The 3rd Marine Littoral Regiment, the newly reorganized unit that plans to be the Marine Corps’ eyes and ears in the Pacific, is set to reach initial operational capability by the end of September 2023, according to Lt. Col. Kurt Stahl, a 3rd Marine Division spokesman.

The 3rd Marine Littoral Regiment will be the first unit to put the Marine Corps’ “stand-in force” concept into practice. Part of the Corps’ sweeping modernization effort Force Design 2030, stand-in-forces will be small groups of Marines constantly positioned in contested areas, specifically the Pacific.

The Hawaii-based 3rd Marine Littoral Regiment will train and operate within reach of strikes from China, the adversary that the Marine Corps is most focused on countering via Force Design 2030. It is composed of a command element, littoral combat team, littoral anti-air battalion and combat logistics battalion.

The 3rd Marine Regiment in March 2022 was redesignated as the 3rd Marine Littoral Regiment, reflecting the unit’s focus on close-to-shore operations. It is “the tip of the spear for Force Design 2030,” Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro said in February.

“The MLR is a capability that exists right now today. We are ready and prepared to fight now,” Col. Tim Brady, the unit’s commander, told Defense News in August. “Regardless of all those things we’re going to be continuing to train and experiment with in the future, and the future capabilities that are going to come to the MLR, we’re [a] capable unit today.”

The 3rd Marine Littoral Regiment is still developing its structure and gear.

The Marine Corps at first had planned for its Marine littoral regiments to acquire the light amphibious warship, which is smaller than traditional big-deck amphibious ships but larger than connectors like the landing craft utility. The ships are supposed to give units the ability to maneuver approximately 75 Marines quickly.

But with procurement of the light amphibious warship being delayed, the 3rd Marine littoral regiment was experimenting with a civilian stern landing vessel as a replacement.

Force Design reflects a shift in the priorities of the Marine Corps — and the services more generally — away from the Middle East and toward China. The overhaul emphasizes amphibious operations over ground combat, and it focuses more efforts on reconnaissance and counter-reconnaissance.

The 3rd Marine Littoral Regiment is set to reach full operational capability by the end of September 2025, according to Stahl.

Irene Loewenson is a staff reporter for Marine Corps Times. She joined Military Times as an editorial fellow in August 2022. She is a graduate of Williams College, where she was the editor-in-chief of the student newspaper.

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