Proposed Marine Westpac Laydown

The Marines should attempt to establish a Forward Operating Site (FOS) at key foreign airfields: Iwo Jima (Japanese airbase), Saipan (civilian airport), Palau (civilian airport), Singapore (Paya Labar airbase, already a USAF FOS), Andrews (Philippine airbase, already a US SpecOps FOS) and the Cocos Island (already an Australian airbase). Each would employ a dozen or more civilians to accommodate visiting aircraft with contract security, transport to hotels, and contract refueling. Ideally, storage sites will be allowed by the host nation for wartime munitions, additional fuel, ground support equipment, and tentage, similar to the outdated pre-position programs in Norway and Korea, whose resources could shift to these strategic FOSs. 

All are located outside practical fighter-attack range from China. These FOSs could be attacked, but this requires complex aerial refueling or limiting bomb loads and avoiding dogfights due to fuel constraints. Ideally, a VMFA squadron can be based on Guam (or Kadena, Okinawa) while the 31st MEU/ARG and MPS-3 wisely pull back to Hawaii far out of range of Chinese missiles and submarines. 

Few American military planners understand China's main objective should war occur. China is dependent on trade for resources from the Middle East and Africa, so its main objective would be to secure sea lanes through Indonesia for ship traffic. If American air and sea power can deny access between Singapore and Australia, China loses. At the present time, the USA has almost no assets positioned ashore in the southwest Pacific to thwart this naval objective.

The Marines should finish part of their original plan and move the 1st MAW to Guam with a VMM squadron and hopefully the C-130 squadron from Iwakuni. Along with the current Navy HSC (MH-60S) squadron, these air assets could support airmobile SPMAGTFs formed using a UDP infantry battalion that spends most of its deployment elsewhere in Asia. The impact on Guam would be half that of the original plan as the 3rd MarDiv Hqs remains on Okinawa and III MEF Hqs disbands while UDP units have a minimal footprint. The Marines should suggest closing vulnerable NS Sasebo as a Navy cost saving measure to preserve the amphibious fleet. To compensate, the Navy could place six of its new JHSV "fast ferry" ships at Guam.

Marine Corps supporting arms units should deploy where they can properly train and easily redeploy. Marine artillery battery UDPs should shift to Australia, and the Marines should establish a tank company UDP at Darwin, where Australia's 1st Armored Regiment is based with M1A1 tanks and M198 towed 155mm howitzers. A "heavy" MEU headquarters with a CLB could move there to lead a UDP infantry battalion, supported by a UDP artillery battery, a UDP tank company, and a UDP HMHLA composite helicopter squadron. Northern Australia is a great location for training and rapid deployment using JHSVs. Units can move directly westward to the Persian Gulf or northward to WestPac, while bases are out of range of Chinese air power and ships less vulnerable to submarine attack.

The huge advantage of this plan over the original WestPac redeployment plan is that it's cost neutral and frees manpower for combat units. It drops the financially unaffordable and politically disruptive idea of building a new Marine Corps airbase on Okinawa, which is a horrible location anyway. This plan closes Camps Kinser, Foster, and Mujuk, and transfers Iwakuni to the US Navy and Camp Fuji to the US Army. III MEF is disbanded (or merged into MARFORPAC in Hawaii) and MARFORK disappears. The Marines forgo its minor back up role in the defense of mainland Japan and Korea to the US Army/Air Force (since Japan and South Korea can defend themselves anyway) and shifts bases, families, and munitions to less vulnerable and more strategic bases out of range of Chinese airpower. 

Related Articles

The Okinawa Solution - pull half our Marines off Okinawa 

Note: This 2012 proposal assumes use of MCAS Iwakuni, but given the problems associated with the arrival of CVW-5 from Atsugi, and the greater need for forces in the southwestern Pacific, Marines should move elsewhere.

Vacate Sasebo - remember Pearl Harbor!

Downsize Kadena - remember Clark Field!

                                  Carlton Meyer