To prepare for fights against the enemies of tomorrow, the Marine Corps asked Marines and sailors to write science fiction stories about the future of combat, said Lt. Col. Dan Schmitt of the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory.
“Is it world-class science fiction writing? I’m not a fair judge of that — probably not,” Schmitt said on Thursday. “Is it incredibly useful to inform how we’re going to fight in the future because it’s coming from warriors to warriors? It’s incredibly useful.”
Dozens of Marines and sailors participated in the project last year, said Schmitt, branch head of field testing at the lab’s experiment division.
The Marines were mentored by authors such as Max Brooks, who wrote “World War Z,” and August Cole, co-author of “Ghost Fleet.”
The Marine Corps is using realistic science fiction to help craft a narrative to better postulate what future operating environments might look like.
“We went out to the fleet and we said, ‘Hey guys, if you are passionate about science fiction, we don’t care what your background is, we care that you’re serving under oath and you’re a warrior and you care about this stuff,’” Schmitt said at the Marine Corps League’s annual Modern Day Marine expo in Quantico, Virginia.
“‘We’re going to give you these guidelines: This is what we think the future operating environment is, and we think here are some of our challenges,’” he said. “For instance, a megacity that has 130-story buildings set 75 years in the future where there is a competition for international resources like fresh water. How will a small unit Marine operate in this environment?”
The budding sci-fi authors envisioned a world in which Marines use exoskeletons to fight and have drones deliver supplies, Schmitt said. They also wrote about future adversaries using genetic engineering to create an army of super warriors from cradle to grave.
Science fiction has been a theme at this year’s expo. On Wednesday, Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller said he would like the Corps to have a “holodeck” similar to the one from “Star Trek, The Next Generation” for commanders to practice large-scale wargames.
The Marines want simulators in which commanders can lead virtual troops.
“In a perfect world, it would be like Jean-Luc Picard in ‘Star Trek,’” Neller said. “I’d walk into the holodeck and I’d go, ’Computer, Battle of Waterloo, 1812, Prussian army, I am in command, simulation — go.’ That’ll be here one day. You and I probably won’t see it. That’s what we need. We need the reps because we can’t afford to make a mistake in the fight.”
Schmitt hopes to be able to implement the sci-fi project again, but that depends on how much funding the Marine Corps gets, he said. The stories are so valuable because they instigate debate at the warfighting laboratory about preparing for future warfare, he said.
“Instead of putting more dirt on the Maginot line, maybe we should be using our diesel engines for something else than bulldozers,” Schmitt said.