The U.S. Navy will now issue a pin for enlisted sailors serving with
the "Naval Expeditionary Combat Command" (NECC). Several other specialties have
similar pins. Submariners wear a dolphin, aviators wear wings. The NECC sailors
are being trained for ground combat, and this will let people know who they
are. It's good for morale.
was officially established in October, 2005. This organization will eventually
grow to contain 40,000 sailors, all of whom will be trained to work, and fight,
on land. The U.S. Marine Corps has mixed feelings about this, for the marines
have long been the navy's ground combat troops. The navy says that the USMC
mission will remain.
in the meantime, there are already 20,000 sailors eligible for the NECC pin,
and 3,000 are already serving ashore in Iraq and Afghanistan. There are 9,000
more non-combat sailors, like construction troops (Seabees), medical and other
support personnel, overseas. NECC is not exactly replacing the marines, but
doing jobs ashore the navy feels it can handle. Some of these support jobs the
marines don't even try to do.
keep in mind that the marines are not part of the navy, as they are often
described. Both the navy and marines are part of the Department of the Navy
(the Department of the Army and Department of the Air Force each have only one
component.) Over the years, the marines obtained more and more autonomy from
the navy. When the U.S. Marine Corps began, over two centuries ago, as sailors
who were trained and equipped to fight as infantry, they were very much part of
the navy, and part of ship crews. This changed radically in the late 19th
century, when all-metal steam ships replaced wooden sailing ships. The new "iron
ships" really didn't need marines, and there were proposals to eliminate them.
The American marines got organized and made themselves useful. For example, the
marines performed very well as "State Department Troops" in Latin America for
half a century (late 19th century to just before World War II), where American
troops were needed deal with civil disorder. During World War I (1914-18), they
provided a brigade for ground combat in Europe, where they demonstrated
exceptional combat skills. During the 1930s, as World War II approached, the
U.S. Marine Corps really ran with the ball when the navy realized they would
have to use amphibious assaults to take heavily fortified Japanese islands.
During World War II, the marines formed their first division size units, and
ended the war with six divisions, organized into two corps. The Marine Corps
was no longer just a minor part of the navy, but on its way to being a fourth
service. Over the next half century, it basically achieved that goal. But in
doing that, the navy lost control of its ground troops.
navy still wanted and needed land forces. So, having lost control of the USMC,
the navy has created NECC. The navy still considers the marines its primary
"infantry force", but the NECC will contain sailors trained and equipped for
land operations the navy believes it should be involved in. Some of these are
still on the water, like "riverine operations" (small gunboats and troop
carriers to control rivers and coastal waters against irregulars), and "naval infantry"
to defend navy land bases in hostile territory. Yes, it's all about Iraq, all
its rivers and all it's hostile locals wanting to attack sailors there helping