To operate in small teams that can coordinate a massive precision-engagement campaign, Marines will have to change the way they fight and train. The ethos of "every Marine a rifleman" will shift to "every Marine a JTAC," or joint terminal air controller. A Marine or team that cannot communicate on the battlefield will die. Marines will manage and become experts on dozens of different communications platforms ensuring double and triple redundancy. The battlefield of the future will be wired with data pipes bigger than the Alaskan Pipeline. If commanders today worry about information overload, they haven't seen anything yet. Every warrior on the battlefield will have access to the common operating picture, able to call in dozens of precision strikes from multiple platforms at once. Graduation exercises at infantry school will be based around scenarios that test the ability of the individual and team to operate in austere environments under physically grueling conditions -- while maintaining continuous communications over several waveforms. The Crucible will look like a day at the fair.
Organizationally, the Marine rifle squad as we know it today will no longer exist. Each squad will have a signals intelligence specialist, data and communications specialists, demolitions experts, one or two corpsmen, a sniper, and two or three machine gun teams -- only one or two team members may be certified "JTACs" but all must know how to coordinate the use of precision munitions and air assets via multiple radio and data waveforms. From the lowest-ranking member of the team to the general officer leading the joint task force headquarters, live video feeds will stream continuously, giving every warfighter a clear, concise picture of the battlefield. Rarely will the Marine of the future use his personal weapon; "rifleman" will become an antiquated term.
Leadership organization and manpower management will all have to be addressed if the Marine Corps is to conduct a significant re-organization. Marines operating in small teams will probably require over a year of training, probably more. A normal four-year enlistment might not be cost effective. Force structure may have to be reduced in order to ensure there are enough recruits with the qualifications and physical abilities to make the cut as operatives in the new elite Marine teams. Suffice it to say, the changes will hit every area of the Corps from recruiting to training to organization to equipping. The Marine Corps has been historically infantry-centric; to remain so could mean its eventual irrelevancy.
We will never fight another war in the mud. However, special forces can currently operate only for short periods of time; they cannot operate in a sustained mode in the face of significant opposition. The Marine Corps is in a position to fill the gap that currently exists within the special forces community. The Marine Corps must recognize the change that is sweeping the U.S. military and be the trailblazers we have always been when it comes to innovating and providing the most bang for the nation's buck. Failure to act could mean increasing irrelevance for a force that has been one of the United States's most storied and effective fighting organizations.