The loved and revered M1A1 Abrams tanks used by the 2nd Tank Battalion based at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina left the base in March.
The tanks will not return as the Marine Corps undertakes a sweeping modernization plan that sees the Marines as a more agile force. This sees Marine tank units from across the US starting to haul their hardware to military depots as the units were shut down.
The Marine Corps wants to return to its maritime roots and will divest itself of the tank battalions as part of this plan.
They no longer wish to be viewed as a second land army and will return to its roots of defense of the US maritime fleet as well as fighting along coasts and hopping from one island to another. This is being undertaken as the Corps prepares for future possible conflict with nations such as China.
In March, Commandant Gen. David Berger, wrote in a plan that the capability for heavy ground armored vehicles will remain with the Army.
He went on to say that despite the long and honorable history of armored vehicles, they are not suited to the future operational plans of the Marine Corps.
As part of this new, lean Marine Corps, 12,000 troops will be trimmed from their ranks by 2030. The units that will be taken out of the Corps include all law enforcement units and the reduction in the number of cannon artillery battalions and manned aviation units, as well as a reduction and restructure of the infantry battalions.
The Marine will increase the number of light armored reconnaissance units and build both their drone capability and their long-range strike capability. The plans also call for the tripling of the number of rocket artillery battalions.
The service is not taking these changes slowly. This month has already seen the removal of the tanks from 1st Tank Battalion at Twentynine Palms in California.
The first of six of the Marine Corps Reserve Battalions, Alpha Company, 4th Tank Battalion at Camp Pendleton have cased their colors and the others are due to close by the end of 2021.
The Corps logistics base at Barstow, California has been busy moving 200 M-88 Recovery Vehicles, Abrams tanks and other hardware to Army depots in Alabama and California.
The Marines attached to these battalions will be given the option to change to specialize in these new disciplines or take a transfer to the Army and continue serving in tanks. Those service people that have 15 or more years of service will be able to apply for early retirement.
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On the 18th July, at a deactivation ceremony, the Commander of Alpha Company, Capt. Mark Rothcock reminded everyone that the tanks were only weapons, very fine weapons, but just weapons. The success of the companies was due to the fine Marines that served in them.