More Marines Could Be Headed to Schoolhouse to Train Foreign Troops

The Marine Corps is going to double the size of a Virginia-based schoolhouse where leathernecks learn the cultural and language skills needed to train and advise foreign militaries.

The Marine Corps Security Cooperation Group, based at Fort Story in Virginia Beach, will soon be expanded and renamed the Marine Adviser Group, Commandant Gen. Robert Neller told reporters Wednesday.

Training and supporting the development of partner nations and allies is one of the Marine Corps’ key missions, he said, and that’s not going to change.

“Just because the pendulum has swung back more toward peer adversaries doesn’t mean we’re going to forget or forgo the requirement to be able to do counterinsurgency missions or stability operations,” Neller said.

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Marines deploying as small security-cooperation groups — who train foreign troops in places such as Central America, Africa and the Middle East — typically spend weeks training with the Security Cooperation Group. They learn how best to teach other troops, how to handle foreign weapons and what cultural barriers they might face on their missions, such as divisions between local enlisted troops and the officer corps.

They also receive medical and security training specific to the region in which they’ll be operating. Marine adviser teams deploying to the Middle East, for example, practice guardian-angel patrols to combat insider attacks.

The Security Cooperation Group also dispatches trainers to bases where larger units are preparing to deploy in the form of crisis-response forces or Marine expeditionary units. Those trainers share knowledge about local customs Marines should consider when deploying to new areas.

The decision to double the size of the schoolhouse and change its name is the result of an ongoing force-wide review called Marine Corps Force 2025, which looks at how the service should be organized to combat future threats. The review has resulted inrevamped rifle squads, thedeactivation of some units and the creation of newinformation- and cyber-warfare groups.

Strengthening alliances and attracting new military partners was a key goal in theNational Security Strategy released in December. While the Marine Corps will take steps to do that through the expansion of teams that train advisers, Neller said it’s still vital that the service move itself “training-wise toward the higher end of warfare.”

“Even though the likelihood is less, the consequences are greater,” he said.

— Gina Harkins can be reached at gina.harkins@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at@ginaaharkins.

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