Magazine Article - Marine Corps Gazette

Marine Corps Reserve Forces in Operation IRAQI FREEDOM


Cancian and Kane present the combat assessment results on the role of the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Forces in Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF). These results represent the candid opinions of the team, not necessarily the official views of the Marine Corps, Department of the Navy, or Department of Defense.

Marine Corps Reserve Forces in


by ColMark F. Cancian, USMCR(Ret), Cpl Paul V. Kane, USMCR & the Reserve Combat Assessment Team

‘Our Marine reservists are Marines first, and there was absolutely no differencein performance—on the ground, in the air, in logistics.’

—Gen Michael W. Hagee,

Commandant of the Marine Corps

‘The problem is we won the war. Now Marines will say, ‘See, it works.’They will go back to their old ways and fail to acknowledge those areas wehave learned from this fight that are clearly in need of change.’

—Reserve unit commanding officer


Marines pride themselves on their willingness to face success and failure candidly. Operation IRAQI FREEDOM (OIF) provided a rare opportunity to understand what works and what does not in modern-day conflict. In peacetime all plans, policies, and doctrine are at least partly theoretical because nothing can be subjected to the ultimate test of its validity. Even the most conscientious organization cannot fully anticipate the future. For this reason, when large-scale combat operations occur, the Marine Corps aggressively investigates lessons to be learned. To take advantage of the opportunity to learn and improve from OIF, the Commandant created a combat assessment team in January 2003.

Because Reserve forces would play such a large role in the operation, a Reserve forces team was formed to operate as an element of the overall combat assessment effort and to analyze Reserve issues indepth. The Reserve team collected extensive data in the continental United States(CONUS) and outside CONUS (OCONUS), including 250 interviews, 6,000 surveys, and a library of source documentation. Based on this extensive body of data, the team developed a 170-page report that lays out the major Reserve issues, with conclusions and recommendations. The report’s findings were presented to the senior Reserve and active duty leadership and key staffs last summer. It is time to bring those results to the broader Marine community. What follows are the report’s highlights (unfortunately, without most of the supporting statistics because of space limitations).

These results represent the candid opinions of the team, not necessarily the official views of the Marine Corps, Department of the Navy, or Department of Defense (DoD).

The Success Story

Marine Corps Reserve forces are one of the great success stories of the war. They showed that they are skilled fighters who could perform as advertised—muster, train, deploy, and fight—and do it, not as second-stringers who might suffice in an emergency but as highly motivated, highly competent Marines.

Reserve combat units fought on the frontlines from the first minute of the war to the last. Logistics units provided critical support, for example, by building the longest bridge and establishing the largest fuel farm in Marine Corps history. After major combat operations ended, Reserve infantry and light armored reconnaissance battalions governed entire provinces on their own. Active duty commanders greatly appreciated reservists’ capabilities and enthusiasm, an appreciation that began at the highest levels.

“We could not have done what we did without the Reserves,” noted LtGen James T. Conway, Commanding General, I Marine Expeditionary Force (I MEF).

Many nonbattle achievements of the Reserves are also worth noting. Unit mobilization was rapid and smooth, taking on average only 5 days. Marine Reserve units deployed rapidly and arrived when needed—99 percent of Selected Marine Corps Reserve (SMCR) Marines reported for duty, 98 percent of Marines were medically fit, and less than .05 percent of SMCR Marines requested a waiver.

For planners the experience of OIF reinforced the lessons of Operation DESERT STORM (ODS) and subsequent mobilizations: that use of Reserve forces is politically viable, that Reserve units will show up when called, and that Reserve units have the training to participate effectively. This recognition is an important step forward for reservists and for overall Marine Corps fighting capabilities.

Experiences in this conflict also validated the fundamentals:

• The Marine Corps relies heavily on its Reserve Component (RC). Because the active duty Marine Corps, with its many global commitments, is stretched thin even in peacetime, it needs its RC to participate fully in major combat operations. During ODS, for example, the Marine Corps mobilized more of its RC (63 percent) than any other Service. The same was true for the major combat operations of OIF during which the Marine Corps called up proportionally more of its RC (48 percent in May 2003) than any other Service.

• The Marine Corps Reserve is an expeditionary, warfighting organization. The Marine Corps can rely on its Reserves in major combat operations because all Marine Corps Reserve units are designed for warfighting and expeditionary operations.

• Reserve forces provide a prudent economy-of-force measure. Mobilization time and peacetime training allowed Reserve units to meet required wartime standards. Thus, by employing lower cost Reserve forces, the Marine Corps could stretch its constrained resources without increasing risk.

The foundation of this success is the individual Marine. Active duty commanders described Reserve Marines in glowing terms. As many noted, “You could not tell the difference between Active and Reserve Marines.”

The reasons for this success are so second nature to Marines that they are often overlooked—reservists attend the same schools, participate in the same  exercises and are held to the same standards as active duty Marines. All Reserve officers and many enlisted personnel have extensive active duty experience. The inspector-instructor (I&I) staffs come from the active duty force, set high standards, and are integrated with the Reserve unit. Finally, the demanding mobilization operational readiness deployment test ensures a high state of peacetime readiness.

A Challenge—Adapting to the New NationalSecurity Strategy

In 2001 the DoD announced a new strategy that abandoned the two major theater war construct of the 1990s and adopted a new set of principles for force planning that emphasizes greater speed, more forward deployments, transformation, and preparation for an uncertain future. Recommendations for improvement in Reserve performance must be made in the context of this strategy. Many mobilization difficulties would be mitigated or eliminated with more time and more certainty. However, the new strategy calls for less time and foresees less certainty. Therefore, recommendations that ignore these new strategic principles are not viable. Further, many observers believe that these changes imply a force that relies less heavily on Reserves. The challenge for the Marine Reserve community is to adapt to this new strategy.

A Dozen Lessons to be Learned

No effort is perfect, and the combat assessment team identified 12 issues for indepth analysis. Compared with the experience of ODS, these issues showed that many shortfalls in that operation had been corrected. A few new issues have arisen. Unfortunately, several shortfalls identified 12 years ago after ODS continue to trouble the Marine Corps.

(1) Force structure: is the Marine Corps Reserveproperly structured for this kind of war? Force structure demands fell unevenly. In greatest demand for both ODS and OIF were motor transport, communications, medical support, C–130s, civil affairs, light armored vehicles, assault amphibious vehicles, and engineers. Others kinds of units were relatively less used. A few were not used at all. Senior officers, Active and Reserve, suggested that additional capabilities in these heavily used areas might be valuable. In its comprehensive review study, Marine Forces Reserve (MarForRes) has begun to grapple with future force structure needs.

Although future conflicts may not levy the same demands as OIF and ODS and, on the whole, the Marine Reserve force structure was well-suited to these conflicts, some rebalancing of the structure may nevertheless be warranted.

Further, even the most well-designed force structure requires some adaptation in an imperfectly foreseen conflict. Therefore, organizational and intellectual flexibility is important. Mobilization planning should be clear that some unit missions might be nonstandard to fit the needs of the theater commander.

(2) Family support: how well did the MarineCorps take care of Reserve families? Support provided to Reserve families was on average rated from fair to good with relatively few ratings of poor. This was a great improvement from ODS, reflecting a decade of effort.

Support for the families of Marines in units was stronger than for individual augmentees. Support for augmentees was weak because their families generally lived far from the gaining command and their parent commands had not always been mobilized. A better system is needed for supporting them.

Assessments of the Key Volunteer Program, new to the Reserves since ODS, were divided. Peacetime/wartime support teams (PWSTs—the staff at the drill center after a unit deploys) and unit commanders described the program very positively, as a useful way to maintain communications with families. However, survey results were mixed about how effective the networks had been. Comments indicated it was important for Reserve units to exercise their key volunteer network routinely before any mobilization.

The chief complaint about PWSTs was that they were sometimes difficult to contact. PWSTs must ensure that they are available by phone at all times when their unit is deployed, and that they have a continuous presence in the Reserve center during normal work hours with some additional afterhours availability to help families that cannot come in during the week.

Health care was a major concern for all Marines and families before mobilization, but only a relatively small percentage indicated having problems. It was universally agreed that developing better briefings on Tricare would be valuable. Getting families accustomed to a new health care system takes several briefings and a great deal of personal attention.

A new problem is rumor control. Information—accurate and inaccurate—flows rapidly from the theater to families. Units and PWSTs should use multiple means of communications with Reserve families—newsletters, phone trees, e-mail lists, phone watches, web sites—to meet families’ craving for information and to curtail “bum scoop.”

(3) Employment: how has mobilization affectedReserve Marines’ jobs and income? Marines reported that their employers had been very supportive. But true tests of this support will come during the 18 to 24 months after mobilization when Marines return to civilian employment.

About one-third of Marines saw an increase in income because of mobilization. One-third saw no income change. One-third suffered an income loss in excess of 10 percent. Mobilized Marines who worked for Federal, state, or local governments typically received the best treatment by their employers.

Though employers have been supportive, some Marines (18 percent) expect to have employment problems upon return to civilian life. To ease the transition of reservists back to their civilian jobs, returning reservists should be thoroughly briefed about their reemployment rights and the services available from Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (a DoD agency established to promote cooperation and understanding between Reserve members and their civilian employers and to assist in the resolution of conflicts arising from an employee’s military commitment).

(4) Eligibility for security clearances: didMarines have the clearances they needed to dotheir jobs? Wartime operations require many more security clearances, and at higher levels, than peacetime policies permit. The Marine Corps, therefore, needs to greatly expand the number and level of clearances held by Reserve Marines.

The Marine Corps should base its security clearance needs not only on peacetime tables of organization, but also on the estimated number of billets to be filled during major combat operations in joint, combined, and Marine Corps organizations. The Marine Corps should budget adequate funds to support this higher level of security investigations.

(5) Training readiness: were units and individualsadequately trained? Who should be responsiblefor training mobilized Reserve units andindividuals? Who should provide the resources?

• Units. Up to the company level, units were well-trained to accomplish their missions. Battalions also seem to have done better than in ODS. The emphasis on battalion-level training since ODS has had a positive effect. However, each of the combat battalions expressed the opinion that having at least some postmobilization training was necessary for the battalions to perform as well as they did. The Marine Corps, therefore, needs to continue battalion-level training exercises/emphasis for Reserve combat arms battalions to maintain the improved performance levels reached during OIF.

None of the force service support group (FSSG) battalions that were employed as battalions received postmobilization unit training, yet they accomplished their missions in theater. FSSG battalions may not need the same amount of battalion-level training that combat battalions do.

If possible, battalion staffs should be activated before the mobilization of the battalion’s main body to assist in the transition. This would provide the staffs time to conduct a mission analysis, verify mobilization preparations, and coordinate with the gaining force commander (GFC). At a minimum, battalion staffs should conduct extra drills when mobilization seems imminent.

• Individuals. Marines in units were generally well-trained in their military occupational specialties (MOSs) and were judged by active duty commanders to be as capable as active duty Marines.

• Unclear chain of command. The postmobilization chain of command for Reserve units is complex as units moved from MarForRes, to Marine Forces Atlantic (MarForLant), to Marine Forces Central Command (MarCent). As a result, training responsibilities became unclear or unworkable. This greatly constrained the ability of units to obtain training support items such as ammunition, transportation, and supplies. The solution may be to give MarForRes a role in supporting the training of mobilized Reserve units, though the GFC should dictate the kind of training conducted. MarForRes has training and equipment oversight before mobilization and has a CONUS-wide structure established to execute these functions for Reserve units. MarForLant and MarCent do not.

• Back to basics. Reserve units want more emphasis on basic individual and unit skills. This implies a reduction in “adventure” training—training that is exciting but not part of a unit’s core mission.

(6) Equipment: did Reserve units have theequipment they needed? Marine Reserve units did not have all of the equipment their commanders believed they needed. The two most important causes were table of equipment (T/E) shortfalls and a lack of up-to-date communications equipment.

Many units in peacetime hold only a part of their T/E, called a training allowance. In theory, these units will receive additional equipment from war reserve stocks upon mobilization. Frequently, this did not happen. Some stocks could not be shifted in time. The remain behind equipment pool did not provide the amount of equipment that had been expected. Sealifted equipment sometimes arrived late. The problem had been just as severe in ODS—no progress has been made. Part of the solution may be to start earlier, as soon as planning begins, and not to wait for the deployment order. Another part of the solution may be to regularly exercise force deployment, planning, and execution procedures so that all organizations and personnel are accustomed to their roles.

It may also be that the process asks too much of the GFC. Currently, the responsibility falls on this headquarters to fill these equipment deficiencies once a Reserve unit is mobilized. However, the GFC has generally already deployed, may be half a world away, and is already conducting operations. It may be more effective for MarForRes to have a role postmobilization, rather than putting the entire burden on the distant GFC. Although the GFC will always have to specify the requirement, MarForRes may be able to help with the CONUS coordination involved in identifying shortfalls, finding equipment, and shipping that equipment to the unit.

Compared with ODS, the compatibility of equipment between Active and Reserve forces was much improved and virtually seamless. The one exception was radios; Reserve units often had older, incompatible equipment and lacked sufficient sets. The Marine Corps, therefore, needs to review unit after-action reports to identify and remedy these shortfalls.

(7) Mobilization process: Was it effective andefficient? The Marine Corps Reserve is becoming adept at mobilization. For institutions that pay attention, practice makes them, if not perfect, at least better.

Units rapidly passed through the mobilization process. Pay administration and I&I integration were success stories and great improvements over the experience in ODS. The processes for medical screening and handling waiver requests were also generally smooth. However, the processes for issuing orders and active duty identification cards need improvement. Both were too slow for the rapid pace of events.

• Administrative support in theater. Mobilization is administratively intense and complex. Reserve units believed that having administrative personnel attempt to support them from centralized facilities at Camp Pendleton or Camp Lejeune did not provide the level of support they needed. One suggestion was to set up a Reserve administration shop in theater so that all Reserve Marines would have a local and responsive place for their specialized administration issues. Another alternative would be to assign the unit’s administration personnel to the Reserve center instead of to a centralized facility.

Because mobilization is so administratively intense, units should consider augmenting their administration sections on mobilization. Even small detachments should consider bringing an administrative specialist.

❍ Line 10s. Units wrestled with whether to take “line 10s,” that is, Marines being processed for discharge because of unsatisfactory participation but who nevertheless report for mobilization. Units that interviewed these Marines and made decisions on a case-by-case basis had good experiences. Units that took all line 10s found that some created an administrative burden. In the future, policy should allow units to screen and determine which line 10 Marines to take and which to leave at the Reserve center.

❍ Pay group Fs and medical holds. Pay group “F” are Marines who have not completed their full training—boot camp, school of infantry, MOS qualification—and therefore cannot deploy with the unit. In general these Marines were mobilized and sent to complete their training but, upon completion of training, returned to the drill center, not the unit. In the future these Marines need to rejoin their units immediately upon completing training. The same holds for Marines temporarily medically unfit for deployment. If they become fit, they also need to be sent forward.

❍ Corpsmen. The Navy’s process for mobilizing corpsmen is broken. Virtually every unit with attached Navy personnel reported serious problems with their sailors’ mobilization. As one senior officer remarked, the process “. . . makes the French customs bureaucracy look like a well-oiled machine. . . .” Corpsmen need to be mobilized on the same schedule as their SMCR units and should be kept with their units as much as possible. This would be aided if the Navy and Marine Corps would develop mobilization information systems that can exchange information.

(8) Mobilization processing centers (MPCs)and mobilization support battalions: how effectivewas the mobilization process for individuals?Reservists from the Individual Ready Reserve (IRR) and from Individual Mobilization Augmentee (IMA) detachments were handled differently from Marines in units. These individual Reserve Marines were initially ordered to 1 of 30 initial MPCs (IMPCs). IMPCs screened reporting Marines, entered them into the automated database, and sent them to the MPCs at Camp Pendleton, Camp Lejeune, Cherry Point, Miramar, and Quantico.

This system worked through many challenges to process the flow of individuals. The MPCs quickly processed hundreds of reservists for active duty in an average of only 4.5 days.

However, the task was made more difficult by incompatible and inaccurate data systems. Centers frequently did not know who was in transit or when they would arrive. The mobilization process needs a single, unified administrative system that ties together the many elements of the mobilization system.

A key question is whether combat replacements will continue to be used in future conflicts. Mobilization models used by Headquarters Marine Corps (HQMC) predicted a requirement for thousands of replacements, and the mobilization system was established to handle this large flow. However, the number of replacements called up was small (600), they arrived in theater after major combat operations were over, and none were used as replacements.

If combat replacements are used in the future, they should be mobilized in time to be processed, trained, and sent forward in time to affect operations. In this case, the Marine Corps should continue to muster and communicate with IRR Marines to update personal data.

Mobilization structure may have been excessive for the tasks assigned. IMPCs are of little value except in times of large IRR mobilizations. They provided little support that the MPCs could not provide. The number of IMPCs should be aligned with a better estimate of the number of IRR Marines to be mobilized. The Corps should also consider reducing the number of MPCs. Miramar and Cherry Point processed very few Marines (about 360 and 190, respectively), and numbers for similar operations in the future are unlikely to be any larger.

(9) Individual augmentees (IAs): is the currentprocess effective in matching individualswith requirements? The process for matching reservists with augmentation requirements was uneven. Where reservists trained with active duty units for duty in specific billets, performance was excellent. Commanders spoke highly of reservists who came from their own Reserve units—IMA detachments or mobilization augmentation command elements. However, where reservists were globally sourced for service in unfamiliar organizations (especially on high-level staffs where many reservists had little experience), their active duty leaders believed that the results were uneven. In many cases, commanders were harshly critical. Here is a typical comment: “The ones who were current were very good. The ones who were not current were an embarrassment.” Most observers considered this the greatest Reserve shortfall during the conflict.

In matching a Marine to a billet, there were three keys to success: (1) individual skills matched to the type of billet and level of command, (2) linkage between reservist and gaining command before the conflict, and (3) time to learn a specific job.

The problem was not with the officers running the assignment system or with the officers being assigned. The problem was systemic—too many constraints on acquiring augmentees: no augmentees activated without their consent, no individuals from the SMCR, no IMA personnel without permission of the operational sponsors, no Reserve Marines with more that 16 years of active duty lest they reach retirement “sanctuary” during mobilization. These constraints made it hard not only to fill billets, but also to fill with the right MOS. Only a little over half the augmentees (56 percent) had the desired MOS.

If the Marine Corps Reserve wants to continue to supply individuals to warfighting headquarters during combat operations, it must make significant changes to its global sourcing process for matching individuals with requirements. The IA global sourcing system needs to consistently fill these requirements with the highest quality augmentees, not just the most available, on a timeline that meets the rapid pace of future fighting.

A variety of changes would help:

• Treat augmentee assignments as career monitors do today, by looking at the whole person, particularly experience and military education, to make the best match for a billet.

• Make all IMAs available for global sourcing unless their detachment is specifically excluded by the Commandant. Include in the augmentee pool Marines from SMCR headquarters (HQ) who are not planned to deploy.

• Broaden the pool of Reserve Marines trained in joint operations and high-level staff processes by expanding opportunities for joint training and education.

• Consider expanding the IMA program to produce more Marines experienced in joint and higher HQ operations, if necessary, by transferring billets from nondeploying HQ to warfighting HQ.

Would it be better to use Reserve Marines only to backfill billets and to send active duty personnel forward? One way of coping with the uneven quality of some Reserve augmentees would be to use reservists only as backfill. Such a policy would have advantages: to the extent that active duty officers are more qualified than reservists, HQs would have better qualified staff members; no mobilization time would be required; warfighting experience would be kept in the Active Component (AC) where it is more likely to be used; career progression of active duty Marines would be enhanced.

However, such a policy also has significant disadvantages: two people getting up to speed on new jobs, not just one; many CONUS backfilled jobs are more difficult to learn than newly created OCONUS jobs; the pool of potential warfighting augmentees would be greatly limited; some Reserve Marines are as well, or more, qualified for particular billets as active duty Marines; the longest delays arise from the identification and approval process, which affects active duty and Reserve equally, not from mobilization; for reservists, it is very discouraging to be considered only as support and not as warfighters.

Is the process too slow for the new national security strategy? The new national security strategy emphasizes speed. Yet, both the MEF and the MarFor heavily criticized the slowness of the augmentation process, for active duty and Reserve augmentees, because it produced too few augmentees, too late. Augmentees were still arriving in May after major combat operations had ended.

That said, the Marine Corps still moved faster than other Services. Looking across all of the Services, the assessment from Joint Forces Command cited 45 days to fill a billet with a unit’s own augmentees and 90 days to fill with a reservist from outside the unit. The team argued that this was too slow and recommended changes to the Active-Reserve mix as a result. The Marine Corps process, while still slower than many would have liked, performed much better than the figures cited by the joint team. For some categories of augmentees the Marine Reserves were able to fill requirements on timelines comparable with active duty fills. For example, to fill a billet with a reservist from a unit’s own IMA detachment took on average only 7 days. To fill a billet with a by-name request or with a globally sourced volunteer took 19 to 35 days. By contrast, a globally sourced active duty augmentee took 21 days. However, if no Reserve volunteer was available, a billet could take a long time to fill or never be filled. (Note: An IMA is a reservist assigned to an active duty HQ and intended to support that HQ in wartime.)

(10) The total force: how well did the AC andRC of the Marine Corps integrate into a totalforce? Reserve units generally integrated well. They have the same individual training, the same equipment, the same doctrine, the same standing operating procedures. I&I staffs are invaluable in ensuring that there is a unified, expeditionary culture.

However, at the individual level, most Reserve Marines felt that active duty Marines did not accept them initially. This gradually changed as the two groups worked together. Like all outsiders joining an existing entity, reservists had to prove themselves. However, a third of Reserve Marines felt that active duty Marines never did accept them. Reserve Marines recounted many stories of put-downs and condescension from their active duty counterparts. “You’re just dumb reservists,” was a typical comment, this one from a field grade officer. Active duty commanders were unaware that these problems existed in their units.

Although some degree of Active-Reserve tension may be inevitable, all Marines should be treated with respect. Commanders should establish a zero tolerance policy against abusive language or actions so that all Marines are treated fairly. Additionally, after mobilization, commanders should consider eliminating the use of the term “Reserve,” “reservists,” and “USMCR” and instead use the unit designations, such as “4th Marine Division/Wing/FSSG,” or “augmentee.” Afterall, what meaning does “Reserve” have when a unit is on duty full-time? This was done in World War II and did much to erase the distinction between regular and Reserve after mobilization.

(11) Deployment timeline: did the callup ofReserve forces delay launching operations? Reserve forces have been criticized for taking too long to mobilize and deploy. Indeed, some observers have suggested that because Reserve units were slow in arriving, the Active-Reserve mix should be changed. However, Marine Reserve units mobilized quickly and arrived in theater when needed. Marine Reserve units were ready to move to their gaining command within 4 days of their activation date. The average time from deployment order to the unit’s arrival in theater was 34 days. In other words, units went from civilian life to being on the ground halfway around the world in about a month.

The primary cause of delay for all forces, Active and Reserve, after basic strategic mobility constraints, was the ponderous request for forces (RFF)/deployment order process. Under this process U.S. Central Command did not execute the existing deployment plans but instead requested packages of forces (the RFF), each of which had to be approved by the Secretary of Defense (SecDef) (resulting in a deployment order). The SecDef used the process to shape the plan and test assumptions. The difficulty for the Services was that units could not be definitely alerted until the deployment order was signed. For the Reserves it meant that decisions sometimes came very late.

Although this process was nonstandard and caused many difficulties for the Services, the basic structure is likely to continue. However, the Marine Corps Reserve can adapt itself to this challenging process by leaning forward. Even when requirements are uncertain and guidance is evolving, units need to take preparatory actions to speed reaction and improve unit performance. Potential actions include additional drills for key leaders, holding an administrative drill for all, conducting double drills, even accelerating annual training. These actions are difficult because they entail bureaucratic risk-taking. The key, however, is to do what is right to prepare Marines.

(12) Sustainability of Reserve tempo of operations:Are Reserve forces being used too much? During the 1990s use of Reserve forces increased greatly, a trend accelerated by 11 September 2001 and subsequent events. Many observers and reservists worry that the use may be too great. As with active duty forces the test is whether troops vote with their feet by leaving or whether prospective recruits are deterred from joining. For some reservists even the 38 days a year becomes too onerous. Others would stay on active duty indefinitely if offered the chance. No policy will make everyone happy.

Data are inconclusive now. On the one hand, many Marines expressed negative opinions, in the surveys and in interviews, about continuing in the Reserves as a result of their mobilization. On the other hand, survey data suggest that attitudes are less negative than after ODS where, despite very negative attitudes expressed in surveys done just after the conflict, there was little retention loss.

Recruiting and retention, therefore, need to be monitored to detect signs of weakness. In particular, the Marine Corps needs to monitor units mobilized for extended periods.

Finally, there is a lot of interest at the highest levels in using Reserve volunteers more extensively. Volunteers do not entail the political and personal costs of involuntary activation. The study results do suggest that for major contingencies there is a large pool of potential volunteers available. However, volunteers are not a viable substitute for mobilizing cohesive and capable units.

Learning the Lessons

The Marine Corps cannot rest on its laurels. First, it must continue to do those things that produce success. Many elements of the Marine Corps Reserve system are sound, even exemplary, and should be recognized and reinforced.

Second, the Reserve community must fix its shortcomings. Identifying the lessons of a conflict is not enough. A lesson is not learned until the organization makes the changes necessary to prevent recurrence. The Corps’ leadership is working on many of these fixes. That work must be expanded, expedited, and pushed forward to completion.

>Editor’s Note: The team’s full report with its 170 pagesof text and data is available in several places on the web,for example, the MarForRes and HQMC (Manpowerand Reserve Affairs) sites and at <>.

>>During OIF I Col Cancian headed Marine Corps Combat Development Command’s (MCCDC’s) Reserve combat assessment team before retiring in the summer of 2003. He held the same position during ODS. During his 33 years as an infantry and artillery officer, he has contributed frequently to the Gazette magazine which named him a Distinguished Author in 2000.

>>>Cpl Kane left the Corps in 1990 after serving 6 years as a nuclear, biological, and chemical defense and supply specialist. He reenlisted after 11 September 2001 at the age of 39 and joined the Marine air-ground task force staff. For OIF he joined MCCDC’s combat assessment team in a lieutenant colonel’s billet and deployed to Iraq. He holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Maryland and was recently appointed a Fellow at Harvard University, researching civil-military relations. In his civilian life he is a businessman in Boston.




For more information on this publication: Please contact International Security
For Academic Citation: Cancian, Mark F. and Paul V. Kane. “Marine Corps Reserve Forces in Operation IRAQI FREEDOM.” Marine Corps Gazette, vol. Vol. 88. no. 7. June 30, 2004,