provided.4 One former infantry battalion commander remarked, “In terms of having the added organic mobility, I am for it. For obvious reasons MTVRs can serve many different logistical needs for a battalion that have a huge impact, including but not limited to substantial re-supply otherwise not possible by a battalion.”5 However, he raised concerns about the added maintenance cost, possible support personnel increases to the Table of Organization (T/O), and how that would affect the future force structure. His comments highlight that although this suggestion for improvement seems simple on the surface, there may to be more complicated issues concerning funding that need addressed.
Current and former logistics officers who have served in infantry battalions provided varying opinions and generally liked the idea and provided several pros and cons from their experience. Some of the pros were that it would alleviate the burden on a Truck Company of supporting an entire division, it allows battalions to internally support up to company-sized exercises, and the change would reduce S4 timelines/workload with regard to requesting, coordinating, and managing external support requests. The cons were that the additional vehicles would come with an increased maintenance workload, the battalion may struggle to have enough licensed MTVR operators outside of their motor transportation platoon, and the risk of those MTVRs being damaged if infantry Marines were granted licenses and subsequently damaged them due to limited experience driving the heavier vehicles. One logistics officer interviewed thought the idea had potential, but was ultimately against it, stating, “I love the idea of MTVRs and if someone came to me today and offered me a couple to utilize, I would probably take them, but ultimately I am against the concept. I think it’s a slippery slope when giving the Infantry Battalion more gear with which to make it self-sufficient…the more we try to enable the infantry battalion to be self-sufficient, the less the battalion and mostly its S4 shop become habituated to the necessary process of requesting, procuring, and verifying support from outside agencies.”6
As seen from some of the comments, there are several valid counter arguments to why adding MTVRs to an infantry battalion may not be effective. One of them is that making infantry battalions self-sufficient is not preferable because units such as the CLB and Truck Company are responsible for MTVR transportation. While this is true and supporting the Marine Corps logistical needs is the purpose of these units, adding five MTVRs to an infantry battalion will have a minimal effect their purpose and mission. Battalions will still be utilizing CLB and Truck Company for their larger logistics support needs, while allowing battalions the opportunity to handle smaller requirements organically. Affording battalions the ability to be less dependent on supporting logistics units will make them more efficient and maneuverable of the battlefield.
Another argument heard was that adding MTVRs to an infantry battalion T/E would reduce the mutual support/teamwork within the division. If infantry battalions become less dependent on supporting units, when the time comes for them to utilize that support, the relationships may be degraded and inefficient due to an absence of practiced coordination and fostered relationships. Battalions will still rely on supporting logistics units for the majority of their logistics requirements, and, in doing so, will foster an environment that promotes teamwork with those units. While building those relationships is key, a battalion commander is responsible for the overall mission accomplishment of their unit. If adding MTVRs to the T/E makes the battalion more effective, the loss of a small amount of coordinating efforts would be justified.
Lastly, addressing the increased cost of maintaining MTVRs organically in the battalion could be detrimental to the battalion’s overall budget. Maintenance costs account for a large portion of a battalion’s budget, and although adding five MTVRs to the T/E could increase maintenance costs, there are solutions to keeping those costs down. For example, by adding five MTVRs to the T/E, a battalion could reduce some of the HMMWVs or JLTVs on the T/E, therefore offsetting costs by reducing current maintenance costs. Battalions could also build relationships with supporting units that currently own and maintain MTVRs to use their maintenance facilities and equipment on a case-by-case basis when battalion maintenance facilities cannot properly facilitate repairs on MTVRs. A review of historical maintenance data for MTVRs across the Marine Corps shows that annual maintenance costs can vary greatly.7 If MTVRs are transferred from existing units, the maintenance budget for those vehicles should also be transferred to the battalions as well so that their budget is not affected.
USMC Fox Company (F Co.), 2nd Battalion (BN), 5th Marine Regiment (2/5th MARS), Marines help to offload simulated casualties from the back of a MK-23 MTVR 7-ton cargo truck as they care for simulated casualties during convoy training operations being conducted on Delta Prospect Range (Range 400), which is aboard Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center (MCAGCC), Marine Air Ground Task Force Training Center (MAGTFTC), Twentynine Palms, California (CA)
To increase effectiveness and organic maneuver capability the Marine Corps should restructure the T/E to add five MTVR’s per infantry battalion across the Marine Corps. As sated earlier, these vehicles can be transferred from CLB and Truck Company to the infantry battalions. Another option is for the Marine Corps to allocated funds to purchase new MTVRs. There are 32 infantry battalions in the Marine Corps, if the Corps were to purchase 160 MTVRs (five per Battalion) at a cost per MTVR of $232,452, the total cost would be approximately $37,192,329 based on the 2005 MTVR purchase contract.8 Keeping in mind that the cost per MTVR is based on the negotiated contract price, which could be higher or lower than the 2005 purchase contract. Changing the T/O of infantry battalions should not be necessary as there should be enough vehicle operators and mechanics within the battalion’s motor transportation platoon to handle the increase of five vehicles. The Marine Corps can train and certify secondary operators via the battalion’s internal vehicle operator licensing program. These drivers are junior Marines sourced from the companies in the battalion and serve as secondary drivers if the need for more drivers arises.
The Marine Corps should change the T/E for infantry battalions by adding MTVRs to infantry battalions to improve their effectiveness and organic maneuverability. In his planning guidance, the 38th Commandant of the Marine Corps states that force design is his number one priority.9 He goes on to state that the Marine Corps “must change” and further states that the Corps must divest itself from “force structure that supports legacy capabilities.”10 Providing infantry battalions MTVRs makes them a more agile force and supports the commandant’s vision in shaping the Marine Corps to be a more tailored and diverse force of the future, ready to be deployed and operate more effectively at a moment’s notice.
Captain Joint serves as a logistics officer in the Marine Corps. He has served in Iraq with CJTF-OIR, Kuwait with the 11th MEU, and various other deployed locations with the 11th and 13th MEUs. He has served as S4A at 2nd Bn, 1st Marines, Protocol Officer and Aide de Camp to the SECNAV, and is currently attending Expeditionary Warfare School in Quantico. He has a bachelors degree in Management from Park University and a masters degree in Public Administration from Penn State University.
1 Headquarters US Marine Corps, Warfighting. MCDP 1: (Washington, DC:
Headquarters US Marine Corps, June 20, 1997), page 40-42.
2 Headquarters US Marine Corps, Logistics. MCDP 4: Washington, DC:
Headquarters US Marine Corps, February 21, 1997, page104-105.
3 USMC Total Force Structure Management System, Unit TO&E Report, H&S CO 1/2 2D MARDIV, Camp Lejuene, NC: Headquarters US Marine Corps, December 5, 2019, page 50-52.
4 USMC Officers (various) (United States Marine Corps), interviewed by Jim Joint, Alexandria, VA, October 2019, via email.
5 USMC Officers (various) page 1.
6 USMC Officers (various) page 5-6.
7 TLCM-OST (2020), TLC Dashboard FY20 [Microsoft Excel spreadsheet], Camp Lejeune, NC: USMC.
8Defense Industry Daily, Marines Get $337.9M in MTVR Trucks & Armor Kits, Defense
Industry Daily, October 2005, https://www.defenseindustrydaily.com/marines-get-
9 David H. Berger, Commandants Planning Guidance: 38th Commandants of the Marine Corps, (Washington, DC: Headquarters, US Marine Corps, July 2019), page 2.
10 David H. Berger. page 2.