In the past couple of years, the U.S. Marine Corps has experienced some upheaval as the Corps is recalibrated and dramatic changes are made to its ranks. Most notably, the Corps got rid of its armor assets and tanks are no longer a thing in the Marines as the force returns to its agile and light structure. Armor support for Marines will now come from the U.S. Army.
While roughly 12,000 were severed from the ranks of the sea’s premier infantry service, there was an addition with the activation of the 3rd Marine Littoral Regiment (MLR). Activated in 2022, the 3rd Marine Regiment, now an MLR, is a major pivot in the manner in which the Marine Corps operates in the Pacific.
A Marine squad typically consists of 13 Marines divided into three fire teams of four led by a squad leader. Under the new 3rd Marine Regiment MLR model, a squad will be 14 people, split into two fire teams of six Marines, with a squad leader and assistant squad leader. The fire teams in the 3rd Marine Regiment new MLR model will have a team leader.
The MLR is one part of the larger force design intended to remedy challenges created by the continued evolution of the character of warfare – specifically the proliferation of the Mature Precision Strike Regime.
The 3rd Marine Regiment MLR model is now a self-deployable, multi-domain force optimized for the contact and blunt layers. It will persistently operate to support the Joint Force’s role in assuring allies and partners, deterring adversaries, conducting and enabling Joint Force contact, blunt, and surge activities.
The 3rd Marine Regiment, and other MLRs like it, are designed as a naval formation, including capabilities to enable maneuver and operations in the maritime domain. It will be a stand-in force: mobile, low-signature, persistent in the contact to blunt layers, and relatively easy to maintain and sustain as part of a naval expeditionary force.
The 3rd Marine Regiment as an MLR will leverage the full ability of amphibious platforms, connectors, and boats. Significantly, the Navy and Marine Corps will field a Light Amphibious Warship to enhance MLR mobility and sustainment.
The 3rd Marine Regiment, and other MLRs, will be capable of the following missions:
- Conduct Expeditionary Advanced Base Operations
- Conduct Strike
- Coordinate Air and Missile Defense Actions
- Support Maritime Domain Awareness
- Support Surface Warfare
- Support Operations in the Information Environment
The 3rd Marine Regiment as an MLR is the first of its kind in the Marine Corps. Subsequent MLRs will potentially be based in other Pacific theater locations.
The MLR will employ three subordinate elements: a Littoral Combat Team (LCT); a Littoral Anti-Air Battalion; and a Combat Logistics Battalion.
The LCT will be task organized around an infantry battalion along with an anti-ship missile battery. It is designed to provide the basis for employing multiple platoon-reinforced-size expeditionary advanced base sites that can host and enable a variety of missions such as long-range anti-ship fires, forward arming and refueling of aircraft, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance of key maritime terrain, and air-defense and early warning.
The Littoral Anti-Air Battalion is designed to provide air defense, air surveillance and early warning, air control, and forward rearming and refueling capabilities.
The Combat Logistics Battalion provides tactical logistics support to the MLR by resupplying expeditionary advanced base sites, managing cache sites, and connecting to higher-level logistics providers. It provides expanded purchasing authorities, limited Role II medical forces, distribution of ammunition and fuel, and field level maintenance.
The MLR, like the 3rd Marine Regiment commands and controls these subordinate organizations via a robust regimental headquarters with enhanced signals and human intelligence, reconnaissance, communications, logistics planning, civil affairs, cyber, and information operations capabilities.
The approximate size of the 3rd Marine Regiment and other MLRs is anticipated to be between 1,800 – 2,000 Marines and Sailors. By comparison, 3rd Marines (with three infantry battalions, a Combat Assault Company, and regimental headquarters) has approximately 3,400 Marine and Sailors.
The establishment of the 3rd Marine Regiment as an MLR in Hawaii will give the Marine Corps an initial operational capability to conduct sea denial operations in the Indo-Pacific Theater starting in 2023. This initial MLR will also serve to test and validate concepts and inform structure refinements before subsequent MLRs are established elsewhere within III Marine Expeditionary Force.
The majority of the Hawaii-based MLR was created using units that already exist there in the 3rd Marine Regiment. The unit was activated before all the personnel and equipment flowed in.
The 3rd Marine Regiment now as an MLR is tailored to integrate with naval forces and serve as a key enabler for joint forces, allies, and partners. Its low signature in the electromagnetic spectrum will help the MLR remain difficult to detect, allowing it to function within range of the adversary’s weapons systems.
From there, the MLR will integrate communications, sensor networks, and weapons systems to strengthen joint kill webs and increase the joint force’s ability to detect and target adversary forces. These actions will complicate an adversary’s decision-making process while providing additional options for friendly forces. Further details of how the MLR will operate are still in development and will continue to be informed by experimentation.
The Marine Corps administratively redesignated the 3rd Marine Regiment to the 3rd Marine Littoral Regiment in a ceremony in March 2022. That occasion marked the establishment of the first MLR in the Marine Corps.
The redesignation of the storied 3rd Marine Regiment is an important chapter in Marine Corps history and builds on its reputation as a versatile, agile, and lethal warfighting organization.
“Marines on the leading edge of change is nothing new,” said Maj. Gen. Jay Bargeron, commanding general of 3rd Marine Division in a Marine Corps news article. “Adapting and overcoming challenge is part of our history and a critical component of our maneuver warfare philosophy. Marines have always been at the forefront of change when required, generating innovative solutions to challenging operational problems.”
While the 3rd MLR is not envisioned to be fully operational for several years, its establishment demonstrates progress in the Marine Corps’ Force Design 2030 modernization effort.
The administrative redesignation to the 3rd MLR sets key personnel in place and allows the unit to manage existing facilities and equipment previously managed by the 3rd Marine Regiment. The redesignation also facilitates wargaming and experimentation to better define unit requirements and employment concepts in support of the Marine Corps’ Force Design 2030 modernization goals.
As designed, the 3rd MLR is comprised of a headquarters element and three subordinate commands.
(EDITOR'S NOTE: This post was written extensively using Marine Corps press releases and Marine Corps government news stories available as public information.)