Saturday, November 10, 2012

Marine Detachments

ComNavOps occasionally has distinguished visitors drop by and today is such a day.  We have a guest post provided by WireguidedMarine.  Regular readers will recognize the name from his frequent and insightful comments throughout the blog and especially concerning Marine and amphibious matters.  Indeed, it is exactly these topics that WireguidedMarine offers his unique perspective on in today’s post.  He is a retired Marine SNCO who started off using missiles and eventually moved to Intel.  He later went to college on the GI Bill where he majored in history.  An authoritative and unique perspective, indeed!  Enjoy!


Recently the Navy and Marine Corps have begun to focus on the Pacific and China.  In addition, within the Corps, there is a feeling that the last decade has seen the Marines become “a second land army” to the detriment of the Service’s core capability. How should the Marine Corps go forward post-Iraq/Afghanistan and refocus on the sea?   

One way to bring some capability back to the Fleet is to reinstate the Marine Detachments (MarDets). Until the 1990’s, Marines were regular components of battleship and aircraft carrier crews. During the Cold War, detachments usually consisted of two officers with 35 to 44 Marines on cruisers and two officers with 46 to 64 enlisted on carriers. By the late 1990’s, budget and manpower constraints had reduced these numbers by half on carriers before being eliminated altogether. As the regulations at the time specified, Marines were: “To provide for operations ashore, as a part of the ships landing force; or as a part of the landing force of Marines from ships of the fleet or subdivision thereof; or as an independent force for limited operations.” Does this not sound familiar to us in the present day?

MarDets - More of Good Thing

These Marines would have no major impact on carrier operations. Transport would be by MH-60S Knighthawk, a good surrogate for the Marines’ UH-1Y and integrated with the carrier air wing. Current plans are for about half a dozen Knighthawks to be in a Carrier Strike Group, enough to transport most of the Leathernecks in one flight. Another option is that one or two MV-22s can be cross-decked as necessary, or used to help justify the overdue replacement of the old C-2A as both a cargo and tactical transport on the carrier.

Marines I knew who had been part of these MarDets talked of how they worked with the crews of the SH-3s (and later SH-60s) on all types of insertions including on land, on ships, at night, and in bad weather. They were the Captain’s personal assault force when necessary. Not to take away from the SEALs, but these roles of hostile ship-boarding and raiding are tailor-made for Marines. This would ease up demand on the already stretched thin SEALs.

I believe the MarDets need to be placed on cruisers again as well. A smaller contingent of one officer and 25 enlisted Marines would add to the flexibility of any task force.

A CSG under my plan with a carrier and two cruisers would have over 100 Marines fully integrated into the force. MH-60s (and possibly MV-22s) organic to the group would provide airlift. Any tasking more than the CSG’s Marines could handle might be brought in by the ESG with the LHD or LPD to handle the C3 and logistics. The Marines would be a small enough unit to get in and out quickly and would have naval gunfire (5”/54, 5”/62, 155mm AGS), MH-60Rs, and fast movers to provide the support needed during their brief time ashore.

I like the idea of bringing back the MarDets. They are the Marine Corps’ past, and I believe they can be the Marine Corps’ future.


The Naval Institute Guide To The Ships And Aircraft Of The U.S. Fleet Norman Polmar 18th edition 2005


  1. Is there even much utility to a 25 man Marine detachment on a cruiser? It's not even the size of an infantry platoon - which seems almost too small to be of much practical use.

    And although this MarDet could be used for VBSS, we we already train/use sailors from the ship's company for that function.

    One related concept that sort of make sense to me is to place a landing company (~200 marines) on an LCS. LCS has lots more storage space for marines and their gear than a cruiser.

    1. One thing that you're overlooking in talking about MarDets of 25 on a single vessel not being useful is the ability to combine the assets of the task group into a larger force. Sometimes you would only need the 25, say a hostile boarding action or a small raid. Sometimes a larger force is required. Having them spread out across the task group allows for greater flexibility in detached duty, such as an anti piracy role while still having a larger force readily at hand for roles that require it.

  2. MarDets are gone from Capitol Navy ships and that was the smartest move ever made by the Marines.
    The Navy doesn't need 100 more toilet cleaners, or deck buffers. Those Marines are more useful in their Gator Navy.

    There IS NO JOB the Marines have to do aboard a CV or other large Navy ship that any common sailor cannot do.
    Form up the weapons Divisions into 100 man ad hoc Naval landing parties led by SEALS.

    Put the SEALS on those ships, they are Navy and the sailors will have Sailor heroes to look up too.

    1. SEALs are great special ops fighters. But having them lead sailors in that large a group would waste their talents and throw those other sailors into a difficult spot: having to keep up with and fight alongside Navy SEALS.

      Marines are perfect for small small unit tactics. And there is nothing that prevents SEALs from still doing the super-specialized missions they do.

    2. Those Marines would be utilized as sea going bellhops for the Officers on the bridge. Their main mission would be cleaning shitters, buffing deck tile and swabbing decks.

      "The MarDet will never be used in the role you see as commando's they will be honor guards, aides and brig turnkeys as well as targets for harassment by every other Sailor on that ship."

      Marine Detachments aboard US Navy capitol ships is the biggest waste of Marine personnel than any other Marine post.
      Take the sailors in the weapons divisions train them and let them do the missions.
      HELL, Let the Army put some Rangers aboard and let them do the job if the SEALS cannot.
      "There IS NO JOB the Marines have to do aboard a CV or other large Navy ship that any common sailor cannot do."
      Being in a MarDet aboard a US Navy capitol ship is the shittest job any Marine can have.
      Let the Navy handle it's own little landing party.

    3. Neither SEALs, nor Marines, nor Rangers have any purpose being assigned as ships company. If these units show up on a ship it should be for a specific mission.

      Now the idea of having small task units composed of one-to-many ships with USA/USMC/USCG/SOF *is* appealing and has a long history...

    4. Anon, this particular post was written by a guest author, WireGuidedMarine. I won't presume to speak for him but it is also unlikely he'll see your comment at this point. I'll try to make him aware in case he wants to respond.

      In the meantime, maybe I can get you to expound a bit. You say that SEALs/Marines/Rangers have no purpose being assigned to a ship. WGM describes a purpose and a reasonable one. Further, having them assigned on an ongoing basis allows a great deal of flexibility and speed of response. With that said, what do you see as the specific drawback(s) to having a non-naval force assigned to Navy ships? You clearly don't think it's a good idea. Now explain why.

  3. Not a bad idea, and in a unconstrained human resource world, even incredibly useful. So, since people aren't free, the USN and USMC are top end limited, and every body is already spoken for, what do you propose to give up to add this capability to the CSG (by my count something like a thousand Marines)?

    1. I think most if not all can be found in the headquarters elements. There are some extra bodies "saluting the flagpole" and not much else. If each division, wing, and service group HQ gave up 80 or so Marines, that would make up the shortfall The MarDets would create.

      Right now, there is talk that some combat veterans in the Corps are being denied reenlistment. The MarDets will help keep more combat arms Marines in the service and eliminate the excess.

      It will also broaden the experience of sea duty throughout the Corps faster, increase Navy/Marine interaction, and allow for more small unit leadership.

    2. MarDets have ended the careers of more young enlisted Marines than any other duty.
      No real Marine wishes to serve aboard a Navy ship with 5,000 sailors.
      Marines belong on the Gator Navy ships at least there is some common ground between the gator sailors and the Marines, there is NO common ground between Blue water sailors and Marines.

  4. Navy interaction?
    "increase Navy/Marine interaction"
    Example: "hey grunt, grunt, grunt come on shoot me with your gun, come on pussy shoot me with your gun (takes gun away from Marine) grunt, grunt fuckin' stupid grunt"
    Navy ship, Marine will get no justice.
    Career ending path.

  5. I was the commanding officer of the Marine Detachment, USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN-69) 1984-85. We had 2 officers and 70 enlisted. Our primary duty was special weapons security, physical security of the ship, repelling boards, ship's landing party, ships boarding party and security of the captain. We had outstanding interaction with the rest of ship's company. The sailors seemed to like and respect us, something I became acutely aware of when the captain threatened to cancel liberty in Palma because the crew doing the FOD walkdown on the flight deck could not get it all. I had my MarDet fall in on the flight deck and do a Marine-only FOD walkdown, inpsection was passed, and we got liberty. The crew was thankful. During a graded unrep in foul weather, the crew on the hangar deck conducting the unrep was not together, it wasn't going well. I just happened by, saw what was going on, and I called below and mustered all Marines not on guard duty to lay to the hangar deck and disperse them among the line-handlers at intervals to listen to the CPO's commands. We lended some organizational order to the sit, and the ship's first lieutenant saw this (LCDR Galicki) and was overwhelmed that we would come up there and help like that - totally not in the ship's SORM for us to be doing. If we were going to lose the Battle E, it was not going to be because of the Deck Department. So, for the couple of posts I read with disparaging remarks about Marines as "toilet cleaners" and bell hops for the officers, you either have not been on a capital ship with a MarDet; or have and probably got nabbed because you did not respond properly during a security alert and now have "issues" with Marines; and clearly do not have any understanding of what WireGuidedMarine had to say. Finally, my tour was in 1984-85, and I am still in touch with my captain, XO, OHO, Weps, Chaps, among others after 29 years ashore. IF there is any heartburn with anything I have written, you may contact me directly at Now, for any Marines who were in Marine Detachments on carriers (CV/CVS/CVA/CVL), battleships (BB), cruisers (CA/CAG/CL/CLG/CG/CGN), I am looking for information of the complements (table of organization) and equipage/weapons (table of equipment) for ship's detachments for each type of ship by class, if anyone can recall, have docs or photos, or other pertinent information that may be useful for my project. Thanks to all for you time. Semper Fidelis, Stew Rayfield, Major, U.S. Marines (Ret)

  6. Yeah, yeah... I remember you Maj. Gayfield, little short guy with buck teeth and coke bottle glasses and you walked around like a duck and dressed like a Marine that used to be a deck ape. Do you recall that time in the PI on Magsaysay drive when you lost your cherry to an Olongapo transvestite ? You were pretty drunk !!! Man do I miss Sea Duty and the good old MarDet , and here's 22 reasons why I / we Miss Sea duty?

    If your longing for sea duty, here are 22 simple steps to simulating life on the ship.

    1. Sleep on the shelf in your closet. Replace the closet door with a curtain. Six hours after you go to sleep, have your wife whip open the curtain, shine a flashlight in your eyes and mumble "Sorry, wrong rack".
    2. Renovate your bathroom. Build a wall across the middle of your bathtub and move the shower head down to chest level. When you take showers, make sure you shut off the water while soaping.
    3. Every time there's a thunderstorm, go sit in a wobbly rocking chair and rock as hard as you can until you're nauseous.
    4. Put lube oil in your humidifier instead of water and set it to "High".
    5. Don't watch TV except movies in the middle of the night. Also, have your family vote on which movie, then show a different one.
    6. (Optional for ex-engineering types) Leave lawnmower running in your living room six hours a day for proper noise level.
    7. Have the paperboy give you a haircut.
    8. Once a week blow compressed air up through your chimney, making sure the wind carries the soot across and onto your neighbor's house. Laugh at him when he curses you.
    9. Buy a trash compactor and only use it once a week. Store up garbage in the other side of your bathtub.
    10. Wake up every night at midnight and have a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on stale bread, if anything. (Optional: Canned ravioli or cold soup).
    11. Make up your family menu a week ahead of time without looking in your food cabinets or refrigerator.
    12. Set your alarm clock to go off at random times during the night. When it goes off, jump out of bed and get dressed as fast as you can, then run out into your yard and break out the garden hose.
    13. Once a month take every major appliance completely apart and then put them back together.
    14. Use 18 scoops of coffee per pot and allow it to sit for 5 or 6 hours before drinking.
    15. Invite at least 85 people you don't really like to come and visit for a couple of months, and call them Marines.
    16. Have a fluorescent lamp installed on the bottom of your coffee table and lie under it to read books.
    17. Raise the thresholds and lower the top sills on your front and back doors so that you either trip over the threshold or hit your head on the sill every time you pass through one of them.
    18. Lockwire the lugnuts on your car.
    19. When making cakes, prop up one side of the pan while it is cooking. Then spread icing really thick on one side to level off the top.
    20. Every so often, throw your cat into the swimming pool, shout "Man overboard, ship recovery!", run into the kitchen and sweep all the pots/pans/dishes off of the counter onto the floor, then yell at your wife for not having the place "stowed for sea".
    21. Put on the headphones from your stereo (don't plug them in). Go and stand in front of your stove. Say (to nobody in particular) "Stove manned and ready". Stand there for 3 or 4 hours. Say (once again to nobody in particular) "Stove secured". Roll up the headphone cord and put them away.
    22. Wake up at 0-Dark-30, line up in the driveway in a light drizzle, and have your mother-in-law criticize your clothes and read you the newspaper.:bananas

    Semper Fi , Cpl.Taylor MarDet. USS. Blue Ridge 80-83.

    1. Note; Original 22 way's to simulate sea duty was posted on sea/shore duty forum by Phantom Blooper.
      Cpl. Taylor


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