Those who have read the December 2009 issue of the Marine Corps Gazette should already be familiar with The Rifle Company Experiment, written by Col. Vincent Goulding, USMC (ret). (Goulding is the Director, Experiment Division, Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory.)
For those who have not, Goulding's article (h/t Potomac Institute for Policy Studies) shows how the Marine Corps is applying lessons learned from stabilization operations in Iraq and Afghanistan to the broad set of rifle company tasks and to amphibious landing force operations.
1) The experiment will test whether a rifle company (specifically, a company landing team (CoLT)) can be an effective independent unit of action. Previously, the battalion landing team was organized to be the smallest such unit.
2) The experiment envisions distributed operations as a standard technique.
3) Applying experience from Iraq and Afghanistan, the experimental rifle company TO adds operations/intel/logistics personnel to the CoLT HQ element. It also adds two five-man scout/recon teams to the company.
4) The experiment will use unmanned ground and air vehicles controlled by the CoLT for ISR and logistics support purposes.
5) The experiment will attached a platoon of 155mm howitzers to the CoLT.
6) The experiment will occur as an over-the-horizon surface and helicopter-borne amphibious assault into the rugged Kahuku Infantry Training area on the north shore of Oahu. I can report from personal experience that this training area - with its many steep compartments and thick vegetation -- provides an unusual challenge for movement, communications, and control of subordinate units.
The CoLT experiment indicates several positive trends. First, the Marine Corps is applying lessons it has learned in other contexts (the requirements needed for independent company operations in a COIN environment) to a broad set of other missions. Second, even while COIN operations in Afghanistan ramp up, the Marine Corps is working on other mission requirements. Third, that the concept of distributed operations lives on. And fourth, that in spite of the growing technological ability to micromanage subordinates, the Marine Corps is designing TTPs that push more responsibility down to lower levels, and not just for COIN operations. The CoLT experiment with distributed operations appears to illustrate these positive trends.