Current concepts and capabilities of the MAGTF (Marine Air-Ground Task Force)

| July 21, 2019

Question:

Question 2: Based on “current” concepts and capabilities of the MAGTF, are we better prepared to conduct forcible entry operations than we were during the landing at Inchon, and subsequent liberation of Seoul. Frame your argument from a warfighting function perspective.

Answer:

The MAGTF (Marine Air-Ground Task Force) is an organization of Marine Corps including aircraft wing, division, and various support service groups established to accomplish a clearly defined mission under a single military command. The main components of MAGTF include ground combat, aviation combat, command, and support groups specializing in combat services. Following the end of the Cold War MAGTF was given the responsibility of providing security to all US installations overseas as well as the country’s diplomats.

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One of the greatest strengths of MAGTF is the fact that it is under a single command, and can therefore respond rapidly to contingencies at any location in the world (Flynn, 2009). However, on the basis of the current concepts and capabilities of the task force, questions have been raised on whether we are better prepared to carry out forcible entry operations compared to the way we were during the liberation of Seoul and the landing at Inchon.

From the perspective of war-fighting function, the capabilities of MAGTF have not changed a great deal since Cold War ended. MAGTF’s basic structure never varies. Changes only arise with regard to the size, type, and number of Marine Corps units. The way each of the four core elements of MAGTF are packaged always depends on the nature of the mission at hand.

During the landing at Inchon in 1950, US land, air, and naval forces had been sent on a mission of enforcing United Nations military sanctions against Korea for the country’s aggressive behavior. This mission took the form of an amphibious landing. Inchon was a strategic location for the US forces since North Korean invaders seized it during the start of the war. By capturing both Inchon and Seoul, the communication lines of the enemy would be severed, thereby giving the UN forces valuable locations for staging attacks and facilitating supply of military equipment for continuation of further offensive operations.

However, no marine division existed on the part of the US for purposes of the proposed operation. This led to the tentative selection of the 1st Cavalry Division of the US Army. On the other hand, in Japan, the Marine Corps were represented by the Mobile Training Group Able. The latter unit had arrived prior to the war outbreak to provide basic amphibious techniques to all army occupation troops. The landing at Inchon was successful made it possible for US forces to move towards north to recapture land that was previously occupied by North Korean Forces. The ultimate outcome was the liberation of Seoul. This intricate, detailed organization evolved into the modern-day Marine Air-Ground Task Force (MAGTF).

Since the events of 1950 at Inchon, the MAGTF has evolved a great deal to become what it is today. The MAGTF of the twenty first century has gained varied and extensive operational experiences. For this reason, today’s MAGTF is better equipped and prepared to carry out forcible entry operations than those conducted during the Inchon landing. Today’s MAGTF is designed to be successfully deployed and sustained from sea without any reliance on the airfields, ports, and permissions of the host nation.  However, the MAGTF may require further refinements in response to fast-changing operating environments, technologies, tactics, and adversaries.

One of the most critical planning factors that are yet to be determined is on the role of company-sized task forces that increasingly operate in more autonomous roles. Moreover, recent operations have demonstrated that there is a need for rifle companies to be given access to increased support and resources for them to operate in an autonomous manner. However, this is not to imply that squads, platoons, and fire teams never undertake independent missions.  In this regard, the main distinction between rifle companies and these units is that the former must have the ability to undertake sustained operations in a wide range of military operations.

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To undertake these operations effectively, the question of how fast and far landing teams of the rifle company should be projected from sea must arise (Flynn, 2009). It is also imperative for emphasis to be put on different geographic environments such as deserts, mountains, urban areas, and jungles with the aim of determining the areas that each company should be optimized for organically (Flynn, 2009). It is also necessary for all the participants in MAGTF to be aware of how big their operating radii should be once ashore.

Finally, there are many lessons to be learnt from the experience of the landing at Inchon, which the MAGTF can focus on to make an even better task force. The techniques, tactics, and procedures of the task force need to be refined to enable the MAGTF overcome emerging challenges of mobility and access. The tactics used should also facilitate effective interactions with local populations  to ensure that all the techniques used support strategic goals. Nevertheless, the present capabilities of the MAGTF of today make us better prepared for forcible entry operations than we were during the Inchon landing.

 

References

Flynn, G. (2009). Evolving the MAGTF for the 21st Century. New York: Columbia University Press.

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