It has begun: The removal of tanks from the Marine Corps mission.
In March 2020, the commandant of the Marine Corps released Force Design 2030. The guidance provides a common direction to where the Marine Corps is heading in the future and why. Force Design 2030 states the Marine Corps will integrate more with the U.S. Navy and reaffirms their strategic partnership. It also promises the Marine Corps "will adapt to increase the range, accuracy, and lethality of their modern weapons."
“We have shortfalls in expeditionary long-range precision fires, medium to long range air defense systems and short-range air defense systems,” said U.S. Marine Corps General David H. Berger, the commandant of the Marine Corps, in his planning guidance. “There are some capabilities that I assess we are over-invested in.”
Tank battalions, according to Berger, were one of the capabilities in which he believes the Marine Corps had over-invested. So, in early July 2020, the Marine's tank battalions began the process by shipping off their tanks and begin the process of deactivation. On July 6, 1st Battalion loaded the last of its M1A1 Abrams onto flatbeds and watched them leave Twentynine Palms, Calif., for good.
Less than two weeks later, on July 18, U.S. Marines with Alpha Company, 4th Tank Battalion, 4th Marine Division, Marine Forces Reserve, held a deactivation ceremony at their headquarters in 41 Area on Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California,
Alpha Co. was the first of six companies in the battalion to deactivate. The other companies, along with the battalion headquarters, will deactivate by the end of 2021.
“Remember that our tanks were just weapon systems, albeit a damn fine weapon system,” said U.S. Marine Capt. Mark Rothrock, the company commander of Alpha Co., 4th Tank Bn., 4th MarDiv, MARFORRES, during the ceremony. “But nonetheless, just equipment. You individual Marines were always the key to the company’s success.”
“The history of Alpha Co. is the history of 4th Tank Bn.,” said U.S. Marine Lt. Col. Michael D. O’Quin, the commanding officer of 4th Tank Bn., 4th MarDiv, MARFORRES, during the ceremony. “The Marine Corps is changing and the commandant envisions us competing against current and future events in a much different manner.”
With tank units being deactivated, the Marines with those units will have the opportunity to lateral move to another military occupational specialty. Marines also have the opportunity to transfer to the U.S. Army and continue serving as tankers. Marines who have served 15 years or more will have the option to submit for the Marine Corps Temporary Early Retirement Authority Program.
“If I were to use one trait to describe the Marine Corps it would be adaptable,” said O’Quin. “The Marine Corps has always molded itself to be the most capable fighting force the nation requires to face threats. Now is no different, we will adapt.”
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