Interview with CG 2d MEB

9 Nov 2000 | Cpl Valerie A. Martinez

In a recent interview with Brig. Gen. Robert M. Flanagan, commanding general of the 2d Marine Expeditionary Brigade, the commander talked of his command and the one-year anniversary of its stand-up. Some of the key highlights of the interview included talk of the MEB's organization, its operational tempo and an insight of 2d MEB's future exercises.

Q.  What is the status of today's 2d MEB?
A. We're approaching the one-year anniversary of 2d MEB. We stood-up Nov. 10 of last year and since then have participated in a couple of key exercises, further refined our staff and trained with rapid training procedures and policies.  So I feel we've continued to grow through the year, and we are much more vibrant today than last November.

Q. What is the basic organization of a MEB?
A. The MEB is an intermediate sized Marine Air-Ground Task Force. The Marine Expeditionary Unit can deploy a force of about 2,200 Marines while the Marine Expeditionary Force can deploy about forty-three to forty-five thousand. The commandant felt, and I think many Marines felt, there was a need for an intermediate MAGTF size, and that's where the MEB comes in to play. Technically, there is no number for the MEB, but a full up MEB would be about 17,000 Marines and sailors.

Q. What can a MEB do that a MEU can't?
A. The full-up MEB is a much more powerful force and has more sustainment. We can bring an initial sustainment of about 30 days, but essentially can sustain ourselves indefinitely. While the MEB looks similar to a MEU, it's much more powerful. We have the full range of aviation support, along with a much more robust ground combat element. A MEB is not just one or two times the MEU, it goes up exponentially in power.

Q. What kind of mission would require deploying a MEB?"
A. Because the MEB is so versatile and so agile, there is a whole host of missions that the MEB can perform.  The smaller range - four to five thousand Marines - could be involved in humanitarian assistance operations, disaster relief, and smaller scale contingencies. At the higher end we can be involved in full-blown combat operations.

Q. What do you see are the differences between today's MEB what used to be the Marine Amphibious Brigade?
A. Years ago, we were Marine Amphibious Forces. We have changed to be expeditionary forces and that better describes what we do. We are not just amphibious, but we are also expeditionary. The main difference is that we no longer have standing headquarters. The original MAB concept had a general officer along with a full staff functioning as the MAB everyday, and they were separate from the MEF. We could no longer support that structure because the MEF was beginning to suffer. We had to take that personnel structure and move it back into the MEF, thereby doing away with the MAB. The difference today is that my staff, all though identified and trained, is embedded in the MEF staff.

Q. What were the factors the Marine Corps faced when deciding to bring the MEB back?
A. There was some ambiguity on the part of the combatant CINCs (commanders in chief) as to what the Marine Corps brought to the an area of (geographic) responsibility. When we talked about deploying MEF-forward, it was a term many people did not understand. They didn't know what combat power that related to. So we tried to put it in terms that were understandable. What we came up with was the Marine Expeditionary Brigade. It is easier to describe and understand a MEB than it is the MEF-forward concept. We are making very good progress in getting joint war fighters to understand what a MEB is and what it can do for them.

Q. What are the benefits of having the MEB back in today's Corps?
A. It goes back to the scalability, flexibility and agility of the MAGTF. Our MEU's are forward deployed and do a tremendous job everyday of the year. But if the situation calls for more combat power, the MEB allows us to get in just above the MEU level. You can certainly envision many situations that would require five to 10,000 Marines, and we now have a command element that is trained to employ that kind of a force. I think there is a tremendous utility in the MEB.

Q. How do you see the MEB meshing with the Marine Corps operational plan?
A. Being expeditionary requires training and a way of doing business that the Marine Corps has done for 225 years. The MEB fills the gap in the expeditionary capability that we had from the MEU to the MEF. It is purely an expeditionary unit that can fill the gap in any size contingency across the spectrum of conflict.

Q. What kind of exercises can we expect the MEB to be participating in?
A. This past year we conducted two major exercises -- both very different -- and they both show the flexibility of the MEB. The first was Dynamic Mix, a logistics-heavy exercise in Greece; and the second Exercise Purple Dragon was here at Camp Lejeune. The traditional MEB staff will do Dynamic Mix next year in Spain. We will also do Battle Griffin, which will be the division, but the division will fight as the MEB. As we start to advertise to the CINCs and they see our capabilities, we'll get involved in more exercises.

Q. What has your designation as a naval aviator brought to your position as the commanding general?
A. I think at the brigadier general level, we become more generalists. As a helicopter pilot, I have worked closely with the ground combat element throughout my career. I think I bring a MAGTF flavor that has different insights into ground combat, air combat, and combat service support. I think an aviator has some refreshing views of how a MEB should be employed and deployed. Nonetheless, I think we all grow up as MAGTF officers. It becomes less and less important what our MOS's were when we become the commander.

Q. What are your goals for the future of 2d MEB?
A. My goals are to ensure that the combatant CINCs we support, understand what the MEB is, what our capabilities are and when the situation arises, they call on 2d MEB to execute the mission. We want them to know we are the rapid reaction expeditionary force of choice.