Story by Cpl Serine Farahi on 06/10/2019The Marine Corps' proficiency in counterinsurgency and stability operations has been a valuable, frequently utilized asset to our nation for nearly two decades. Today the U. S. confronts challenges across the globe that range from great power competition to loosely organized terrorist movements. The Commandant of the Marine Corps has emphasized the importance and inevitable necessity of the Corps' ability to provide trained and capable military advisors to interoperate with militaries and security forces of partner nations.
To answer that demand, the Marine Corps is consolidating talent, assets and capabilities by forming a new unit that will focus exclusively on training, equipping, and deploying military advisor teams across the globe.
Marine Corps Advisor Companies (MCAC) Alpha and Bravo, the first two of eventually four MCACs, formally activated June 7, 2019 at Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling (JBAB) in Washington. MCAC Alpha will be formed from the backbone of the recently deactivated 2d Civil Affairs Group (2d CAG), and is headquartered at JBAB. MCAC Bravo is headquartered in Concord, Calif., with teams in Concord and Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif. in 2021.
Both MCACs will provide Marine Corps Advisor Teams (MCATs) to conduct Security Force Assistance and liaise with partner nations, at or above the brigade level in order to cooperatively advance combined-warfighting capability across the Range of Military Operations in support of geographic combatant commander requirements.
To build diverse, broadly-capable teams, the Marine Corps will be relying on the reserves' unique ability to identify and provide talented Marines who possess the requisite professional military experience and years of civilian expertise. Currently, MCAC Alpha counts on its roles; attorneys, computer network engineers, diplomats, financial analysts, firefighters, law enforcement officers, reporters, teachers and even a railroad conductor.
Although newly formed, MCAC Bravo's core leadership collectively has multiple combat advising tours, as well as experienced cadre who provided deployment training support for Marine Corps Security Cooperation Group for advising missions in Iraq and Afghanistan.
This collective experience will enable them to select the most qualified Marines in the reserve component, or Marines transitioning from the active component. Marines with such talents are force-multipliers to a mission where working with partner forces means doing so in small numbers. Marines assigned to MCACs will attend the Marine Advisor Course at the Marine Corps Security Cooperation Group, in addition to other specialized training. Similar to 2d CAG, both MCACs Alpha and Bravo are reserve commands and are organized under Force Headquarters Group, U. S. Marine Corps Forces Reserve. Colonel David V. Ready, who previously commanded 2d Civil Affairs Group, is MCAC Alpha's first commander.
"We are judiciously incorporating the lessons from recent and historical train, advise & assist missions to ensure that MCAC Alpha is ready, relevant and capable to deploy teams and work with partners to defeat our mutual enemies," Ready said.
Colonel Christopher J. Douglas, who returned from Afghanistan as an advisor team leader in November 2018, with Task Force Southwest, is MCAC Bravo's first commander. Since 2013, Douglas has led three advisor teams from the reserve and active component, in Afghanistan and Iraq.
"The concept of advising is not new to the Marine Corps. The Marine Corps has been advising foreign security forces throughout our history," Douglas explained. "Since the start of the Global War on Terrorism, we have been deploying advisor teams in support of combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan".
Douglas' combat experience as a rifle company commander with both the 2nd and 3rd Battalions of 25th Marines, and service as the battalion commander of 1st Battalion, 24th Marines, enhanced his ability to advise counterparts. He attributes the success of previous teams to professionalism, understanding of language and culture, and their ability to develop relationships.
"Since 2013, I have been fortunate to have worked with many talented Marines while leading three successful advisor teams, two to Afghanistan, and one to Iraq," Douglas said. "The work of these teams has long-lasting effects, as our foreign counterparts continue to maintain control of regions previously held by ISIS and the Taliban."
Preparation of the teams consists of hard skills - shooting, moving and communicating; and soft skills -human terrain/cross-cultural engagements, advising and negotiating.
According to Douglas, the multi-dimensional focus of MCACs provides a breadth of knowledge and experience, collectively and individually, that enables teams and team members to build relationships with partner forces which enhances their ability to continue the fight on terrorism and insurgency. Specifically, book studies, culture and language classes, in addition to medical and security training, have enhanced each team's ability to operate safely, identify the needs of our partner forces and to advise our counterparts on best practices.
Each MCAT is led by a colonel or a lieutenant colonel and structured much like an infantry battalion staff with expertise in functional areas such as; current operations, future operations, intelligence, fires, logistics, and communications.
"Marine advisor teams have a unique ability in all areas of the warfighting functions," said Sgt.Maj. Frederick J. Ott III, MCAC Alpha. "Each team has subject matter expertise and experience to provide professional support and advice to our military partners in the effort of defeating our common enemies across the globe."
"The MCACs are the bearer of the legacy of Marine advisors," Mike Westermeier, a historian at the Marine Corps History Division, said. "Therefore, the companies are inheritors to the legacy of Marine advisors from Vietnam, the Philippines, Korea, the Guardia Nacional de Nicaragua, and the Garde d'Haiti."
In establishing the MCACs, the Corps has embraced advising as a permanent core capability, primed for worldwide service and expects the MCACs to deploy fully-trained teams as soon as 2020.
Interested Marine Corps Reserve officers, captain through colonel; and staff non-commissioned officers should contact their local prior service recruiter and send their reserve qualification summary via email to firstname.lastname@example.org. (Courtesy story by Capt. James Heg)