The Naval Expeditionary Combat Command was established last month and will eventually encompass 40,000 sailors around the world. Their headquarters will be at Little Creek Naval Amphibious Base.There are a lot of good things that could come of such an organization.
After months of study and debate, the Navy moved forward with plans to bolster its land-based operations while leaving infantry tasks to the Marines.
“The Marines are the naval infantry,” said Rear Adm. Donald C. Bullard, deputy chief of staff for operational readiness and training for Fleet Forces.
Still, he said, “we’re inextricably linked in this battle space.”
... The Navy estimates it has 7,000 sailors on the ground in Afghanistan and Iraq. Sailors guard ports and oil platforms, build roads and buildings and run customs operations, among other duties.
The Navy also will re-establish a riverine combat force to close a gap in providing force and protection along rivers in hostile countries. The “brown water Navy” has not been widespread since swift boats fought in Vietnam, although Navy SEALs perform specialized river operations.
Bullard expects a force of more than 700 sailors to fill three units of river combat forces, with the first unit to become operational in 2007.
He said the riverine force could be used around the globe, particularly in Niger and Colombia. A home port or ports for the new force has not been decided.
The forces also could be used to secure ports after the facilities have been seized by Marines or SEALs. Bullard insisted the force would be used to supplement but not supplant the work of the infantry.
...Marine Spokeswoman Col. Jenny M. Holbert said this week the Atlantic Marine Corps forces fully supported the plan and would cooperate as the new Navy command develops.
The new Naval Expeditionary Combat Command also will include the Naval Construction Forces Command, or Seabees, Naval Expeditionary Logistics Support Force, Maritime Force Protection Command and the Master at Arms force. Bullard, a naval aviator and former skipper of the aircraft carrier Constellation will initially lead the new group.
Bullard said the reorganization would make training more efficient. For example, naval coastal warfare operations and Seabees have had separate training facilities, although they play similar roles.
“They all have their own training infrastructure,” Bullard said. “But they do similar things, and they can be combined.”
The Navy is not going into the infantry business.
"The Navy's infantry is the Marine Corps," said Rear Adm. Don Bullard, who is carving out a job as the first boss of the Navy's new Expeditionary Combat Command.
True to its name, many of the new command's units are combat organizations.
"Somebody used 'naval infantry' and everything got carried away," Bullard said of the original notions some people had of walking, shooting sailors. "That term is dead."...
...For all of their potential as high-profile units, the riverines will be a small element of the Navy Expeditionary Combat Command, which also will include units as disparate as the Naval Expeditionary Logistics Support Force at Cheatham Annex, Seabees working everywhere, Explosive Ordnance Demolition teams and prison guards at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
Speaking as a former Mobile Inshore Undersea Warfare guy, I am well aware of what happens to vital missions and units that don't fit neatly into the existing structure. This should help that out and also help out the careers of the sailors and officers who take the opportunity to do some things outside of the traditional haze gray boxes that make up the surface warfare community. It fills a gap between the Special Warfare community and the shipboard navy. And it serves the needs of the thousands of sailors who are already doing the missions but without the higher level support that they really could use.
For example, in the MIUWU, I had both Seabees (truck mechanics and operators) and conventional sailors (Operations Specialiats, Radiomen, Storekeepers, Gunners Mates). It was a great mix and many Seabees liked learning to stand radar watches and the OS's liked to drive trucks, but it was -uh- not conventional (except in other MIUWU units). I also had Surface Warfare Oficers, P-3 and helo pilots and a Supply Officer. Active duty and reservists, And, yes, there was a heck of a lot of common training that we ended up doing on our own because we didn't have the NECC. So, speaking from my experience, it could work well if it is done right.
Good move, Navy!
More on the Maritime Force Protection Command (with a link to the Explosive Ordnance Disposal teams) here.
Hat tip: NOSI