In anticipation of the possible expansion of the U.S. war against
al-Qaeda or other suspected terrorist groups, the Marine Corps has
launched several projects aimed at preparing for combat in areas
such as the Philippines or Somalia.
To win urban battles in places like Mogadishu, Marines are crafting
tactics that would allow them to conduct covert reconnaissance missions.
This effort, called Project Metropolis, has been underway for more
than six months. The goal is for Marines to become proficient at
“urban reconnaissance,” said Brig. Gen. William D. Catto,
commander of the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory.
The first phase of Project Metropolis focused on basic urban skills
training. Next came urban reconnaissance.
This project is not about high-tech gear or weaponry, Catto explained
in a recent interview. It’s about how a Marine could sneak
into downtown Mogadishu and blend in with the local population,
while collecting intelligence, undetected. As the program evolves,
Catto said, “We are trying to figure out tactics, techniques
To kick off Project Metropolis, the Corps conducted an experiment
in Little Rock, Ark., last month. There are drills planned for April,
in Chicago and November, in Boise, Idaho.
The February experiment in Little Rock included 300 personnel from
the Corps’ 4th Marine Expeditionary Brigade (Anti-Terrorism),
a team from the 4th Reconnaissance Battalion and Marines from 3rd
Battalion, 23rd Marines. This event was designed more as a domestic-security
exercise than as a war-fighting drill for operations overseas.
Marine Corps spokeswoman Jenny Holbert said that the experiment
in Little Rock aimed to “examine tactics, techniques, procedures
and technologies in urban security operations and urban ground reconnaissance.”
A tabletop war-game involved leaders from North Little Rock and
the 4th MEB (AT). Marines conducted mock vehicle searches, security
patrols, casualty evacuation, convoy re-supply and building searches
at pre-selected sites.
The Special Operations Command is considering participating in
Project Metropolis, even though it already is pursuing a separate
program in urban reconnaissance, Catto said. “They are talking
about teaming with us.”
To be sure, urban training is not new at the Marine Corps, especially
since the mid-1990s, under then-Commandant Charles Krulak, who advocated
the need to train Marines for urban combat. But even though the
Corps has an extensive training program for MOUT (military operations
in urban terrain), Catto said he believes that there are still deficiencies
when it comes to reconnaissance. “Frankly, we are not very
good at it right now,” he said.
The ability to carry out reconnaissance missions in the city before
military operations begin is the only way to avoid being surprised
by the enemy or being caught unprepared, he said. “What happens
now is that, when you go into cities with military organizations,
unless you have reconnaissance, you are either going to get ambushed,
or you will end up in an engagement that you didn’t anticipate.”
With Project Metropolis, Catto said, “We are going to figure
out how we can assist our reconnaissance guys to be more stealthy
and more effective.”
Other efforts at the Warfighting Lab, meanwhile, take a broader
look at the war on terrorism.
Shortly after September 11, the lab’s war-gaming division
summoned retired and active-duty officers to participate in “red-teaming
seminars,” said Frank E. Jordan III, the lab’s director
of war-gaming. “We started two programs as a result of 9/11,”
he said in an interview.
One project, called Fast Train, is a series of tabletop seminars
involving mostly retired officers, with a smaller number of active-duty
Marines. One seminar last December, said Jordan, looked at specific
operational issues from the war in Afghanistan. As a result of one
war-game, the Corps decided to make specific changes in cold weather
training. Last month, the lab was scheduled to conduct a war-game
on anti-terrorism operations in the Philippines.
Another effort, called Project O’Bannon, takes a long-term
look at a global war on terrorism, Jordan said. The program was
named after Marine Lt. Presley Neville O’Bannon, who became
famous for his bravery fighting the Barbary pirates in North Africa
Project O’Bannon will last about a year, said Jordan. The
goal is to analyze potential approaches to an extended war on terrorism
in more detail than has been done so far.
Under the so-called Small Wars Program, the lab explored the “deteriorating
situation” in Indonesia, said Jordan.
The September 11 events largely have driven much of the war-gaming
work at the lab, he stressed. In Project National Capital Region,
for example, “We apply lessons learned in interagency [coordination]
from the attack on the Pentagon.”
The results and lessons learned from Project Metropolis and other
war-games will be made available to Marine commanders worldwide
in printed booklets and CD-ROMS known as X files. According to Catto,
the X-files are not Marine Corps doctrine, but rather “Warfighting
Lab suggestions” that can be evaluated as possible additions
to current doctrine.
The Warfighting Lab, additionally, is spearheading work on so-called
Title 10 war-games focused specifically on Marine Corps concepts
and technologies. In recent years, the Corps has participated in
other services’ Title 10 war-games, but now would like to
sponsor its own, Catto said.
Title 10 war-games are strategic-level drills designed to showcase
a service’s vision of its future role in U.S. military operations
and its capabilities.
The name Title 10 refers to the federal legislation that stipulates
that each service individually is responsible for organizing, equipping
and training its forces.
The Army, Navy and Air Force each takes advantage of the Title
10 war-games to tell the Pentagon leadership “why particular
investments are worthwhile,” said Catto. “They also
give the parent service an opportunity, within a joint structure,
to experiment with concepts and technology, with the other services.”
The Marine Corps wants to establish its own Title 10 war-game.
The plan is to begin a series of games in late 2002. No name has
yet been selected, Catto said.
“Operationally, in everything we do, we have the Navy with
us,” he explained. However, “we want to increase the
understanding about how the Army and Air Force do things that are
either supporting or different from what we do.”
Jordan noted that the Title 10 games “can have serious implications
in terms of policies and resources.” They are “very
much an inside the Beltway thing.”
The Corps used to sponsor a Title 10 war-game in the 1980s, when
Gen. Al Gray was the commandant. He called them the “Commandant’s
Strategic War-Games.” That program was phased out in the mid
Senior Marine leaders realized the importance of these games throughout
the Defense Department, Jordan said. “There is a sense that,
in order for the Marine Corps to be able to examine its own issues,
to work its own vision of its future, it needs its own platforms
to do that, instead of doing it through somebody else. ... We would
make sure our vision gets properly examined.” nd