Marines to Change Composition of Infantry Fire Teams, Squads
By OTTO KREISHER, Seapower Correspondent
QUANTICO, Va. — In recognition of the increasing role of technology in warfare, the Marine Corps is making an historic change in the makeup of its two most fundamental ground combat elements — the infantry fire team and squad.
For decades, the fire team consisted of four Marines: a leader, a rifleman, an automatic rifleman and his assistant. Each squad had three fire teams and a squad leader for a total of 13 Marines.
On May 3, Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller announced that the composition of those two elements will become three, three-Marine fire teams and a three-Marine command element of a squad leader, assistant squad leader and a squad systems operator, who would be responsible for assisting the squad leader with additional technology including the quadcopter unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) every squad is receiving.
The change was aimed at giving these small units increased lethality and situational awareness, Neller said at the Marine Corps Association and Foundation’s annual awards banquet.
The systems operator will be the most technically inclined Marine and will retain the traditional infantry military occupational specialty code.
Lt. Col. Eric Dent, the commandant’s public affairs officer, said Neller announced that each fire team would retain an additional rifleman as an unfilled position on the official table of organization to allow the Corps to quickly augment the squads if needed.
Although every member of the squad will carry the M27 infantry automatic rifle, which has a fully automatic option, one member of each fire team will be a designated automatic rifleman. Each fire team also will have a designated grenadier, who will have the new M320 grenade launcher attached to their M27, replacing the old M203. Each squad will be getting a designated marksman, who will carry the M38, an M27 modified for greater accuracy.
The changes will be implemented across all Marine infantry battalions over the next three-to-five years, Neller announced.
Although there has been discussion of elevating the squad leaders to staff sergeant, that position will remain a sergeant. The assistant squad leader and each fire team leader will be a corporal. The systems operator, the automatic rifleman and grenadier in each fire team will be lance corporals and the third team member could be a private first class.
Dent said Neller announced some additional changes in the ground combat units, including replacing the old Shoulder-Launched, Multipurpose Assault Weapon (SMAW) with the Multi-Role Anti-Armor, Anti-Personnel Weapon System (MAAWS).
In addition to the small quadcopters in the squads, platoons will have larger UAVs and a designated operator. Rifle companies will add a five-Marine UAS (unmanned aircraft system)/Counter-UAS section.
Weapons companies will add four Javelin, man-portable anti-armor systems, for a total of 12, but will lose four of the heavy tube-launched, optically tracked, wire-guided systems. They also will lose two 81 mm mortar systems, but the six remaining mortars will have longer-range munitions.
Each rifle company will gain an operations/intelligence section, a logistics cell and a small arms repairer. The battalions will add an information management officer and an information environment operations officer and assistant to improve information warfare capabilities.
Outside the infantry, 2nd Tank Battalion will add a tank company and the combat engineers will increase their engineer squads to 13 Marines and assign an engineer platoon to each infantry battalion, Neller announced.