Combat-Hardened Marine Commanders Informing Joint Light Tactical Vehicle Development

By Grace Jean
Ask any marine who fought recently in Afghanistan what he liked about the Defense Department’s mine resistant ambush protected vehicles and he likely will laud the independent suspension system that permitted the hulking trucks to traverse the country’s rugged terrain.
The idea of swapping out the original components for the independent suspension system originated from post-deployment discussions that marine officials held with battlefield commanders, said Lt. Gen. Dennis J. Hejlik, commander of Marine Corps Forces Command.
For the last 18 months, the command has been hosting a quarterly operations summit with marine expeditionary force unit leaders fresh from combat to seek feedback on topics including training, mobility, fire support and command and control. The process has been paying big dividends, he said, and the results are feeding directly into the Marine Corps Combat Development Command, which is in charge of planning the service’s future equipment buys.  
One session prompted marine officials to seekchimney technology that can vent the explosive energy from a roadside bomb blast up and out of a vehicle. A prototype system underwent testing at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md., and is still being considered, officials said.
Hejlik told reporters in Washington, D.C., that the summit could influence ongoing deliberations about the ground forces’ new technology initiatives, specifically the joint light tactical vehicle, which is the replacement truck for the Humvee.
“I think it will impact what our variants will be for the new joint light tactical vehicle,” he said. Army and Marine Corps officials envision JLTV as a family of vehicles with varying degrees of protection. Frank talks with combat-experienced marines could help officials determine how many need to be fortified with armor.
“You can’t heavily armor them all, because you’re not going to use that type of vehicle in, say, the Philippines,” said Hejlik, who listed the JLTV as one of the Marine Corps’ three equipment priorities as the tempo of current operations in southwest Asia slows down. The F-35 joint strike fighter and the amphibious combat vehicle development efforts top the list.
As plans for the troop drawdown in Afghanistan solidify, Marine Corps officials are pushing for the force to become lighter and more flexible to fill its role as the Defense Department’s “middle weight fighter.” Leaders repetitively have called for a return to the Marine Corps’ traditional expeditionary roots as a naval force. They have pleaded with industry to provide future technologies suitable for that role and mission.   
The Corps will remain busy post-Afghanistan, Hejlik said. Marines will be operating in small, dispersed units around the globe, working more in special security cooperation MAGTFs — marine air-ground task forces — that will deploy to places like Africa, South America and countries in the Middle East and Southwest Asia.
“Along with that, we should be — and I think we will be — working more with [Special Operations Command] in the years to come,” Hejlik said. In many cases, countries in those regions will permit only small numbers of U.S. forces to operate within their borders.
“They won’t let a battalion of marines in there, but they will let a small 15-man team in there — SEALs, Rangers, Special Forces, [Marine Special Operations forces.] So we will be doing more of that,” he said.
In the past, conventional marine forces deployed to Chad, for example, in collaboration with Army Special Forces teams. The SOF worked with their counterparts there while the marines would complement the efforts by engaging with the country’s conventional armed forces. Those engagements fell by the wayside as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan began consuming more marine forces. But Hejlik said that marines would resume those duties.
As for Marine Corps Special Operations Command, Hejlik, its first commander, added that the 1,000-man strong force will grow to somewhere between 5,000 and 6,000 marine special operators — equivalent to the number of SEALs in the battlefield.
“Someday they will have air assets, like a [Marine Air-Ground Task Force]. That will take some time, because of the cost and the war we’re in,” Hejlik said.

Topics: Land Forces

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