WASHINGTON — Since the founding of the Marine Corps in 1775, Marines have answered the nation’s call, faithfully protecting the American people and maintaining a world-class standard of military excellence, the Marine Corps commandant said Tuesday.
“Nothing has changed. We will continue to do the same in the future,” Gen. James Amos said at a hearing of the House Appropriations Committee’s defense subcommittee.
The nation is now at a strategic inflection point, he said.
“After 12 years of war, we are drawing down our forces in Afghanistan, resetting our institution and reawakening the soul of our Corps,” Amos said. At the same time, fiscal uncertainty threatens the Corps’ capacity and capabilities and forces it to sacrifice long-term health for near-term readiness, the commandant said.
Despite these challenges, Amos said, he remains committed to “fueling the most capable and ready Marine Corps that the nation is willing to pay for.”
Individual Marines are the Corps’ greatest asset, he said.
“Our unique role as America’s signature crisis response force is grounded in the legendary character and warfighting ethos of our people,” the general said.
As the Marine Corps resets and prepares for future battles, Amos said, all Marines are rededicating themselves to four timeless attributes: “persistent discipline; faithful obedience to orders and instructions; concerned and engaged leadership 24 hours a day, seven days a week; and strict adherence to established standards.”
These characteristics, he said, are what carried Marines across French wheat fields and into German machine guns at Belleau Wood in World War I. And, the commandant continued, in World War II, the same attributes allowed combat-inexperienced young Marines to succeed against a determined enemy in the attack on Guadalcanal.
And lastly, he said, these enduring strengths of character and courage “enabled Marines to carry the day in an Iraqi town named Fallujah, and against a determined enemy in the Taliban strongholds of Marjah and Sangin.”
“These ironclad imperatives have defined our Corps for 238 years,” Amos said. “They will serve us well in the decades to come.”
While about 30,000 Marines are deployed around the world, promoting peace, protecting the nation’s interests and securing its defense, the commandant said, they aren’t working alone. The Marine Corps’ partnership with the Navy provides the United States with an “unmatched naval expeditionary capability,” he said.
“Our relationship with the Navy is a symbiotic one,” Amos said.
That close relationship is at the heart of the commandant’s concern over the effects of cuts to the fleet and to shipbuilding funds, he said.
“America’s engagement throughout the future security environment of the next two decades will be naval in character — make no mistake,” the general said. “To be forward-engaged and to be present when it matters most, we need capital ships — and those ships need to be loaded with United States Marines.”
By maintaining a forward presence, the Navy and Marine Corps team can respond immediately “when success is measured in hours, not in days,” Amos said.
Over and over again, that forward presence has paid dividends for the nation, and for its allies and partners, the commandant said.
From Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines, to the rescue of American citizens in South Sudan, forward-deployed naval forces were there, Amos said.
“We carried the day for America,” he said.
“As the joint force draws down, and we conclude combat operations in Afghanistan, some argue that, ‘Well, we are done with conflict.’ My view is different,” Amos said. “As evidenced in the events partly unfolding in Central Europe today, the world will remain a dangerous and unpredictable place. There will be no peace dividend for America, nor will there be a shortage of war for its United States Marines.”
The general pledged that even in the fiscal climate in which it must accomplish its mission going forward, the Marine Corps will step up to the task.
“We will not do less with less,” Amos said. “We will do the same with less.”