View Full Version : Marines on Navy vessels question

27 Mar 05,, 18:59
How big are the marine detachments on naval vessels and what kind of ships have marine detachments? Also what is their function on modern day vessels? I mean its not like they jump onto an enemy ship and capture it, I belive the last time we did that was when we captured a German sub in 1943 ... and that was the 1st time since 1812. And arent police duties on naval vessels carried out by the Masters at Arms so they couldent do that either? Please correct me if im wrong.

27 Mar 05,, 19:48

Step Aside Sailor

Marines Could Be Serving Aboard Your Ship

By William H. McMichael

NORFOLK Va. - Here come the Marines, up the brow and armed for combat.

Perhaps. Six years after the last Marine Detachment was dispatched from a Navy ship, Navy and Marine Corps leaders are studying whether it's time to bring back the men in green to take on antiterrorism, force protection and boarding missions that have ballooned since Sept. 11.

Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Vern Clark's Guidance for 2004 asks for "analysis of alternatives for Marine detachments aboard ship" by June.

Antiterrorism and force protection, or AT/FP, and maritime intercept operations, or MIO, "are critical mission areas," said a Navy official who asked not to be named. "Every day we look at how we're postured and how we can become even more effective in these critical mission areas. We want to ensure we've got this right."

The Navy-Marine Corps study is looking at needs in fleet, expeditionary and strategic lift areas, the official said.

At first blush, sailors weren't too keen on the concept when told about it.

"Honestly, I don't think it's a good idea," said Quartermaster 3rd Class (SW) Jonathan Gibbs of the Norfolk, Va.-based cruiser San Jacinto." A lot of people that are on small boys, they want to get that extra pay."

Sailors assigned to Visit, Board, Search and Seizure teams now earn $110 a month if they conduct a minimum of three boardings per month. Gibbs, who is preparing to become a master at arms, said sailors do it for various reasons.

"But if the Marines are doing it, it's like, they can't," Gibbs said. "I feel like they're kind of taking over our jobs, in a sense."

Others, though, seemed to embrace the idea.

"That's kind of cool," said Fire Controlman 3rd Class (SW) Steven Pringle of the San Jacinto. "They're trained for that."

Pringle never has pulled boarding duty but soon will join Gibbs in crossing into the MA rating. Both aspire to careers in police work.

Pringle also said he doesn't think there would be resentment among displaced sailors who lost earned hazardous-duty incentive pay.

"I don't think the money they get for that pays the bills," Pringle said. "I don't think it would hurt anybody's feelings not to do it."

Pringle, however, wonders where the Marines would sleep. "I don't know where they'd put them," he said. "Quarters on board are already pretty crammed."

Master at Arms 2nd Class (SW) Joshua Boone of the Sewell's Point Precinct at Norfolk Naval Station, just eight months into his new rating, wouldn't mind seeing Marines come aboard. He pointed out that giving the AT/FP and MIO roles to Marines would allow sailors to focus on jobs inside the lifelines. "They'd give the Navy personnel a chance to focus on their specific job or rate," he said.

Sharing that thought was 16-year veteran Operations Specialist 1st Class (SW) Randy Maurer of the San Jacinto. "You could free up some vital people," he said. "If you take away from that, it may be detrimental to the mission. After 9/11, we had to pull a lot of people out to do guard duty out on the piers."

Key Issues

The key questions to be answered in the study over the coming months, the Navy official said, are these: "How would these units be employed? How would they be organized?" he asked. "What kind of capability do we need for each of these [missions]?"

"We're definitely looking at beefing up the security forces and boarding teams," said Vice Adm. Michael J. McCabe, commander of the 3rd Fleet in San Diego, calling them "expanded MIOs." He cited the global war on terrorism and the need for more force protection as the impetus for the new look, and said Marine and Coast Guard variables were being examined.

Closer to Washington, the Norfolk-based Fleet Forces Command is "actively working with the OPNAV lead on the issue as we continue to look for bettermays to perform our AT/FP mission," said Capt. Rich Nolan, its director of force protection. "We're still very

early in the review, so we have not eliminated any options - but right now, we're focused on identifying and prioritizing fleet requirements."

Nolan said the Navy wants to "put the best force in place, in a manner that manages risk, at a cost that we can afford."

Vice Adm. Timothy LaVleur, Naval Surface Force commander, said he thinks Clark's request to study the issue could play into reducing manning on surface ships.

"As we bring ships to Optimal Manning, we have to be very careful about what we expect of them in terms of [antiterrorism/force protection]," LaFleur said Jan. 12. "I would like to see the region responsible for all of the force protection outside the lifelines. So, head of the pier, foot of the pier, gates of the base, that's all a regional commander's responsibility." Masters at arms currently fill those roles.

Tell it to the CO

Once that's decided, the Washington, D.C., Navy will have to sell the idea to the fleet. And that might not be so easy.

Retired Capt. Rick Hoffman, who commanded the cruiser Hue City during Operation Enduring Freedom, said embarking Marines wouldn't make much sense.

"In port, I don't need a squadron of Marines attached to my ship to help me create a defense," said Hoffman, who retired last September. "I have some very specific criteria which can be easily trained to. I have specific weapons systems, and I believe I can train the right number of people to do the job necessary.

"This is essentially a niche market with several very specific areas where we need protection," he said. "I can man it up with my own people."

But Hoffman said there are instances where having Marines aboard would be valuable.

Aboard the command ship Mount Whitney in 2002, when it conducted operations near the Horn of Africa, he said it was appropriate to have Marines manning the .50-caliber machine guns. But surface warships are different.

"That's not reflecting on the quality of service of the men and women on the Mount Whitney," he said. "I just can't imagine that on a cruiser, destroyer or frigate." Hoffman questioned the need to beef up MIO teams; that duty, he said, is "filled with myth and superstition."

"Ninety-nine percent of the boardings in the northern Arabian Gulf were not hostile takedowns," he said. "They climbed aboard and checked papers. This whole 'kicking the door down' and doing the SWAT team, we don't do that as a matter of routine."

MIO work generally is associated with boardings and searches - sometimes the "non-compliant" variety - of suspected smugglers in the Persian Gulf, Eastern Pacific and Caribbean regions. Typically, while a specially trained VBSS team motors over to a suspected smuggling vessel, sailors aboard their warship and on hovering helicopters train weapons on the smugglers to protect the team as it boards what are often decrepit and hazardous vessels.

Ships that refuse to be searched draw a surprise visit from a no-nonsense Navy SEAL team or sometimes, in the gulf, from British Royal Marines.

All told, it's a job that 'U.S. Marines, who sometimes do their own VBSS work out of amphibious groups and who can call upon their own Force Reconnaissance enforcers, could easily fill.

`Steeped in history'

There is a lot of history behind Marines on ships. The Marine Corps was founded in 1775 to provide shipboard detachments of marksmen during the Revolutionary War.

"It is steeped in history," said Gunnery Sgt. Antonio Scimemi, the top noncommissioned officer for the Marine Corps "Red Team," an information security task force at Quantico, Va.

Retired Rear Adm. Jay Foley, former commander of Atlantic surface forces, said Marines would be a good fit because force protection "is more of a core competency of the Marine Corps than it is for today's and tomorrow's sailors. But they do have an end-strength issue. This would be a new mission for them."

The Marine Corps currently has nearly 175,000 troops in its ranks. Marines in the expeditionary forces are stretched so thin, the Corps is planning to convert more than 1,300 jobs filled by Marines to civilians next year in order to add more s******* to its combat units.

In the past, Marines filled a variety of roles aboard ship, including responsibility for manning some ship's armament and handling disciplinary matters. By the Cold War, MarDets were used primarily to guard areas where nuclear weapons were stored. The Marines were trained to repel potential terrorists approaching by boat or trying to crawl aboard and also were trained to clear rooms of intruders should they make it on board. But MarDet veterans typically are tight-lipped about their "physical security" duties.

"We were always told we could neither confirm nor deny whether there were any nuclears on the ship," said Mike Klopf, now a civilian living in Iowa but a member of a Marine detachment on the battle-ship New Jersey from 1984 to 1986. "However, we were trained to guard them should they be there, and the New Jersey was capable of carrying nuclear weapons."

By January 1998, Marine detachments had grown to 11 officers and 275 enlisted troops. But that same month, the Marines decided to stand them all down and use the freed-up forces to create a second Fleet Antiterrorism Security Team - or FAST - company, according to Bob Aquilina of the Marine Corps Historical Division at the Washington Navy Yard.

Could mixing sailors and Marines aboard ship once again have the makings of a major culture clash? Many veterans say that for the most part, no.

A `great relationship'

In the mid-1980s, Scimemi spent two years with a MarDet aboard the battleship Missouri. His first deployment came straight out of boot camp during a ceremonial "shakedown cruise" when the World War II-era ship was pulled from mothballs.

"We had a pretty good time," Scimemi said, adding that the camaraderie with sailors developed during training in San Diego before the deployment helped him and his reinforced platoon-sized unit assimilate well into shipboard life.

"We had a great relationship, it was like one big family," Scimemi recalled. "It was a wonderful time. I wouldn't trade it for any experience in the world and in fact it set the tone for my entire career."

Though at times there was some friction between the Marines and sailors, when the chips were down, Klopf said, the "blue/green team" pulled together.

"I've seen the Marines and sailors banding together to protect the name of the ship," Klopf said. "I can remember one incident in particular where we had just gotten back into port at Long Beach and there was another ship there and some words were said between some Marines from our ship and some sailors from another ship. Before you knew it, the whole e-club was in a big brawl that basically turned out to be between the Marines and sailors of the USS New Jersey and everybody else on the base."

Retired Senior Chief Yeoman Robert Washington, who served alongside Marine detachments aboard the Mount Whitney and

the submarine tender Simon Lake, said it was a relationship that worked out "very well," and could see benefits to bringing them back.

"In my experience, aboard both those vessels, they were more of a fast-alert team when it comes to security intrusions," said Washington, who retired in 1998 after 26 years' service. "The word was always put out that anytime there was a security alert, stay out of the way of the Marines."

Retired Master Chief Yeoman Joe Maez, who served with Marines aboard the carrier Hancock and at embassies overseas, said they were "outstanding."

"These were probably the most professional military people I've ever had experience with. The detachments were first-class," said Maez, who retired in 1974 after 21 years. "They didn't interfere with anyone else. They did, their own thing."

On the Simon Lake, the Marines guarded the Polaris missiles used to stock ballistic missile submarines. Washington said the cultures got along in those tight quarters. "We respected them, they respected us," he said. "They had rifles to clean, different procedures to go through, and mustered quarters like we mustered our quarters."

Bringing the Marines back for force protection, he said, would be a good thing.

"I would definitely embrace that," Washington said. "Anything to help fight terrorism and at least keep the ships abroad secure and safe."

27 Mar 05,, 22:47
IN the early-mid 90's Marine detachments were removed from Submarine Tenders for SSBN's as those ships gave up carrying nuclear-tipped ballistic missles for supporting those submarines.

The Battleships were decommissioned during this era eliminating the need for those detachments.

Also at this time carrier Marine detachments were reduced from 72 to 26 on the carriers. Then in 1998 were eliminated altogether AFAIK. This also coincided with the removal of tactical nukes on carriers if I remember correctly.

Will provide more clarification if I can find my notes, memory and/or articles Ive had or read on this subject.

No other ships had Marine detachments although in the past Heavy Cruisers had Marine Detachments. But the last of these were all decommissioned by 1980.

27 Mar 05,, 23:43
Found this just browsing around:

"In 1998 all Marine Detachments on board ships were disbanded, thus ending a tradition that dated to 1775 and the first duty of the Marine Corps."

27 Mar 05,, 23:46
Its not a bad idea for forward deployed vessels, but why is the navy continuing to duplicate USCG functions on the coastal areas? This was covered recently in Proceedings a while back in the Coast Guard issue.

28 Mar 05,, 00:36
I'm using a recent article from PROCEEDINGS from the February issue as a base for my remarks below. Title of the article "The Coast Guard-Navy Relationship Still Makes Sense". Ill try and go over the CG issue at some point.

It was thought that the Coast Guard should no longer deploy overseas but concentrate solely on Homeland defense and sorta viceversa for the USN.

This concept begun by some Senior DoD and USN officials (and at least endorsed by Rumsfeld) has proved short sighted.

The CG has since proven invaluable overseas and the USN is a must to be involved in Homeland defense. The USN taking the Lead overseas and IMHO the CG taking the lead in Homeland defense.

They are "complementary" forces although to be sure the CG is 10 times or so smaller personnel wise but they bring alot to the table.

The CG must get adequate funding for platforms/equipment and personnel.

28 Mar 05,, 01:02
I briefly went over the PROCEEDINGS CG issue of August. Im not totally sure I understand this:

"but why is the navy continuing to duplicate USCG functions on the coastal areas? This was covered recently in Proceedings a while back in the Coast Guard issue."

Be more specific and maybe I can.

But in general some of the missions and roles of the USN and CG overlap. Plus the CG has relatively limited resources to operate worldwide. In spite of this the USN relies on the CG to help out as necessary.

The USN some months ago began formally transferring PC-1 class patrol combatants to the USCG. They had been operating under CG operational control for some time. They still will have combined USN/CG crews and the USN will still provide the operational funding. Im not sure what all the ramifications of the formal transfer to the CG is.

What the right balance between the USN and CG is Im not sure .

You have certainly brought up an interesting subject though Beau!!!!!

28 Mar 05,, 03:23
I'll have to dig up the issue, as it was the first copy of Proceedings I've read in a long time. One of the articles commented how the Navy was duplicating alot of the USCG mission. I need to reread it so i'm not just talking out my butt. I do remember that the current CG platforms are about at the end of their service lives and some of the CG officers seemed displeased with the current hulls under construction (the contracts pre-dated September 11).
Obviously, the navy may be in a position to augment CG assets anywhere, and given the small size of USCG, it is likely that a navy asset may be a better response to a threat. I'm just saying that unnecessary duplication of effort is a goal to be avoided, particularly in these budgetary times.

As a marine brat, I'm all for marines aboard ship. That is their historical mission and it is good not to abandon it entirely in favor of their current missions.

28 Mar 05,, 05:00
"I'm just saying that unnecessary duplication of effort is a goal to be avoided, particularly in these budgetary times."

I agree with that but in the USN/CG case its more complementary than competitive.

Same as with the balance between the two how that should be handled is very important.

I think the PC-1 decision is illustrative

The USN has been doing MIO, VBSS and basic patrol work for many years and often with a CG law enforcement detachment aboard. I dont see that changing.

Law enforcement, safety & environmental tasks should remain the exclusive purview of the Coast Guard.

Heres a couple exerpts from the article I cited(if possible everyone concerned with the issues should read it):

"Given current and projected threats, fiscal constraints, shifting alliances, and a Navy reducing to some 100 surface combatants, it is vital for U.S. national security that the Coast Guard and Navy plan and field forces collaboratively--forces that are within budget, provide complementary support, and give national leaders adaptive and capable resources suited to the full range of 21st-century operations."

Admiral Clark: "I stand four-square behind the arrangements and the agreements in place and the Navy's committment to the Coast guard...."

As regards capabilities the UN and CG:

"share a need for certain capabilities"
"Key examples include expertise in maritime interception, force protection, and port security"
"But the Navy's primary focus is overseas, and most of the Coast Guard's concerns are closer to home. Thus, even when significant requirements overlap, this de facto division of labor justifies why at least some capabilities need to be duplicative."

BTW this article was written by a recently retired CG Captain. My exerpts dont really do the essay justice thats why I recommend reding it in its entirety.

28 Mar 05,, 15:10
Thanks guys. I never knew they ended the Marine detachments on carriers.

As for the USCG, I dunno how it is your areas. But on Long Island the Coast Guard is geared more towards maritime search and rescue with very little emphasis on law enforcement and homeland security. Most of that is left to the County Police and Sheriff's marine bureaus and the town bay constables ... and they do also devote alot of time to search and rescue as well.

We used to have alot of Customs and Border Patrol officers assigned here (as we had alot of smugglers in the 1920's and 30's and the ships of Chinese illegal immigrants that would ram ashore in the early 90's) but I dont think we have them anymore outside of like JFK Intl Airport and NY Harbor.