College of Distance Education
NAVAL WAR COLLEGE
What capabilities and options do U.S. Navy-Marine Corps amphibious forces bring to a Joint Force Commander? What are the current strengths and weaknesses of U.S. amphibious forces? Is forcible entry from the sea still a viable operational option?
Manuel (Don) Biadog, Jr. Commander, Chaplain Corps, United States Navy
A paper submitted to the Faculty of the Naval War College in partial satisfaction of the requirements of the Department of Joint Military Operations.
The contents of this paper reflect my own personal views and are not necessarily endorsed by the Naval War College or the Department of the Navy.
7 January 2010
What capabilities and options do U.S. Navy-Marine Corps amphibious forces bring to a
Joint Force Commander?
The U.S. Navy and Marine Corps amphibious maritime team is a potent combination of
might in our ongoing war on terrorism. These seawarriors must be taking care of first if the
amphibious forces are going to be useful to any Joint Force Commander. This fact was
reiterated by General James T. Conway when he assumed as the 34th Commandant of the Marine
Corps. GEN Conway said, “Our Marines and Sailors in combat are our number one priority.”
The Commandant believes that taking care of the warfighters is of utmost necessity and a major
key in winning the Long War. He outlined his vision for the Marine Corps during his tenure as
the top Marine by focusing on achieving victory in the Long War, right-sizing the Corps to
achieve a 1:2 deployment-to-dwell ratio, providing our Nation a naval force that is fully prepared
for employment as a MAGTF across the spectrum of conflict, resetting and modernizing to be
most ready when the Nation is least ready, improving the quality of life for our Marines and our
families, rededicating the Marine’s Core Values and warrior ethos, and posturing the Marine
Corps for the future.
Based upon General Conway’s current emphasis and vision, it leaves no doubt that the U.S.
Navy-Marine Corps amphibious forces bring awesome capabilities and workable options to any
Joint Force Commander. For one thing, a Navy-Marine Corps Amphibious Team is known for
its ever-ready force when the balloon goes up or emergency crop up such as responding to
humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HA/DR). The Blue-Green Team is always ready by
demonstrating a rapid and effective response to HA/DR. For example, in my personal experience
during my five tours with Marine Corps and Amphibious Group and Squadron I observed that
the Navy-Marine Corps Amphibious Team played and continues to play a crucial role during
HADR operations. One of the best examples of the capability that the Navy-Marine Corps
Amphibious Team demonstrated was during the Joint-Task-Force Balikatan 2006 (JTF-BK06).
“Balikatan” means shoulder to shoulder. JTF-BK06 was formed during one of the worst
landslide disasters in South Leyte, Philippines in February 2006. During the annual Balikatan
Exercise 2006 (BK-06), the Third Marine Headquarters Group (3MHG), III Marine
Expeditionary Force (III MEF), was task to set-up the Command and Control Center and the
some logistics requirements for the annual BK-06, a bilateral annual exercise between the United
States and the Philippines. At the commencement of the training, a landslide hit South Leyte
Province, about four hours south where General Douglas MacArthur amphibious force landed in
Palo, Leyte in October 1944. The Marine Expeditionary Brigade (MEB) Commanding General
was tasked as the Joint Force Commander (JFC) of JTF-BK06. I served under him as his
3MEB/3MHG Chaplain and major conduit for the delivery of humanitarian items to the victims
and their families. In addition, I also served as a major translator for JTF-BK06 under his ground
commander, the Commanding Officer of 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (31st MEU). It was
amazing to observe the rapid responses of the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps Team. Within forty
hours hundreds of thousands of necessary supplies were delivered via aircrafts and amphibious
landing vessels from joint U.S. Navy and Marine Corps Team. The capability and flexibility of
the Amphibious Readiness Group (ARG) and the 31st MEU Team made it possible for this rapid
and effective response to the natural disaster. This ARG – MEU Team compassionate response
to HADR was also a very good example of option or opportunity that helps in winning the hearts
and minds of local people and positively imprinted the minds of hundreds of foreign Armed
Forces and Non-Governmental Agencies (NGOs) who came to help during the rescue and
recovery periods. My boss, the JFC, was extremely proud of the Navy-Marine Corps Team’s
accomplishments during the rescue and recovery periods of the operation.
Another distinctive quality of Navy-Marine Corps team is its expeditionary amphibious
operations. The Marine Corps/Navy Amphibious Readiness Group Team maintains distinctive
expeditionary capabilities support a wide range of U.S. power projection options. These options
run the range of contingencies, from disaster relief (as mentioned above) to high-intensity
combat (such as OIF and OEF). Marine forces are deployed globally and are ready for immediate
employment. Other Marine units can rapidly reinforce other joint forces from their home bases
such as a Marine Reserve Unit in Providence, RI who were called to help in OEF in January
2010. The Navy and Marine Corps provide joint force commanders with a "kick-in-the-door"
capability comprised of both air and amphibious assault from the sea. The combination of these
sea-launched strikes, combined with the complementary capabilities of the Army and Air Force,
create a doorway through which follow-on joint forces may flow, generating a complex
operational dilemma that will overwhelm America's rivals. Operation Desert Storm and OIF are
There are other ample examples of successful expeditionary amphibious operations that
happened in the past battles and campaigns. I chose the battles of Iwo Jima and Okinawa just to
mention two decisive battles fought by Marines with the help of other Armed services. I had a
rare privilege of visiting Iwo Jima three times during military exercise, training, and 60th
Anniversary landing commemoration in 1998, 2004 and 2005. I lived and served three tours in
Okinawa with Third Marine Division, III MEF in 1997-2000 and CTF-76 and Third Marine
Headquarters Group, III MEF in 2003-2007. V. Thomas Smith, Jr. records courageous
operations by Navy-Marine Amphibious Forces during the Battles in Iwo Jima and Okinawa in
In sum, it must be noted that the adaptability and flexibility of amphibious forces provide
unique war fighting capabilities and invaluable humanitarian-type assistance to the Joint Force
Commander (JFC). When our Nation calls for immediate help, our Navy-Marine Corps Team is
ready anytime to accomplish a wide variety of missions. With the blessings from the good
LORD above and with advanced technology on our side, the maritime team is ready to face the
enemies over the horizon (OTH) beyond visual and radar range of shoreline in any place or
clime. The Blue-Green Team can execute a wide range of mission-essential tasks to facilitate the
accomplishment of the joint force mission.
What are the current strengths and weaknesses of U.S. amphibious forces?
The 2009 U. S. Marine Corps Concepts and Programs issue records multiple significant
currents strengths of the U.S. amphibious forces. Due to space limitations I will only discuss
two strengths which I believe these strong points are just as important as any other amphibious
forces power projection.
One of the current strengths of the U.S. amphibious forces is their effectiveness in delivering
humanitarian items and civic assistance in conjunction with training exercises or actual
operations. For instance, forward deployed U.S. 7th Fleet amphibious and Marine forces have
proven overtimes the critical necessities in responding in a timely and expeditious manner to
emergencies and contingencies in PACOM AOR specifically in Southeast Asia. Navy-Marine
Corps Team demonstrated it over and over again that they are ready to help Nations in assigned
AOR that need help when natural and human-driven disasters occurred.
One places we are successful in winning the war against terrorism is our current joint
operations in southern Philippines. The Navy-Marine Corps amphibious team has a huge part in
this successful special operation specifically in delivering humanitarian assistance. At the request
of the Philippine Government, U.S. Joint Special Operations Task Force – Philippines (JSOTF-
P) works together with the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to fight terrorism and deliver
humanitarian assistance to the people of Mindanao in southern Philippines. U.S. forces are
temporarily deployed to the Philippines in a strictly non-combat role to advise and assist the
AFP, share information, and to conduct joint civil military operations. JSOTF-P is made up of
Special Operations forces and support personnel from all four branches of the U.S. military. My
“small contribution” in delivering humanitarian assistance has caught an attention by both the
top leaders of U.S. and Philippine militaries and civilian authorities. In 2003 when I was
stationed with CTF-6, Okinawa, Japan I shared my vision to my Commander (Rear Admiral)
which I initially called “Blue-Green Initiative” (BGI). It was a unique humanitarian joint effort
involving the U.S. Navy and U.S. Marines. The BGI program was implemented during bilateral
joint exercises in PACOM AOR in 2003-2005 in numerous countries. While stationed with Third
MHG, III MEF in 2005, the named changed to “Operation Goodwill.” In his article “Goodwill
gives hope in Philippines,” Gunnery Sgt. Chris W. Cox said, “Operation Goodwill began in
2003 after Okinawa-based service members participating in a training exercise with the
Philippine Armed Forces decided to bring holiday cheer to the children and families they had
seen while here. Since then, more than 130,000 tons of clothes and toys have been donated,
boxed and delivered directly to children or through supporting staffs at orphanages
and hospitals throughout the Philippines.” The delivery of over 130, 000 tons of Goodwill
items included not only in Luzon, but Visayas and Mindanao Islands as well. These humanitarian
actions by the USN-USMC amphibious team helped in winning the hearts and minds of the local
people and partners in defeating the enemies of freedom. The local populace started helping the
armed services by sharing them invaluable information on the insurgents and their activities. In
2008, JSOTF-P committed more than $6.5 million to 70 humanitarian assistance projects to
improve the quality of life for communities in need in Mindanao. In addition, the AFP and
JSOTF-P delivered free medical and dental care to more than 20,000. In 2009, the AFP and
JSOTF-P conducted more than 40 joint Medical Civic Action Programs (MEDCAPS)
delivering free care to more than 8,000 people and began the Education Civic Action
Programs (EDCAPS) to assist school teachers with techniques for teaching their students
Secondly, another visible and undeniable strength of the U.S. amphibious forces is its
manpower. By virtue of the Corps’ superb training, venerable history, and sustained outstanding
services to our Nation, past and current Marines have demonstrated over and over again that they
are the best of the best U.S. Armed Services. To be called a “Marine” is a unique title that every
recruit had to work very hard to earn it. Every Marine that I met and served with since 1990,
carried a sense of healthy pride of service to our Nation, personal responsibility, and hard work. I
had a privilege of meeting two Marines who received the Medal of Honor, COL Barney Barnum
in Washington DC in 2000 and PFC Jack Lucas in Iwo Jima in 2005. These two WWII veteran
and Vietnam era heroes represented the nature of Marines we have in the past and the brave ones
currently serving our beloved Country. They serve voluntarily and make a difference in the lives
of people they touch. In his memoir, Indestructible, The Unforgettable Story of a Marine at
the Battle of Iwo Jima, PFC Jack Lucas said, “I have proven that anyone can step up and make
a difference, as long as they have the determination and perseverance to stick to their goals and
forge ahead, regardless of any obstacles. As long as we have people of faith, vision, and patriotic
spirit there is the prospect of a marvelous future for our country. Pride in America will help us
sustain the unprecedented liberties we know and enjoy. Freedom did not come cheaply, nor does
it has a guarantee to last. It carries with it responsibilities of each and every one of us. You
must be driven if you aspire to succeed.”
Another very good example is the greatest generation specifically Marines and sailors
members who fought during WWII in Iwo Jima. In his latest book, Iwo Jima: World War II
Remember the Greatest Battle of the Pacific, Larry Smith’s chronicles poignant stories of
twenty-two brave Marines and Sailors in Iwo Jima in 1945. Each fearless sea warrior including
one, who became a Navy chaplain, tells his own personal account of what really happened in Iwo
Jima. Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz summed-up their heroic deeds, “uncommon valor was a
I have a huge respect for Marines whom I have had the privileged to serve with in garrisons
in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, MCAS El Toro and Okinawa, training exercises in Japan, Korea,
Singapore, East Timor, the Philippines, waters around Southeast Asia, and in combat zones in
Iraq and Kuwait. They continue to serve with Honor, Courage, and Commitment. GEN James T.
Conway said, “The Marine Corps and the Nation are blessed with young patriots who every day
live up to the proud traditions and great legacy of the Marine Corps….These adaptable and
determined young men and women are professionals in every sense of the word, whether they
are in battle overseas or conducting disaster-relief operations at home.”
In our current on-going involvement in a Long War, unfortunately we will see more combat
related casualties. Visible casualties are for the most part are recognizable and treatable. On the
other hand some of the casualties are not easily decipherable such as Post Traumatic Stress
Disorder (PTSD) and Combat Stress Injuries (CSI). One of the troubling weaknesses of U.S.
amphibious forces which I observed is the Marine Corps’ ongoing challenge of completely
integrating, facilitating, serving, and meeting the needs of returning combat veterans and their
families. There are alarming PTSD and CSI signs such as severe or persistent distress or
impairment, anxious or irritable, behavioral change among those who returned from combat
operations downrange or somewhere else. The RADM Robert Burt, Chief of Navy Chaplains,
said, “I’m especially concern about the cumulative effects that combat stress is having our
people (Sailors, Marines and families)… ‘you don’t have to bleed to be wounded’ is a fitting
reminder that many return from war have injuries that will not be readily apparent to the
untrained eye.” The stressful demands, stressors, and divergences of participation in war can
also be traumatizing, spiritually and morally devastating, and transformative in potentially
damaging ways, the burden of which can be manifest across the lifespan of combat sea warrior
veterans. I had an opportunity to meet Doctor Bill Nash in Okinawa on 25 January 2007. Nash,
a U.S. Navy psychiatrist, is an expert on preventing, treating, and identifying stressors of war
and military researcher of tactics for the management of combat stress. Nash and colleague,
Doctor Charles Figley said, “The nature of war is destruction…combat takes the lives of
warfighters on the battlefield and later, through the wounds that are too serious to heal…those
who survive the dangers of battle, some carry physical wounds forward through the rest of their
lives…to another type of wound, a mental and emotional wound that can also generate long-term
disability, and can also lead to early death.” This happened to my best friend and colleague, a
combat Marine Corps Vietnam and Operation Desert Storm and Operation Iraqi Freedom Navy
veteran. His untimely death was a result of suffering from severe PTSD and CSI. His passing
away affected hundreds of civilian and military leaders, families, colleagues, and all the people
he touched throughout his military career and civilian ministry. He was a wounded healer.
The good news is that the current Marine Corps leadership is proactive in dealing with
combat stress. Nash said, “Effective military leaders are experts in the stress of combat and
operational deployment. Generating combat stress in their adversaries on the battlefield, training,
and unit cohesion are among the most basic tools of the warfighter. Because the creation and
management of stress reactions are so fundamental to their craft, military leaders tend to not to
be neutral to the concept of ‘combat stress.’ They tend to view quite differently stress
experienced by their adversaries, their own troops, and themselves.” With this in mind, the
Corps created the COSC (Combat Operational Stress Control) which “encompasses all policies
and programs to prevent, identify, and treat stress problems caused by combat or other
operations.” The Commandant has given his blessing and set COSC as one of his priorities in
building resiliency in the Marines and their families. The program is working to a degree, but it
needs more continuing support among the leaders in order to gain its full potential of really
helping the Marines and their families. We also need to do more of spiritual send-offs and
improve the way we prepare to welcome our heroes, the Marines. I have been involved in a
number of Spiritual send-off and Welcome Home to Heroes events. I feel that we can do more
for Combat Marines and their families. “The environment they return to makes a real difference
in how the transition home goes. War zone veterans, their families and their communities would
benefit from everyone getting involved and creating a welcoming, thoughtful and helpful
environment.” I feel that we can do better in taking care of our combat Marines and their
families. (Please see photos in the Addendum).
Is forcible entry from the sea still a viable operational option?
Joint Doctrine for Forcible Entry Operations defines forcible entry as “seizing and holding
of a military lodgment in the face of armed opposition.” It is a joint military operation, conducted
with the expectation of armed opposition, which gains entry into the territory of an adversary in
order to achieve a coup de main or enable the conduct of follow-on operations. With this in mind
I believe that forcible entry from the sea is still a viable operational option. Historically, the
Marines have proven that this type of procedure was very vital in the battle against the enemies.
The Guadalcanal campaign, the first ground offensive of World War II, is a good example of
forcible entry by assaulting the enemies from the sea on 7 August 1942- 9 February 1943. The
Battle for Iwo Jima, a decisive victory for the U.S. Marines on 19 February-17 March 1945, is
another very good example of forcible entry from the sea with a huge help from naval
bombardments and aircrafts bombings.
This is my personal interpretation of the previous and (future) of the Corps forcible entry
operations. When supported by joint firepower from the air and sea, the Marine Corps’ forcible
entry operations capitalized on strategic and operational mobility that ultimately no doubt
surprised the enemy, seized a lodgment, and gained the initiative. Once the assault force seized
the lodgment, it normally defended to retain it while the JFC rapidly deployed additional combat
power and sustainment by air and sea. When conditions were favorable, the JFC combined a
forcible entry with other offensive operations in a coup de main, thus facilitated in achieving the
strategic objectives in a simultaneous major operation. Per the historical documentation above,
the Marine Corps was successful and will be successful in this type of maneuver from the sea to
Based upon the successes in the past, the Marine Corps’ forcible entry from the sea, I
believe it is still very crucial to current operations. Navy-Marine Corps Team conducting a
forceful ingress from the sea or amphibious raid is a proven tactical tool by the Amphibious
Team in destroying terrorists and their sanctuaries, capturing pirates or other criminals and
seizing smuggled goods, rescuing hostages or securing, safeguarding and removing materials to
include weapons of mass destruction.
On-going forcible entry from the sea training with our allies is a major key in continuing an
overwhelming advantage against our enemies. During underway periods I observed the Navy-
Marine Corps Team in action during training exercises, I was and will always be in admiration of
the power projection, professionalism, military bearing, and the demonstrations of skills by our
modern-day heroes, the sea-warriors. The United States Marine Corps’s motto, Semper Fidelis
which means Always Faithful is my favorite military motto. Bravo Zulu to all the Marines!
(Please see photos in the Addendum.)
Figley, Charles R. and Nash William P., Eds., Combat Stress Injury: Theory, Research, and Management, New York: Routeledge, 2007.
JP 3-18, Joint Doctrine for Forcible Entry Operations, Washington, DC: Department of Defense, July 2001.
Lucas, Jack and Drum, D. K., Indestructible, The Unforgettable Story of a Marine at the Battle of Iwo Jima, Cambridge: Da Capo Press, 2006.
Smith, Larry, Iwo Jima: World War II Veterans Remember the Greatest Battle of the Pacific, New York: W. W. Norton and Company, 2008.
Smith, W. Thomas Jr., Alpha Bravo Delta: Guide to Decisive 20th-Century American Battle, New York: Alpha Books 2003.
U.S. Joint Special Operations Task Force – Philippines (JSOTF-P April 2009), “JSOTF-P Fact Sheet,” http://jsotf-p.blogspot.com/2009/04/jsotf-p-fact-sheet.html (accessed January 1, 2010).
United States Marine Corps, 2007 United States Marine Corps Concepts and Programs, Washington DC: HQ U.S. Marine Corps, 2007.
United States Marine Corps, 2008 United States Marine Corps Concepts and Programs, Washington DC: HQ U.S. Marine Corps, 2008.
United States Marine Corps, 2009 United States Marine Corps Concepts and Programs, Washington DC: HQ U.S. Marine Corps, 2009.
U. S. Marine Corps Combat Development Command Quantico, VA, Marine Corps Operating Concepts for a Changing Security Environment, Second Edition June 2007 (Quantico: MCCDC 2007).
U.S. Marines in Japan, “Goodwill gives hope in Philippines,” Okinawa Marines, http://www.okinawa.usmc.mil/PublicAffairsInfo/ArchiveNewsPages/2009/091218-goodwill.html (accessed January 1, 2010).
U. S. Navy Chaplain Corps, Combat Operational Stress Control: The Family Dynamic, Newport: Naval Chaplains School, January 2009.
Amphibious Assault Vehicle (AAV) during Training Exercise in the Philippines Sep 2003
Marines and Sailors offload Hum Items called “Blue-Green Boxes” via Landing Craft Utility (LCU) in Luzon, Philippines Sep 2003
Amphibious Assault Vehicle during Training Exercise in Asia in Sep 2003
Landing Craft, Air Cushioned (LCAC) during Amphibious Assault
Training Waters around Indonesia in Oct 2003
CH-53E during VERTREP & Amphibious Training exercise in Indian Ocean in Oct 2003
UNREP with Amphibious ships USS Essex (LHD-2),
USNS Ericsson (T-AO-194), &
USS Ft McHenry (LSD-43) in Indian Ocean in Oct 2003
Joint-Task-Force Balikatan-2006, South Leyte Sunday 19 February 2006
JFC with US & RP Officials (Senator Dick Gordon),
Joint-Task-Force Balikatan-2006 Guinsaugon, St Bernard,
South Leyte Sunday 19 February 2006
Marines & Sailors during Joint-Task-Force Balikatan-2006,
Barangay Guinsaugon, St Bernard, South Leyte on 23 February 2006
Marines during Joint-Task-Force Balikatan-2006, Barangay Guinsaugon,
St Bernard, South Leyte on 24 February 2006
Marines & Sailors during Joint-Task-Force Balikatan-2006, Barangay
Guinsaugon, St Bernard, South Leyte on 24 February 2006
Chaplain Bob Boardman, Silver Star USMC WWII Hero Battle for Okinawa,
June 2005 USO, Camp Hansen, Okinawa
Jack Lucas, USMC youngest MOH recipient, Battle for Iwo Jima,
15 March 2005 60th Anniversary in Iwo Jima
Praying for Marines and Sailors during 59th Anniversary of the
Battle for Iwo Jima March 2004 On board USS Ft McHenry (LSD-43),
Waters around Iwo Jima
3rd MAW C-130 Crew Offloading “Operation Goodwill”
Humanitarian Items from Okinawa to Zamboanga, Mindanao,
Philippines in 2006
3rd MEB Commander Presents thousands of toys to kids during
“Operation Goodwill” Christmas Holiday in Palawan,
Philippines December 2006
6th Motor Transport Battalion Spiritual Send-Off to OEF,
Providence, Rhode Island 5 Jan 2010
May the good LORD protect all these Marines from harm. Amen!
Praying for Marines of 6th Motor Transport Battalion and their families during Spiritual Send-Off to Operation Enduring Freedom, Providence, Rhode Island 5 Jan 2010