The top Marine has been toying with the decision to boost the Marine rifle squad to 15 Marines, with the Marine Expeditionary Units, or MEU, being considered as the most likely option to carry the larger squads.
In May 2019, 2nd Battalion, 8th Marines will get an additional 92 Marines for a future deployment as they experiment with a 15-man rifle squad configuration, according to Lt. Col. Eric Dent, a spokesman for Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. Robert B. Neller.
“The Commandant decided last month to staff an infantry battalion to its full complement of 15 Marines per squad for an upcoming MEU deployment,” Dent said in an emailed statement to Marine Corps Times.
In May, the top Marine announced his initial decision to cut the rifle squad to 12 Marines while adding two new positions — a drone operator and assistant squad leader.
The decision was born out of lessons learned from a series of experimental exercises involving 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines, known as Sea Dragon 2025, that tested the Marines in new squad sizes and weapons and tech.
But those Marines, also nicknamed Darkhorse, detailed a recommendation in the Marine Corps Gazette more than a year ago calling for a 15-man squad for the future battlefield.
The extra manpower was needed to contend with a slew of new technologies, tablets and drones the Marines would need to fight rising adversaries on the battlefield, Darkhorse Marines described in the Gazette article.
Neller said he spoke with squad leaders with 3/5 and they agreed that the 15-man squad model could be hard to control.
“Last May, the Commandant announced that this requirement will be manned (authorized end strength/spaces) and staffed (personnel/faces) at 100 percent of 12 Marines, with the option of filling those additional three spaces when deemed essential to meet operational requirements,” Dent told Marine Corps Times.
And Neller told reporters at a media roundtable in October that the decision on the rifle squad was always for 15 Marines, but potentially for deployed forces.
“Now that there is a commitment to adding an assistant squad leader and a squad systems operator, Gen. Neller wants to try the larger squads. In the case of 2/8, we are going to add those Marines and see what additional lethality and adaptability we can gain,” Dent explained.
“Gen. Neller believes that the Marines and the leaders involved will offer opinions and identify benefits and challenges along the way, all in the vein of making our Corps even more lethal,” he said.
Shawn Snow is the senior reporter for Marine Corps Times and a Marine Corps veteran.