DEFENSE DEPARTMENT

Marines Expanding Homeland Defense, Anti-Terrorism Roles

1/1/2002
By Sandra I. Erwin

The Marine Corps’ new anti-terrorism brigade was built around skills that have been taught to Marine security forces for many years. What is different about this brigade, officials said, is that it facilitates cross training between various units and focuses on close-combat deftness.

The 4th Marine Expeditionary Brigade, based in Camp Lejeune, N.C., has 4,800 members. The MEB, which can respond to crises worldwide within 72 hours, includes three existing security guard and anti-terrorism battalions, in addition to a new infantry unit. To make this happen, the commandant of the Marines, Gen. James L. Jones, asked Congress for $166 million to set up the brigade and augment the Corps by 2,400 troops.

"The MEB capabilities are not something new," said Ray Geoffroy, head of security at the Marine Corps law-enforcement branch. The brigade was created to "enhance what we already have," he told a conference on expeditionary warfare, sponsored by the National Defense Industrial Association.

What makes this brigade stand apart, Geoffroy said, is that it teaches a broader set of skills. The 4th MEB, he explained, "will be able to integrate the training of Marine security guards in the same common skills that our Marine security forces receive." These common skills emphasize "integrated command and control," he said. This will make it easier for a Marine security guard, for example, to come back from a three-year tour and rejoin the brigade to serve in the anti-terrorism battalion as an infantry platoon sergeant.

The idea is to keep skilled anti-terrorism troops longer in the brigade. "A Marine would be staying in the brigade for a period of time," said Geoffroy.

Training in the 4th MEB will focus on urban-warfare skills, marksmanship and the ability to deal with nuclear, biological and chemical threats, he added.

According to one source who asked to not be quoted by name, Marines in this unit will hone their counter-terrorism capabilities with close-quarters battle drills. Typically, Marines are trained to shoot from about 1,000 meters. Counter-terrorism tactics require that they learn to shoot from close range (about 70 meters), so they can defeat a terrorist who may be holding a hostage, for example. For these missions, Marines will be using a close-action rifle, which is much shorter than the M-16.

There are four parts to the 4th MEB: 1) The anti-terrorism battalion. 2) The Marine Security Forces battalion, with three companies. This unit supports the chief of naval operations. The companies are based in Bahrain, Patuxent River and Annapolis, Md. 3) The Marine Security Guard battalion, which provides embassy security for the State Department at 103 posts. 4) The Chemical-Biological Incident Response Force (CBIRF), which was established in 1996, after the sarin attack in Tokyo.

These forces, said Geoffroy, currently are in high demand and have a difficult time keeping up with the deployment tempo. The 4th MEB was organized to address this problem, he added. "We want to provide an integrated training base for our security guards as the lily pad for a follow-on force that may be necessary to reinforce the MSG [Marine Security Guards]."

The Marine Security Forces battalion previously had two companies, with 13 platoons. The addition of a third company (with seven platoons) resulted from the high operational tempo that this battalion experienced after the bombing of the USS Cole in Yemen, in October 2000. Immediately after the attack, said Geoffroy, 10 of the 13 platoons were deployed.

Another change implemented in the 4th MEB is the emphasis on rapid-response training in the anti-terrorism battalion. Some of the companies in this battalion, he said, will receive the same training as the so-called Fleet Anti-terrorism Security Teams (known as FAST companies).

"We are going to have a battalion of Marines who will be trained in the same skills sets and standards as the FAST company," Geoffroy said. The upshot is that "we exponentially grow our FAST skills for the Marine Corps and the [regional commanders]."

Every time an embassy is threatened or there is a United Nations Assembly, he said, the Marines are asked to deploy a FAST unit.

The supplemental funding that Congress appropriated in October to pay for homeland security and national defense programs, Geoffroy said, includes money to increase the number of classified military Web terminals (Siprnet) at MEB installations. There are $32 million allocated for communications technologies so the 4th MEB units can be connected electronically with other U.S. emergency management and crisis response agencies.

The commander of the 4th MEB is Marine Brig. Gen. Douglas O’Dell Jr. The deputy’s job is open to either a Marine colonel or a Navy captain, said Geoffroy, although the Navy has yet to firm up any commitment to fill that billet. The headquarters staff could be augmented with captains and majors who normally would be assigned to a general’s staff.

A unique arrangement for the brigade headquarters is to have an "advisory group," consisting of civilian anti-terrorism experts, law-enforcement officials and State Department representatives, Geoffroy said.

The CBIRF, additionally, has its own science and technology shop, to discern what technologies are available in the industry. It also has an "interagency liaison cell" that serves as a conduit with domestic agencies during emergencies and special events.

The CBIRF has about 350 members who work in about 40 different specialties. There are at least two board-certified emergency-room physicians, who are prepared to go into any contaminated area, said Col. T.X. Hammes, commander of the unit.

During a briefing to the NDIA conference, Hammes stressed that the CBIRF is not the authority in charge during domestic emergencies, but rather takes orders from the local or federal civilian authorities. "We are a consequence management organization," Hammes said. "We only show up when we are invited, not on our own."

There are 90 CBIRF members (with 20 vehicles) who serve on one-hour notice. An additional 200 (with 30 vehicles) are on four-hour notice, as a reserve back-up force.

The CBIRF is more effective if it’s "forward deployed," said Hammes, meaning that he likes to pre-position people, when possible, at special events such as the Olympics or presidential inaugurations. If any chemical or biological attacks were to occur, he said, "the first few minutes are crucial. ... You have to get people out of the contaminated area."

CBIRF members are not dressed in uniforms. "We look like street vendors in civilian clothes," Hammes said. Once an incident happens, "We are ready in seven minutes to begin decontamination."

Hammes announced that the CBIRF nearly tripled its decontamination capabilities during the past year — from 65 casualties to 200 casualties per hour.

One advantage that the CBIRF has over most local first-responder agencies is that it trains more often, he said. New York City, for instance, has the best emergency-response forces in the United States, he explained, but they only train every six months to a year, because they cannot afford to be away from their home station.

"We participate in exercises regularly," said Hammes. "We do joint training with major cities [and] live-agent training."

The CBIRF’s technology shop, he said, currently is seeking new equipment in the following areas:

The CBIRF works alongside U.S. National Guard Weapons of Mass Destruction Civil Support Teams (WMD-CST), said Hammes.

Currently, there are 27 of these teams nationwide. The Defense Department recently announced plans to add five more by 2003. Each team consists of 22 full-time National Guard members.

Jones, the commandant of the Marine Corps, said that the Guard should consider broad-based changes in its organization, in order to handle new homeland defense missions.

"It’s important that the military domestically embrace that role," said Jones. "In my opinion, this job [of homeland security] must involve the complete transformation of the Army National Guard.

"We need more chemical-biological incident response forces," Jones said. The Army, for example, focuses on being ready for a major war "that may never come ... and by the time they get there, the war may be over."

The Defense Department, meanwhile, recently designated the U.S. Joint Forces Command, in Norfolk, Va. as the military agent for homeland defense and assistance to civilian authorities.

The chief of Joint Forces Command, Army Gen. William F. Kernan, explained during a roundtable with reporters that he views the CBIRF as one small piece of the homeland defense puzzle.

"I think the Marines have tremendous capability [in the] chemical-biological reaction forces," Kernan said. "But there are others out there." He said he believes that the National Guard CST teams should be present in every state. The CSTs, he said, "assess the situation, monitor what needs to be done and facilitate the additional military support that may be required to an incident involving chemical, biological, nuclear or high-yield explosive incident."

In the foreseeable future, Kernan said, JFCOM will "continually assess what is going to be required, given the chem-bio threat.

"We will look at what kind of increases, whether it is U.S Marines, U.S. Army, or whatever service necessary to ensure that we have the capability ... to bolster civil authority."

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