Commandant Says Innovative Marines Key to Battlefield Success

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The Marine Corps is blessed to have leaders at all levels who are creative and adept at taking the initiative, Gen. David H. Berger, its commandant, said today in a speech at Defense One’s virtual State of Defense.

“Small-unit leaders who are well trained, who have the experience and maturity to make decisions and [are] empowered to make decisions in lieu of detailed guidance [are] powerful, even when outnumbered [and] even when up against formations that are two, three, four times as big. … This is the bread and butter of the Marine Corps,” he said.

When Marines are given latitude to make decisions without detailed guidance, they will prove to be innovative, he added.

“The ones who can adapt faster have a huge advantage. That’s agility of the mind, which we press into Marine leaders all the time,” he said.

It’s not a big surprise that many Ukrainian tactical leaders trained with U.S. Marines and have taken the initiative, even when facing larger battlefield formations, he mentioned.

Berger said innovative Marines who take the initiative with very little guidance are especially important on a battlefield where Marine formations will be small, disbursed and could be facing large numbers of well-equipped peer adversaries.

To meet the current and future threat, the Marine Corps is doing a lot of experimentation, not just in the laboratory, but by Marines in the field.

The commandant referred to this as “a perpetual sort of campaign of learning, nonstop experimenting, trying new concepts, new formations, new equipment, new ways of training.”

Feedback from the Marines in the field on new gear or systems is incredibly important, he said.

Ten years ago, it might have taken five years to develop something. Now, Marines in the field can successfully test things in as little as two weeks and they can even come up with new uses or solutions for that gear that the designers never even thought of, he said.

In the future, unmanned air, ground, sea and undersea vehicles teamed with manned vehicles will be increasingly important for such things as intelligence gathering, weapons platforms, delivery of supplies and even medevac missions, he said.

Young Marines are completely comfortable operating with these new, unmanned platforms, he added. “But the question is, are senior leaders comfortable with that?”

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