Fallujah Battle Highlights Marine, Joint Capabilities
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Feb. 11, 2005 Nothing highlights the importance of flexibility and joint capabilities better than the recent battle of Fallujah, the commandant of the Marine Corps told the Senate Armed Services Committee Feb. 10.
Gen. Michael Hagee said the battle in November and December 2004 highlighted the flexibility, adaptability and joint capabilities of the U.S. military.
"The Marine force, tightly integrated with Army brigades, Seabees, joint air assets, and coalition forces including five Iraqi battalions, mounted a high- intensity joint assault in a demanding urban environment, destroying the insurgent safe haven in Fallujah," Hagee said. "This close-quarters fight against an adaptable and dangerous enemy was executed rapidly and successfully."
What's more, the general said, once the fight was over, the Marines and soldiers "immediately returned to counterinsurgency and civil affairs operations."
While the battle highlighted success, there are challenges ahead, Hagee told the senators. "The tempo of operations and demands on the force are extremely high across the entire Marine Corps, both regular and reserve, in supporting the global war on terror," he said.
Since Operation Enduring Freedom, the Corps has gone from a peacetime deployment rotation of six months deployed and 18 months home to a 1-to-1 rotation: seven months deployed, seven months at home station.
"This means that Marine units in the operating forces are either deployed or are training to relieve deployed units," he said. "No forces have been fenced, and since 9/11 we have activated in excess of 95 percent of our selected Marine Corps Reserve units, the majority who have served in either Iraq and Afghanistan."
In 2004, the Corps met recruiting and retention goals both in quantity and quality. "Although we remain on track to meet our annual goal this year, the additional effort required by our recruiters and our career retention specialists is quite significant," he said.
Congress authorized an increase of 3,000 Marines for the Corps in the fiscal 2005 budget. Hagee said in addition to that increase, the Corps is looking for ways to better organize the force and reduce operations tempo.
"We are working with the other services and the combatant commanders to project future force requirements," he said. "Based on these projections, our internal structural changes and the secretary's 3 percent authorization, I do not believe we need an end-strength increase beyond 178,000 at this time.
"If the current force-level projections hold, we hope to be able to reduce our op tempo to 2-to-1 by the first part of next year." All of this is at the mercy of events on the ground, and the Marine Corps and the combatant commanders will continue to monitor requirements around the world.
Hagee told the committee that 30 percent of the Marine Corps' ground equipment and 25 percent of its aviation equipment is deployed to U.S. Central Command "one of the harshest operating environments on the planet."
He said the fiscal 2005 supplemental budget request will address the significant increases in wear and tear and combat losses.