Category Archives: USMC Transformation Week

EABO Beyond the Indo-Pacific: Reimagining the “Battle of the Aegean”

Transforming the Marine Corps Topic Week

By Captain Ross W. Gilchriest, USMC


The following contingency updates and expands upon “The Battle of the Aegean” scenario described in Chapter 15 of Fleet Tactics and Naval Operations, 3d Ed.i The original scenario sought to highlight the operational level of naval warfare in the “modern tactical environment—dominated by sensors, missiles, and information operations, with undercurrents of torpedoes, mines, and amphibious operations.”ii Additionally, the use of naval power in the scenario demonstrated how lethal naval power could be used as a tool for achieving limited strategic objectives amid the growing complexity of competition in the modern strategic context. For those familiar with the United States Marine Corps’ Force Design 2030 (FD2030) and Expeditionary Advanced Base Operations (EABO) concepts, the “Battle of the Aegean” resembles the strategic, operational, and tactical environment described by the Commandant’s Planning Guidance, A Concept for Stand In Forces, and the Tentative Manual for EABO.iii Those documents, among numerous other statements, articles, and programs seek to define how the future Marine Corps will compete across the spectrum of competition.

EABO employs the capabilities of a stand-in force designed to seize and defend key maritime terrain in support of fleet maneuver inside the adversary’s Weapons Engagement Zone (WEZ). Most analyses of EABO focus on its potential applicability to a fight against the pacing threat of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) inside the first and second Pacific island chains. While the EABO concept maintains the PRC as a key focus, it can also be applied in other contexts. Notably, General Berger has identified uses for EABO in the European theater to deter Chinese and Russian naval operations in the seas of the “High North,” including making Marines an integral part of the anti-submarine warfare fight.iv The following analysis seeks to illustrate how U.S. Marine Corps stand-in forces and EABO could be leveraged to support a naval campaign in littoral environments beyond the Indo-Pacific region. With enhanced reconnaissance, precision fires, and anti-air capabilities, as well as a focus on conducting Distributed Maritime Operations (DMO), the Marine Corps provides policymakers and the fleet with a flexible response force capable of deterring and defeating adversaries across the spectrum of competition.v

The reimagined scenario updates the strategic and political context as a projection of current events, making some educated assumptions in order to establish the appropriate context for the introduction of EABO, while leaving the core crisis scenario and ADM Grant’s tactical plan largely intact. Some of the capabilities, while projected at the time, have come into existence or are currently under development. The discussion of individual concepts and capabilities will be limited to what is necessary in the context of the scenario. Readers are encouraged to visit the references in the endnotes to gain a deeper doctrinal and technical knowledge.

Background: The Battle of the Aegean

In the original scenario, ethnic tensions and violence on the island of Cyprus brought the North Atlantic Treaty Alliance (NATO) allies Greece and Turkey to the brink of war. The decades-old dispute over control of Cyprus and islands in the Aegean Sea escalated into a full-blown international crisis after the Greek government announced a plan to emplace theater ballistic missiles on the island. Turkey, enraged by this threat to its security, sought to not only blockade the Greek ships in the vicinity of Cyprus, but also to defeat the poorly resourced Greek navy and assert control over the Aegean Sea. Turkey’s planned aggression alarmed the international community, but none of the international organizations could agree on a response, leaving the United States to use its military power to settle the

Charged by the President and the European Command Combatant Commander to “prevent Turkish forces from seizing the Greek islands—without touching Turkish soil,” (317), Admiral Ulysses S. (Sam) Grant, the Commander of Naval Forces Europe, assumed command of a naval task force composed almost entirely of the U.S. Sixth Fleet. Facing a force of nine Turkish destroyers steaming south from the Dardanelles, and the main Turkish fleet of more than 25 destroyers and fast-attack craft off the southwestern coast of Anatolia, ADM Grant developed a plan to strike the Turkish amphibious ships before they ever left port. His attack consisted of a feint attack by Commander Charles V. Gridley’s eight Cushing-class corvettes to engage the main element of the Turkish fleet in order to allow two separate formations of eight Phantom-class unmanned killer-scout vessels to get into position to fire tactical ballistic missiles at the Turkish amphibious and transport ships in the embarkation ports of Ayvalik, Cesme, Ismir, Kusadasi, and Bodrum.vii

Though an Amphibious Readiness Group (ARG) and its embarked Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) were available in theater, Grant opted to remove them from the battlespace, viewing them as too vulnerable a target. He did, however, send three patrol craft to rendezvous with the ARG and embark the detachment of Navy Special Warfare (SEAL) operators to conduct covert disruption operations in the Turkish ports.viii ADM Grant knew that the ability of the Phantoms to get into their firing positions without detection or interference would largely depend on the actions of the outmanned and outgunned Cushings. Though the scenario concludes before the opening of hostilities, the actions of the Cushings will need to be heroic to survive the dangerous exchange ahead of them, and the task force’s success hinges upon the Phantoms’ strike capability. At the conclusion of the vignette, the reader is left with the impression that ADM Grant, despite the glaring risks, remains confident in his plan and the skill of his subordinate commanders to win the day.ix

New Strategic Context: Living in Putin’s Shadow

In the eight years since the start of the Ukraine War, the strategic posture of the Eastern Mediterranean has shifted dramatically. After initially failing to achieve its goals of a takeover in Ukraine in 2022 and 2023, Russia gained control of the Donbas region and Black Sea coast, establishing secure lines of communication to support its forces in the occupied territories. The Ukrainian government, supported by the United States and its allies, maintains a conventional military presence holding key cities and infrastructure, but lacks the capability to resume offensive operations against a robust Russian defense. As a result, they have resorted to insurgency tactics.

The war in Ukraine has caused humanitarian and security crises in the region, especially for those countries sharing a land border with Ukraine and abutting the Black Sea, leading to a realignment of priorities in Europe. Defense spending by all North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) countries meets or exceeds the two percent of gross domestic product requirement. Romania, Bulgaria, and Greece have been especially affected by waves of migrants leaving Ukraine, as well as the threat of the Russian Navy, precipitating a transformation in their armed forces and a substantial increase in their Theater Security Cooperation (TSC) with NATO. They regularly conduct exercises in the Mediterranean and Black Sea for the purpose of limiting Russia’s options for escalating “Putin’s Pet Project” by hosting U.S. naval strike forces near key sea lines of communication and maintaining prepositioned supplies to support them. These efforts have not been perceived well by Turkey, which is especially suspicious of Greece’s intentions to possibly contest the Aegean region and militarize the island of Cyprus off its coast.

Turkey, on the other hand, began to establish a more autonomous foreign policy. The hard-line government, facing domestic inflation, currency, and unemployment crises, sought to shore up its economic and political alignment with Russia. While it does not directly support the Ukraine War, the Turkish government adheres to a strict non-interference principle. The Turkish and Russian militaries do not cooperate, but the two nations’ armed forces are able to coexist in the region. Turkey does not interfere with Russian maritime operations in the Black Sea or deny their transit through the Dardanelles. They have reduced cooperation with NATO allies, setting the stage for a rising antagonism that would foment the ethnic and political tensions leading to the aforementioned crisis between Turkey and Greece over Cyprus and the Aegean Sea.

An Expeditionary Stand-In Force in Readiness

In the decade since General Berger introduced FD2030, the Marine Corps has largely accomplished its goals of developing stand-in forces that are fully integrated with the Navy for the purpose of supporting sea control and sea denial operations around the globe. Driven largely by improvements in long-range precision fires, unmanned assets, networked communications, and improved training for the individual Marine, the Marine Corps is viewed as vital by national policymakers for projecting power in littoral regions around the world. As the Ukraine crisis continued and the security posture in Europe and the Mediterranean changed, the U.S. European Command (EUCOM) Combatant Commander and the Joint Chiefs of Staff directed the creation of the 2d Marine Littoral Regiment (2d MLR). Headquartered at Naval Station Rota Spain, the 2d MLR regularly conducts operations in the Mediterranean region, with a heavy emphasis on “Phase 0” operations, such as theater security cooperation, reconnaissance and counter-reconnaissance, and operations in the information environment (OIE) to establish an intelligence baseline and posture forces forward in support of the U.S. Sixth Fleet.x

Comprised of the 2d Littoral Combat Team (LCT) (Naval Support Activity Naples), the 2d Littoral Logistics Battalion (LLB) (Naval Support Activity Souda Bay), and the 2d Littoral Anti-Air Battalion (LAAB) (Naval Air Station Sigonella, Italy), the 2d MLR has refined EABO based on lessons learned in the Indo-Pacific and is proficient in conducting distributed operations. The continued fielding of assets such as the M142 HIMARS and ROGUE NMESIS anti-ship ballistic missile systems, unmanned aerial systems (UAS), tactical mesh network communications, loitering munitions, Long Range Undersea Vehicles (LRUSV), and the integration of information maneuver and electronic warfare specialists at the tactical level enables the littoral combat team to not only seize and hold key maritime terrain, but also to conduct reconnaissance across all domains and prepare to conduct strike and Anti-Surface Warfare (ASuW) operations in support of sea denial.xi

Thanks to the development of semi-submersible vessels, sea planes, and the Light Amphibious Warship (LAW), the 2d logistics battalion can support mobility and sustainment for 2d Marine Littoral Regiment forces in the region.xii Marine aviation has also adapted, electing to deploy the anti-air battalion as distributed detachments with a robust anti-air defense capability provided by by the Marine Air Defense Integrated System and Medium Range Interceptor Capability.xiii

Connecting all of these capabilities with the fleet is the recently fielded Joint All Domain Command and Control (JADC2) system.xiv The JADC2 has enabled the integration of sensors across the battlespace to create a common intelligence picture, known as Multi-Domain Awareness (MDA) that leverages Activity Based Intelligence (ABI) to identify anomalies in the baseline and facilitates rapid target engagement by linking distributed Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance and Targeting (ISR-T) and fire control systems on a single network.xv All-in-all, the 2d Marine Littoral Regiment presence in EUCOM provides commanders with options far beyond that of the typical Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), which saw similar developments in capabilities but retained its legacy core mission set of conducting amphibious operations across the range of military operations.

First to Fight and First to Strike

In the six months leading up to the Aegean crisis, the EUCOM Commander ordered 6th Fleet and 2d MLR to form a joint task force (TF 67) in order to maintain control of the Eastern Mediterranean. He assigned TF 67 an area of operations encompassing all littoral territory from the north of the Dardanelles, Israel to the east, the Suez Canal and Egypt in the south, and Sicily to the west. ADM Grant assumed command of TF67, and understanding the strategic context, assigned 2d MLR three Littoral Operations Areas (LOA), with the intent to utilize EABO to support fleet actions in the event of a contingency.xvi

Delta Company and Echo Battery, 2d Littoral Combat Team mission, disguised as theater security cooperation, was to defend the anti-air battalion’s Forward Arming and Refueling Point (FARP) operations on Crete, while being prepared to conduct strike and anti-surface warfare operations. Their critical position at the maritime chokepoint of Crete would enable them to control access to the Western Mediterranean and the Aegean Sea.xvii Additionally, while no aircraft were currently staged at the Expeditionary Airfield, the FARP’s position would extend the operational range of the aircraft carrier in the region without endangering the multi-billion dollar warship.xviii

In the Aegean Sea, Echo Company and the long-range undersea vehicles platoon were participating in the annual EXERCISE SALAMIS, where platoons occupied various Aegean islands to conduct training with Greek soldiers and marines. While the activities consisted mostly of small-unit infantry training, the exercise stimulated the local information environment, providing the electronic warfare and information maneuver specialists the opportunity to collect, analyze, and infiltrate Turkish command and control networks, including a “back door” into their largest cellular carrier.xix As the crises escalated, ADM Grant ordered Echo Company to transition to an afloat posture aboard their attached light amphibious warships, with plans to occupy predetermined expeditionary advanced bases on several of the Greek islands to conduct strike and anti-surface warfare operations—an agreement that required deft application of diplomacy from the State Department and a high degree of discipline from Marines and Sailors to maintain operations security.xx The infantry units could secure expeditionary bases to conduct surveillance and reconnaissance of the Turkish coast and provide fire control for strikes.xxi

In the far Eastern Mediterranean, Fox Company and an MQ-9 Reaper detachment from VMU-2 were supporting Israel’s Gaza operations, which had escalated over the 2020s. Due to Arab countries’—particularly Egypt’s—growing relationship with Israel, a popular uprising in Gaza spread across the Sinai Peninsula. While Fox Company and VMU-2 remained the most isolated of the 2d MLR’s forces, their presence in the Eastern Mediterranean enabled ADM Grant to extend his senor network to the rear of the Turkish fleet at Askaz. They may not play a direct kinetic role in any lethal exchange with Turkey, but their ISR-T capabilities might prove a key advantage in gaining the ability to fire effectively first.

Further west on the North African Coast, the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit was tasked with providing humanitarian aid, intelligence support, and air reconnaissance to Egypt, while preparing to conduct noncombatant evacuation operations, tactical recovery of aircraft and personnel, and, if necessary, amphibious raids or assaults. While he hoped offensive actions against the Turkish mainland would not be necessary, ADM Grant retained the option to re-task the MEU to fulfil this role in the event of escalation with Turkey.

Thanks to the Marines’ persistence with FD2030 and EABO, ADM Grant now had assurance that his fleet could maneuver in the area with eyes, punching power, and sustainment positioned forward in the event of a crisis. When it became clear that he would need to fight the Turkish fleet and scuttle their transports, ADM Grant gave the order to transition 2d MLR from Phase 0 shaping operations to kinetic operations in support of the fleet. While he was still concerned about the numerical disadvantage of Commander Gridley’s eight Littoral Combat Ships (LCS) to defeat the main Turkish fleet, ADM Grant knew that Fox Company and the MQ-9 Reaper detachment from VMU-2 could provide unmanned aerial surveillance of the main Turkish fleet’s movements, pass that targeting information to the long-range undersea vehicle platoon of Echo Company’s or the NMESIS platoon on Crete, and enable a first strike. He knew this kill chain could determine the overall battle. This first strike would have to come before the Turkish ships’ radar could detect the low-profile littoral combat ships and fire upon them.xxii

All that money and headache for multi-domain awareness had paid off after all. The remainder of Echo Company would establish air and missile defense zones at their advance bases to enable the logistics battalion to refuel and rearm Gidley’s force at sea and extend his culminating point.xxiii Meanwhile, the F-35B and C variants could take off safely from the carrier far in the western Mediterranean and utilize Delta Company’s forwarding arming and refueling base on Crete to increase their sortie rate against the Turkish ships. This would enable him to disrupt Turkish communications with electronic warfare and conduct strikes against their ships while they were busy fighting CDR Gridley on the surface.

By integrating 2d MLR’s EABO capability, ADM Grant knew he now possessed a decisive advantage across all domains and warfighting functions that would give his subordinate commanders much more than just a fighting chance. Ultimately, however, CDR Gridley’s action would be the feint that enabled his decisive attack by the unmanned undersea vehicles currently gliding through the Aegean to their firing positions after being released from their expeditionary sea base mothership.xxiv With so many Turkish assets concentrated on the fight with Gridley, the chance of them detecting the undersea vehicles would be slim to none. Even if they failed, he could always have the strike warfare commander assume control of the undersea vehicles and conduct strikes with the Marines’ platforms.

Prior to giving the order for CDR Gridley to go “weapons free,” ADM Grant reflected on the naysayers who believed FD2030 and EABO would make the Marine Corps irrelevant to American military power.xxv In an earlier era, the whole operation could hinge on whether or not a Turkish or U.S. Navy sailor in the combat information center spotted the other first; the loss of life would be significant. In the present moment, he was grateful that the “soldiers of the sea” had made the hard choice to return to their naval roots.



[i] Wayne P. Hughes and Robert Girrier, Fleet Tactics and Naval Operations, 3rd Edition, Blue and Gold Professional Series (Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press, 2018).

[ii] Hughes and Girrier, 306.

[iii] Gen David H. Berger, “Commandant’s Planning Guidance” (Washington, D.C.: United States Marine Corps, July 15, 2019),; Headquarters, United States Marine Corps, “Tentative Manual for Expeditionary Advanced Base Operations” (Department of the Navy, February 2021); Gen David H. Berger, “Force Design 2030” (Washington, D.C.: United States Marine Corps, March 2020),

[iv] General David H. Berger, “Marines Will Help Fight Submarines,” November 2020.

[v] LtCol Frank G. Hoffman, USMCR (Ret.), “Still First to Fight?,” Marine Corps Gazette, June 2020.

[vi] Hughes and Girrier, Fleet Tactics and Naval Operations, 308–13.

[vii] Hughes and Girrier, 313–25.

[viii] Hughes and Girrier, 313–14.

[ix] Hughes and Girrier, 325–27.

[x] General David H. Berger, “A Concept for Stand-In Forces” (Washington, D.C.: United States Marine Corps, December 2021), 4–5; Headquarters, United States Marine Corps, “TM-EABO,” chap. 2.

[xi] Ryan White, “The First Weapon System for the USMC’s New LRUSV: Hero-120,” Naval Post, June 22, 2021, sec. Naval News,; “Metal Shark Developing LRUSV for the U.S. Marine Corps,” The Maritime Executive, accessed May 9, 2022,; Xavier Vavasseur, “Here Is Our First Look at the USMC’s NMESIS: NSM Being Launched from an Unmanned JLTV,” Naval News (blog), April 28, 2021,; “Navy Marine Expeditionary Ship Interdiction System (NMESIS), US,” Naval Technology (blog), accessed April 7, 2022,; Corporal Levi Voss, “3rd MAW Procures Marine Corps’ First MQ-9A ‘Reaper,’” Marines.Mil (blog), September 7, 2021,; Terrence K. Kelly et al., “Employing Land-Based Anti-Ship Missiles in the Western Pacific” (Santa Monica, CA: RAND, 2013).

[xii] Walker D Mills and Collin Fox, “‘Cocaine Logistics’ for the Marine Corps,” War on the Rocks (blog), July 22, 2020; Christopher D. Booth, “Overcome the Tyranny of Distance,” Proceedings, December 2020; Alec Blivas, “6 Platforms for Marine Expeditionary Advanced Base Operations Logistics,” The Diplomat, November 11, 2020, Asia Defense edition, sec. Security; Captain Walker D. Mills and Erik Limpaecher, “Sustainment Will Be Contested,” Proceedings, November 2020; Megan Eckstein, “Navy, Marines Will Need Recapitalized Sealift, Logistics Capabilities to Succeed in Pacific,” USNI News, December 2, 2020; Ronald O’Rourke, “Navy Light Amphibious Warship (LAW) Program: Background and Issues for Congress,” CRS Report (Washington, D.C.: Congressional Research Service, April 1, 2021).

[xiii] Headquarters, United States Marine Corps, “TM-EABO,” A-4.

[xiv] John R. Hoehn, “Joint All-Domain Command and Control (JADC2),” CRS Report, In Focus (Washington, D.C.: Congressional Research Service, January 21, 2022); JADC2 Cross Functional Team, “Summary of the Joint All-Domain Command and Control (JADC2) Strategy” (Department of Defense, March 2022).

[xv] Headquarters, United States Marine Corps, “TM-EABO,” chap. 4; Chandler P Atwood, “Activity-Based Intelligence: Revolutionizing Military Intelligence Analysis,” Joint Forces Quarterly 77, no. 2 (2015): 10; Ben Conklin, “Activity Based Intelligence: A Perilous Journey to Intelligence Integration.”

[xvi] Headquarters, United States Marine Corps, “TM-EABO,” sec. 3.7.5.

[xvii] Brian Kerg, Anthony King, and Michael Murray, “How Marine Security Cooperation Can Translate into Sea Control,” War on the Rocks (blog), September 13, 2019.

[xviii] Headquarters, United States Marine Corps, “TM-EABO,” sec. 8.5.6.

[xix] For an example of how exercises could be used to “stimulate the environment,” see the vignette “EXERCISE SHOULDER-TO-SHOULDER-203X” in Headquarters, United States Marine Corps, 4–12.

[xx] Colonel George J. David, “Making It Work: Force Design 2030 and Access,” Marine Corps Gazette, October 2020.

[xxi] Headquarters, United States Marine Corps, “TM-EABO,” sec. 8.5.2.

[xxii] In the original scenario, Gridley commanded Cushing-class corvettes. For this updated scenario, these have been replaced by the LCS. Headquarters, United States Marine Corps, sec. 8.5.1; Mallory Shelbourne and Megan Eckstein, “Navy Integrating Littoral Combat Ships, Expeditionary Sea Base into New Operating Concepts,” USNI News, January 18, 2021; “U.S. Navy’s Gabrielle Giffords LCS Launches Naval Strike Missile,” Naval Technology (blog), October 3, 2019.

[xxiii] Headquarters, United States Marine Corps, “TM-EABO,” sec. 8.5.3.

[xxiv] In the original scenario, CAPT Hughes referred to this capability as the Phantom-class. Xavier Vavasseur, “Here Is Our First Look at the US Navy’s Orca XLUUV,” Naval News (blog), May 7, 2022,

[xxv] Paul K. Van Riper, “Jeopardizing National Security,” Marine Corps Times, March 21, 2022, sec. Commentary; Paul K. Van Riper, “The Marine Corps’ Plan to Redesign the Force Will Only End up Breaking It,” Task & Purpose (blog), April 20, 2022,; Anthony Zinni, “What Is the Role of the Marine Corps in Today’s Global Security Environment?,” Task & Purpose (blog), April 19, 2022,; Terry Dake, “The Marine Corps’ Reorganization Plan Will Cripple Its Aviation Capabilities,” Task & Purpose (blog), April 22, 2022,; Dan Gouré, “Will Commandant Berger’s New Marine Corps Be a High-Tech Forlorn Hope?,” RealClear Defense (blog), April 1, 2020.

Featured Image: Marines assigned to Task Force Ellis, I Marine Expeditionary Force Information Group, I Marine Expeditionary Force, utilize a Polaris MRZR D4 during a field exercise on Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, April 23, 2020. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Manuel A. Serrano)

Locate, Close With, Destroy

Transforming the Marine Corps Topic Week

By Ian Brown 


“—unprecedented chain of events culminated today in his early resignation only three months into his second nominated term. Citing the well-publicized campaign against his reforms, he noted that his person had become a distraction from the Service’s ability to fulfill its mandated functions. As he stepped away from the microphone, our Pentagon correspondent heard him comment that ‘never was so much so misunderstood by so many,’ but she could not get him to elaborate. While his successor awaits Senate confirmation, sources already report that the rapid recapitalization of divested weapons systems will be a top priority for the new—”


             “You’re fucking kidding me,” spat Colonel Sara Hård, though she knew the general was, sadly, serious. The general’s fleeting smirk confirmed her suspicions.

            “Come now, colonel,” responded Brigadier General Paolo Ricci. “We all have our roles. This is just what your little science experiment was designed for, right?” Hård bit her tongue until she could taste blood. It was that, or say something that would see her leave the room stripped of her already tenuous command. Truly, there are none so blind as those who will not fucking see…

            “Sir,” she said, working to keep her tone neutral, “I don’t dispute that this assignment is one of the many possible missions my regiment was constructed to execute, but I strongly believe that a more mutually supportive deployment—”

            “Enough.” The smirk was gone. “Let me be clear, colonel. I’ll use your band of littoral misfits because this crisis is here, and so are you. And as it happens, your reason for being happily aligns with this specific request of the Norwegian government. Who knows, this could be the perfect chance for the Marine Littoral Regiment to finally show its quality.” A ghost of the smirk reappeared. “So you will plant your space experts and cyber warriors and influencers and missileers on those islands, and make noises if any Soviets get too close—which they won’t. We will handle anything that comes down the road.”

            And there it was. General Ricci, poster child of the old guard, wanted his refurbished tanks and artillery tubes to have a public knife fight upon which he could slap the bumper sticker of “locate, close with, and destroy,” because that’s what the old guard wanted. Her “influencers”—linguistic trend analysis among their skills, not that Ricci cared—were screaming that this conflict would unfold another way. They want an amphibious win against us, her influencers said, they’ll come by sea, the road is just a distraction—but Ricci clung to his vision.

            “Captain Rhys, please have the duty driver return Colonel Hård to the airfield,” he said nonchalantly. Hård rose and wordlessly followed the captain out of the room. She could feel Ricci’s eyes mocking her as she left.

            Hård sat in silence on the drive back to Kirkenes Lufthavn. She had known this eleventh-hour plea with the MAGTF commander was likely fruitless regardless of the moment’s urgency. The Russian Federation had collapsed following its army’s expulsion from Ukraine and subsequent economic free fall. The chaos had forced NATO to contend with more than a dozen new breakaway regimes all fighting each other, with the violence regularly spilling over NATO borders. The New Murmansk Soviet had been quiet thus far, until a few days ago when its Chairman broke his silence.

            The Chairman’s exact words—rights under the Svalbard Treaty, a litany of historical injustices, the protection of Russian-language speakers—were largely irrelevant. Only two things mattered. The Soviet’s military forces were among the most potent of the breakaway states and  the Northern Rotational MAGTF was in a position to do something about it.

            Hård had hoped this meant the Marine Littoral Regiment’s turn had finally come after the long months of being shunted aside. Facing the pending Soviet offensive, she thought her argument was strong: the MLR, along with Ricci’s conventional forces, should redeploy to Bear Island and Svalbard together to oppose Soviet landings and threaten their naval forces seeking to break into the Atlantic. Ricci gave one of his smirks and assessed Soviet amphibious and naval capability as “low.” But since the Norwegian government shared her concern, her MLR would cover the islands. Away from the “real” land fight in Hesseng he wants, and the cameras.

A knock on the car window pulled Hård back from her dark thoughts. She was at Kirkenes Lufthavn. Giving the waiting driver a tight smile and small nod for his forbearance, she got out. The MV-22 Osprey that had brought her here was already spinning a short distance away, and a shadow in front the aircraft’s silhouette walked toward her. She recognized her assistant operations officer, Major Travis Cuomo, who raised a hand holding a cranial to her in greeting.

“I’m guessing we’ll be in Longyearbyen a bit longer?” he asked as she strapped her cranial on.

“Yes,” she replied, continuing toward the Osprey. “I’ll have some orders to transmit once we’re airborne. Weather update?”

“Low pressure system’s growing. Pilot’s gonna have to buster to get us back before the skies close.” Cuomo paused. “With aviation grounded, we’ll be awfully lonely out there.” Hård smiled tightly.

“Nonsense,” she said with forced lightness. “It’s just an opportunity to grow where we’re planted.” Cuomo quietly nodded as they approached the Osprey’s tail ramp. After the Osprey lifted, Hård plugged her cranial into the aircraft’s communications system and started sending orders into the ether. The lights of Kirkenes faded behind them. Far to the west, lightning danced on the horizon.


            “Dog Three Six confirms the Pyotr Velikiy is destroyed.” Hård nodded thanks at the corporal who had delivered the message.

“Good,” replied Hård. “Tell Captain Garard and the Influence cell to launch their packages in 20 minutes. I don’t need to review it.” The corporal nodded in return, and went back to his corner of the hotel dining room. Outside, the arctic storm swirled, an angry contrast to the unnatural calm of her Marines inside the Blu Polar Hotel. Turning away from storm, Hård headed to a different corner to watch the Influence cell at work.

Captain Garard was quietly guiding the editing process for the latest information packages. The work was a microcosm of what her “misfits” brought to the table. Her Space Marine liaison team had received commercial satellite cuing for the Soviet Northern Fleet flagship Pyotr Velikiy a few hours ago. The satellites fed targeting information to the Maritime Strike Tomahawk battery with the Lava Dogs on Bear Island, which then—with the satellites watching and her Influence cell listening—launched a missile salvo.

Hård observed the strike playback as Garard’s team massaged it. Two missiles struck the ship, one detonating the vessel’s magazine to break its back. She listened as the radio transmissions from the Pyotr Velikiy changed from bored reports to screams. Radio silence followed as the two pieces of the Pyotr Velikiy’s hull slid beneath the storm-frothed waves.

Of the Influence cell’s information packages, the first was for public consumption, highlighting a straightforward message: we are winning. It showed the video but omitted the screams, instead dubbing over a patriotic Norwegian rock ballad that had gone viral when the New Murmansk Soviet announced its intentions. This package would go to Norwegian news outlets, Russian social media, even Ricci’s COMMSTRAT Marines—not that the latter would do anything with it.

The second package also had a straightforward message: we are going to kill you, and you can’t stop us. It swapped out music for the dying crew’s screams. This one would go out across Soviet naval military channels to sow pure fear. Similar packages had gone out following each strike, and her Marines had been gratified to watch some of the Soviet ships turn back after receiving the Influence cell’s transmissions. It was maneuver warfare at work—space and influence domains joined with long-range fires assets to create a combined arms effect that had significantly shrunk the Soviet threat to the archipelago. Things were going pretty well. Except…

The amphibs were missing. There were four Project 23900-class amphibious assault ships in the Soviet Northern Fleet, and when that Fleet had met the front edge of the storm southeast of Svalbard, satellites lost track of them. Her Space Marine liaisons had worked to recover the tracks scattered by the storm—but despite reacquiring many lucrative targets, the amphibs remained ghosts. That meant thousands of Soviet naval infantry were out there, location unknown, plowing toward them—

“Ma’am?” A hand touched her shoulder; it was Captain Garard. “We’ve launched the packages,” said the captain. “Just wanted you to know before we start breaking things down to displace.”

“Thanks,” Hård replied with a small smile. “I guess that means I should be getting myself ready to move too, doesn’t it?” Garard gave an agreeable nod as the room’s calm turned to flurried activity. In moments, her Marines had packed up the command post and were hauling their Pelican cases into the rain toward their next location under the displacement plan that kept them ahead of the Soviet targeting cycle. Hård gave herself another small smile. The rain seemed to be slackening; that would make it all the easier to find the amphibs. Things were indeed going well.


            “Riptide Six, launch the barn.” Hård pushed the “end” button and tossed down the handheld. So much for things going well. A sharp crack overhead caught her attention. From her latest command post high above Isfjorden, she looked up through the camouflage netting to see pieces of burning debris floating in the dark sky. It was the latest casualty in the air battle raging above them.

            They’d found the amphibs; or, rather, the amphibs had found them. Under cover of the storm, the Soviets had reached the Isfjorden undetected. Her regiment’s coastal radars picked up faint returns, called it in, and then came the missiles and loitering munitions as the line of Project 23900 ships brazenly pushed toward Longyearbyen. But once the initial surprise had worn off, her Marines stung back.

            Explosions and flaming debris filled the air in the battle between her Stinger and MADIS gunners, and Soviet missiles and drones. The Soviet drones came in increasing numbers, intended to soak up as much ground-based air defense as they could, but she’d trained her Marines to be ready for this. A new sound thrummed through the airspace, and she again looked skyward to watch the results.

            “Launching the barn” was a contingency she’d kept in the back of her mind for unconventional employment of her MLR’s excess tactical ISR drones. Now those drones would add their rotors and propellers to the air battle. New flashes lit up the night sky as her drone operators sent their unmanned platforms against the cloud of Soviet drones in kamikaze runs. They plunged down from above to cut their Soviet counterparts in half, or drove into Soviet rotors and propellers to send them spinning to the ground. The frequency of the flashes slackened after a few minutes, and Hård knew that her Marines had cleared the airspace for the battle’s next phase. She picked up her handheld, scrolled to a different contact, and pressed the “call” icon.

            “Go for Dog One Six,” came the reply.

            “This is Actual,” Hård said. “Ghost them, and be ready for leakers.”

            “Yes ma’am,” the voice responded. “Everyone goes swimming.” Hård felt a small measure of sympathy toward the Soviet amphibs for the hard time about to unfold. She looked through her binocular NVGs, saw a flash and bloom of light on the flight deck of the rear-most amphib, and then the rest of the Ghosts came.

            The Ghost drone—its predecessor first tested in Ukraine but later dismissed by the old guard as lacking the spirit of true combined arms—was silent, low-profile, and launchable from almost anywhere. Hård swept her NVGs across the dark sky, the darker-than-dark silhouettes of the Ghosts barely visible as they converged from a hundred launch points around the island, and then plunged into the amphibs.

            The rear-most ship took three hits to the bridge in quick succession, and as its course drifted slowly to starboard it became clear the helm was beyond human control. The next ship in line suddenly spewed flames from virtually all of its openings. Fuel tanks ruptured, and we know they have poor damage control. Jesus. As she watched, some of the flames fell down to the water rather than rise in the air, and she knew those flames were wrapped around people. She shifted her gaze to the right—

            —to be blinded by a searing white light from up the fjord. Hård ripped her NVGs off, blinking away painful spots. When her vision cleared, she looked down the fjord and saw a sheet of fire spreading across the water where the lead amphib had been. A Ghost had hit its magazine, and the ship was simply gone. Need to work up an award for whoever flew that drone, she thought, just as a tall black shape cut in front of the pool of flame. It was the last amphib, burning in more places than she could count, but clearly still under control and just as clearly, its captain was sprinting to shore to give the embarked naval infantry a fighting chance. Hård put her NVGs back on in time to see smaller black shapes speeding from the ship’s stern. In an act of true desperation, the Soviets were launching their landing ships while the amphib was still at flank speed.

            Then the Marines’ next defensive layer opened up. Carl Gustavs lanced across the water, Javelins arced up and then back down. More flames blossomed across the landing flotilla until it looked like fire had replaced water within the fjord. The last amphib charged toward the shore without slowing, and Hård guessed that it was no longer under human control either—this collision would kill or cripple anyone left alive on board that inferno. From her distant post, the sound of the warship crunching into rock sounded like a thousand empty oils drums being tossed around in a giant’s dryer. Then the ship simply sat, and burned. Just like that, it was over.

            Her handheld vibrated. Hård looked at the screen. The number combination indicated it was a valid contact in the MAGTF C2 network, but she didn’t recognize it. She swiped to answer.

            “Colonel Hård?” The voice was a faint quaver. “Colonel Hard? Ma’am?” Hård had to say “yes” several times before the answer finally registered with the caller. When it did, the caller muttered something indistinguishable, and Hård finally placed the voice.

            “Captain Rhys? Why the hell are you calling me directly—“

            “They’re all dead, ma’am,” Rhys replied softly. “They’re all dead, and we need you back here, and they’re all dead…”

            It was several minutes before Hård could get Rhys to say anything else.


             Hesseng and Kirkenes Lufthavn were smoldering heaps, though at least the airport had enough unbroken tarmac for an Osprey to land. Hård waited for the aircraft to shut down before stepping off the tail ramp, dreading the revelations to come. She walked toward the pitifully small field hospital the Norwegians had erected for survivors on the far side of the airfield.

            Rhys’ bed was close to the door flap. Hård pulled up a folding chair and sat down. They looked wordlessly at each other for a few moments, with Hård finally breaking the silence.

            “What happened?”

            “The general got his close fight,” Rhys said softly. “He thought their air would be grounded by the storm, and they would have to come up the highway into Hesseng. Our artillery would pound them on the way in, and then we’d have the urban tank battle that…” Rhys trailed off.

            “That would prove Ricci right,” Hård finished. Rhys nodded.

            “They killed our guns with rockets first. BM-30s and Tornados.” Rhys half-sobbed. “The Soviets know this ground, they live next to it. They know where you can put towed artillery and where you can’t. We were too far away to shoot back and too slow to move out of the way. Then they moved closer and did the same to Hesseng. They didn’t kill many of our tanks, just destroyed all the buildings so we couldn’t move. And when the weather broke, Tu-22s put cluster bombs on everything still standing.” Rhys paused again. “Then they came up the highway. Not many, but enough to…make their point. They drove right up to our stuck tanks and the rubble on our fighting positions, and pulled those Marines out who were still alive and…you saw the YouTube videos?” Hård nodded silently. She’d watched them on the flight over. The crew chiefs had kindly loaned her a rag to wipe up the vomit afterward. Ricci had gotten the close fight he wanted; close enough, as the Soviet videos showed, to put bullets in the back of Marines’ heads.

Rhys was silently weeping now. Hård stayed with the captain until weeping gave way to exhausted sleep, and then stood up to leave. On tables at the back of the field hospital were a number of body bags awaiting temporary burial. One lay on a separate table, a strip of bright yellow tape stuck to its side, with “Ricci” scrawled on it in black letters. Hård did not look at it on the way out.


            “—retired generals expected at today’s hearings on the recent skirmish in the High North. Viewers might recall that yesterday’s hearings were interrupted by protestors, several of whom were later identified as family members of Marines executed by Soviet forces in the Norwegian town of Hesseng. Protestors displayed several of the horrifying images we have seen of shell-shocked Marines being shot at point-blank range by the Soviets, and, well, listen to the replay here as the protestors were removed: ‘Was that close enough, general? The Soviets got close and my son is dead, was that close enough, are you happy now—’”

Major Ian T. Brown currently serves as the operations officer at the Brute Krulak Center for Innovation and Future Warfare at Marine Corps University, Quantico. He is a contributor to previous CIMSEC Fiction Weeks, and has also discussed military fiction and wargaming on the Sea Control podcast. The views expressed here are in a personal capacity and do not reflect the views of the Krulak Center, Marine Corps University, the United States Marine Corps, or any other agency of the U.S. Government.

Featured Image: “War Ship” by Romain Laforet via Artstation.

Stand-In Forces: Disrupting Anti-Access Systems

Transforming the Marine Corps Topic Week

By Joseph Mozzi

The threat of anti-access capabilities is here to stay, and the Marine Corps’ stand-in force concept lends much-needed variety to the toolbox of approaches that will allow the joint force to “break the wall” if needed.1 Anti-access strategies are not new concepts, nor are they the oft-depicted ‘deus ex machina’ that will turn vast swaths of the globe into prohibited regions for American power projection.2 They do, however, present a threat that is only increasing in capability, bolstered by the increasing evolution of the mature precision-strike regime.3 By winning the maritime reconnaissance and counter-reconnaissance fight, the stand-in force is uniquely capable of contributing to the systemic disruption of anti-access capabilities, generating advantages and opportunities for the naval services and joint force to exploit. It lends much-needed asymmetry to breaking the walls that many of America’s current adversaries will erect in their efforts to hold American power-projection capabilities at bay.4

There is broad congruence between the stand-in force’s role and the Marine Corps’ capstone doctrine of maneuver warfare. Penetrating an adversary’s system to eliminate its ability to function as a coordinated whole is central to the service’s warfighting philosophy,5 and systemic disruption is its defeat mechanism of choice.6 In viewing anti-access capabilities for what they are: complex systems reliant on technology, information, and human decision making; the stand-in force generates effects that both deter and provide advantages during conflict. It reinvents the traditional understanding of penetrating a denied space from the outside-in by persisting within an adversary’s weapons engagement zone beginning in periods of competition. It cooperates with allies and partners, assuming a deterrent posture as a form of temporal penetration. If competition escalates to conflict, the stand-in force already occupies a position of advantage. The stand-in force concept challenges the Marine Corps to create an adaptable system that can persist and sustain itself in a contested space, adapting its theory of warfighting to present challenges.

Anti-Access Systems

It is not the sources of power within anti-access systems that threaten external actors but the force of power that the system exerts. Anti-access approaches exhibit the emergent characteristics of complex systems: a whole greater than its parts. The sources of anti-access power: anti-ship missiles, surface combatants, and both terrestrial and extra-terrestrial reconnaissance systems, among others, are reliant on critical linkages to project force that can deny an area to an adversary.7 They are, in effect, an entirely interdependent network that must work together successfully.8

Anti-access warfare is fundamentally a struggle to gain and maintain awareness that can be synthesized within a system to result in targetable information.9 Actions cannot occur absent awareness of the environment. For example, China’s DF-21 anti-ship ballistic missiles rely on information to detect prospective targets throughout their range. They are dependent on other target acquisition systems within the larger system to achieve their intended effects. Information about the environment and the means to process it emerge as critical linkages within anti-access systems. A force that can affect those linkages – denying information and understanding to the adversary – has a high potential to contribute to the systemic disruption of the anti-access capability. In this lies the potential of the stand-in force, eschewing the direct approach of penetrating an anti-access system from the outside in favor of asymmetrically disrupting it from within.

Systemic Disruption and the Stand-In Force

Systemic disruption is the result of affecting a system’s coherence. It recognizes that an adversary is a system of interacting parts and attacks the relationships between critical components.10 By targeting the connections which bring coherence to an adversary’s system, systemic disruption achieves second-order effects on individual sources of strength by negating their collective functionality. Applying lethal or non-lethal means to disrupt an adversary’s ability to acquire targets within a contested space can have effects commensurate with destroying the systems themselves that would deliver effects. In this sense, it generates results disproportionately greater than the effort expended.11 The asymmetry inherent in stand-in force maritime reconnaissance and counter-reconnaissance lends weight to its systemic disruption capabilities.

Narrowly dependent systems are less able to account for the full range of environmental pressures that may be brought to bear upon them.12 In the case of anti-access systems, this narrow dependency is the system’s reliance on information to the end of preventing the joint force from entering a contested area. By existing inside of a “denied” space during periods of competition, the stand-in force becomes part of multiple dilemmas facing an adversary. The anti-access system must detect forces both within its denied space and attempting to penetrate from the outside. The interdependence between the inside and outside forces strengthens the asymmetry. Unmanned target acquisition systems employed in-depth by the stand-in force are the forward edge of an integrated system encompassing not only stand-in force lethal capabilities but those residing in the fleet and joint force. The stand-in force can give and take, augmenting its actions by integrating external capabilities while generating opportunities for the fleet and joint force to exploit in its wake.

Successful reconnaissance and counter-reconnaissance in periods of competition keep the stand-in force and fleet in a position of information advantage over the anti-access system through the transition to conflict. Stand-in forces create an area within which the anti-access system cannot aggregate the targetable information required to function. While the stand-in force denies the anti-access system information vital to its efforts to target the fleet, it remains a lethal and elusive obstacle that must be addressed. The anti-access system must expend increasing resources to “detect” and continuously “track” a force benefitting from high intra-theater mobility, low signature levels, decoys and deception, and lethal precision capabilities. Robust reconnaissance efforts support the counter-reconnaissance fight by identifying adversary collection patterns over time, ensuring both the fleet and stand-in force remain ahead of adversary decision cycles.

Stand-in force actions force the anti-access system to adapt to an unexpected threat. Air Force Colonel John Boyd characterized a theory of systemic collapse where actions present as “simultaneously menacing…ambiguous, chaotic, or misleading.” These actions induce confusion and disorder into the system.13 To remain viable, the system must adapt by seeking new and perhaps riskier means to gain the information it requires to function. Without a complete understanding of its threat environment, it decompensates as challenges cascade faster than the system can adapt to them.14 Refocusing and repositioning target acquisition systems to locate the stand-in force will rob the anti-access system of vital capacity that could be dedicated to detecting the fleet while increasing its exposure to the lethal capabilities of the stand-in force.

The Stand-In Force and Maneuver Warfare

The realization of the stand-in force must be accompanied by a continued embrace of maneuver outside of the spatial domain. While spatial maneuver is fundamental to the success of the stand-in force in both competition and conflict, the Marine Corps’ capstone doctrine is careful to underscore that the service must “consider maneuver in other dimensions as well.”15 As a philosophy that aims to shatter an adversary’s cohesion through actions that generate a rapidly deteriorating situation, any action that generates and exploits advantage – executing maneuver in “all dimensions”16 – is well nested in the service’s capstone doctrine.

As information is a critical linkage within anti-access systems, the broader maritime reconnaissance and counter-reconnaissance fight becomes a centerpiece to the stand-in force’s actions to achieve an advantage. These actions are fundamentally maneuverist in their effects, generating interconnected temporal, cognitive, and spatial advantages over an adversary. Temporal advantage begins in competition. The stand-in force in partnership with allies generates a persistent and baseline awareness of adversary systems and decision processes, a product of intelligence-led operations.17 This contributes to cognitive and temporal advantages in conflict, allowing the stand-in force in cooperation with the fleet to anticipate and remain ahead of adversary actions,18 dictating the terms of escalation or return to competition. Successful counter-reconnaissance also supports spatial advantage, as rapidly mobile and low signature forces use their understanding to achieve positions to hold adversary forces at credible risk. Spatial maneuver converges with temporal, cognitive, and informational maneuver to generate these advantages for the force.

For the Marine Corps, this forward-looking embrace of an expanded understanding of maneuver warfare must occur at all levels of leadership. The Marine Corps prides itself on teaching its leaders how to think, not what to think. Limiting one’s conception of maneuver warfare to the bounds of the land domain and spatial maneuver ignores the true potential of a timeless theory of achieving advantage and winning in both competition and conflict. The Marine Corps is currently training the non-commissioned and company-grade officers that will form the core of tactical-level leadership in the stand-in force of the future. They must retain a conception of maneuver warfare’s continued and timeless relevance.

Implications for the Stand-In Force

Depriving an anti-access system of information that forms the critical linkages between its sources of power is not the job of any single entity within the stand-in force. It is a task levied on the force as a whole. While the Marine Corps understands this fact,19 it presents potentially the greatest challenge to translating the concept of a stand-in force into a persistent and forward-deployed system that can provide these functions to the fleet and joint force. A holistic stand-in force that can win the maritime reconnaissance and counter-reconnaissance fight will contribute to the systemic disruption of an anti-access system. If the stand-in force cannot, it will in turn be isolated and vulnerable.

There are elements of both art and science that will contribute to realizing the stand-in force. Sustainment and logistics methods that can support a stand-in force at scale and in conflict,20 advancing unmanned capabilities as a service in partnership with the Navy,21 and the rapid maturation of the information maneuver occupational field are a few examples of capabilities that will enable success.22 The stand-in force must be able to persist over time and throughout the depth of the environment.

To say that the concept of stand-in forces is high-risk and high-reward is perhaps an understatement. While current events in Ukraine can shed some light on the realities of future conflict as they apply to the Marine Corps,23 experimentation within the concept of stand-in forces is still largely anticipatory. Force Design 2030 is subject to an ongoing series of wargames to assess future force design and its associated concepts.24 Even the best-designed wargames are not completely predictive, at least not in the sense that they reduce the realities of conflict to a formulaic problem of right or wrong answers that can guarantee success.25 They can, however, provide a valuable means through which to reduce the complexity of problems to illuminate constraints, test theories, and challenge hypotheses.26 The end product of these efforts is a best assessment of what a future maritime fight may demand. 

The uncertainty that will always surround the future battlefield is perhaps the Marine Corps’ greatest advantage in preparing for the future. Recovering from battlefield surprise is the best test of a military’s adaptability. Even the best efforts to anticipate the character of future conflict will in some ways come up short, and how a service develops itself to respond contributes greatly to its success or failure. In his book On Flexibility, Meir Finkel might as well have been speaking of the Marine Corps when he outlined requirements for successful battlefield adaptation. Warfighting doctrine must be “open” and flexible enough to adapt to emerging battlefield realities, being of immediate utility while at the same time supporting change at the tactical level. Diverse force structures must provide complementary capabilities and solutions to meet emergent problems. Doctrine and force structure must be supported by a decentralized command and control model supported by cognitive flexibility. These attributes must be fostered through formal education and training, which arms leadership with the ability to meet new challenges effectively. Perhaps most importantly, improvement must be a central pillar within the organization.27

Stand-in forces will provide a valuable capability to the joint force to deter adversaries and, if necessary, disrupt anti-access systems in times of conflict. The success of stand-in forces is incumbent on the Marine Corps’ ability to realize an adaptable system that can persist and sustain itself in contested spaces. Its success will not be the result of any singular capability but of the competencies of the force as a whole. Warfighting remains a timely and relevant capstone doctrine to understand and realize this emerging concept, providing Marine leaders with the cognitive foundations to adapt to emerging demands. As the current and vibrant debate over the merits of Force Design 2030 indicates, the Marine Corps’ longstanding commitment to improvement lends confidence to the idea that the service will get it right.

Joseph Mozzi is a Marine Corps artillery officer. He is currently a student at the U.S. Army’s Command and General Staff Officers Course.


1. “Break the wall” from Sam Tangredi, Anti-Access Warfare, (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 2013).

2. Luis Simon, “Demystifying the A2/AD Buzz,” War on the Rocks, (January 4, 2017).

3. Andrew Krepinevich, Maritime Competition in a Mature Precision-Strike Regime (Washington, DC: Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, 2014).

4. A more in-depth discussion on how America’s various adversaries could employ anti-access strategies can be found in Anti-Access Warfare.

5. Headquarters Marine Corps, MCDP 1, Warfighting, (Washington, DC: 2018).

6. For further discussion on systemic disruption, maneuver warfare, and the Marine Corps, see: Marinus, “Defeat Mechanisms,” Marine Corps Gazette, (July, 2021): 101-106.

7. The idea of sources, forces, and linkages of power is drawn from Pat Pentland, Center of Gravity Analysis and Chaos Theory (Maxwell AFB, AL: Air War College, 1993).

8. Anti-Access Warfare.

9. Ibid.

10. Marinus, “On Defeat Mechanisms”.

11. Ibid.

12. Murray Gell-Mann, “Complex Adaptive Systems,” in Complexity: Metaphors, Models, and Reality, ed. Cowan Pines et al (Addison-Wesley, 1994).

13. John Boyd, ‘Patterns of Conflict,’ in A Discourse on Winning and Losing, ed. Grant T. Hammond (Maxwell AFB, AL: Air University Press, 2018).

14. The idea of decompensation in complex systems can be explored further in David D. Woods and Matthieu Branlat, Basic Patterns in How Adaptive Systems Failin Resilience Engineering in Practice: A Guidebook, ed. Erik Hollnagel, and John Wreathall (Taylor & Francis Group, 2010).


16. Ibid.

17. Headquarters Marine Corps, The Tentative Manual for Expeditionary Advanced Base Operations, (Washington, DC: 2021).

18.A Concept for Stand-In Forces.

19. Headquarters Marine Corps, “Recon – Counter Recon,” Official Website of the United States Marine Corps, (August 2, 2021).

20. Daniel Katzman, “Sustaining Stand-in Forces,” Marine Corps Gazette, (March, 2022): 14-19.

21. Navy Press Office, “Navy and Marines Release Unmanned Campaign Plan,” Official Website of the United States Navy, (March 16, 2021).

22. Gregory Carroll, “Marine Corps Establishes 17XX Information Maneuver Occupational Field,” Official Website of the United States Marine Corps, (March 9, 2022).

23. Noel Williams, “Insights for Marine (and Beyond) Force Design from the Russo-Ukrainian War,” War on the Rocks, (March 31, 2022).

24. Tim Barrick, “On Future Wars and the Marine Corps: Asking the Right Questions,” War on the Rocks, (April 12, 2022).

25. For a further discussion on wargaming see Robert Rubel, “The Epistemology of War Gaming,” Naval War College Review, 59 (2): 1-21.  

26. Bob Work and Gen. Paul Selva, “Revitalizing Wargaming is Necessary to Be Prepared for Future Wars,” War on the Rocks, (December 8, 2015).

27. Meir Finkel, On Flexibility: Recovery from Technological and Doctrinal Surprise on the Battlefield, (Stanford, Stanford University Press, 2011).

Featured Image: U.S. Marines with 3d Battalion, 12 Marines, 3d Marine Division, deploy High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems during Balikatan 22 in northern Luzon, Philippines, April 4, 2022. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Melanye Martinez)

Transforming the Marine Corps Topic Week Kicks Off on CIMSEC

By Dmitry Filipoff

For the next two weeks CIMSEC will be featuring articles sent in response to our call for articles on transforming the U.S. Marine Corps. 

The Marine Corps is in the midst of a far-reaching and controversial transformation. As the USMC sheds many of the legacy platforms and capabilities that helped define it for years, it has taken on new roles and technologies to conduct Expeditionary Advanced Base Operations and function as stand-in forces. These reforms are being implemented through the overarching Force Design 2030 initiative, which has sparked heated debate about the merits of this transformation and what the Marine Corps ought to become to remain relevant through the 21st century. 

Below are the articles and authors being featured in this series, which may be updated with further submissions as Transforming the Marine Corps Topic Week unfolds.

Stand-In Forces: Disrupting Anti-Access Systems,” by Joseph Mozzi
Locate, Close With, Destroy,” by Ian Brown
EABO Beyond the Indo-Pacific: Reimagining the “Battle of the Aegean,” by Capt. Ross W. Gilchriest, USMC
Preparing for Change is as Important as Change Itself: Change Management and Force Design 2030,” by Carl Forsling
Antisubmarine Warfare for the Amphibious Warfare Team,” by The Good Sailor Svejk
The First Stand-in Forces: The Role of International Affairs Marines in Force Design 2030,” by Majors Zach Ota and Eric Hovey, USMC
Marine Corps Metamorphosis: Legal Considerations,” by Brent Stricker
The Importance of Unmanned Logistics Support For a Transforming Marine Corps,” by George Galdorisi
When Only a Chisel Will Do: Marine Corps Force Design for the Modern Era,” by Capt. Jesse Schmitt
Missing: Expeditionary Air Defense,” by Ben DiDonato

Dmitry Filipoff is CIMSEC’s Director of Online Content. Contact him at

Featured Image: U.S. Marines with 3d Marine Littoral Regiment, 3d Marine Division present arms during the redesignation ceremony of 3d Marines to 3d MLR aboard Marine Corps Base Hawaii, March 3, 2022. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Patrick King)