CAMP FOSTER, OKINAWA, Japan -- Marine officials are working to identify the approximately 33,000 Marines who have not been tapped for service in Iraq or Afghanistan and get them to deployable units, a III Marine Expeditionary Force official said recently.
The effort was initiated after Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. James Conway put out an all-Marine message announcing his intent to get "every Marine to the fight."
"As our Corps postures for the Long War, and in order to help meet the challenges of frequent deployments, I want our Corps leadership to initiate policies to ensure all Marines, first termers and career Marines alike, are provided the ability to deploy to a combat zone," Conway said in ALMAR 002/07.
The ALMAR calls for Marines who haven't deployed to be reassigned "as feasible," and authorizes "increased time-on-station waivers" to accomplish that.
Some Marines on Okinawa and those scheduled to come here in the future could be affected by the section that specifically addresses the III MEF assignment policy, calling for it to be modified "as required."
Lt. Col J. W. Senter III, the deputy assistant chief of staff for III MEF manpower, said it is still not certain exactly how the policy will be modified.
"Until additional guidance by Manpower and Reserve Affairs is provided, a Marine's rotation tour date is still the primary determinant for assignment to Operation Iraqi Freedom rotational units," Senter said.
Currently, the III MEF policy states that all Marines assigned to Okinawa will be assigned to 24-month unaccompanied tours or 36-month accompanied tours. In some cases, exceptions are made to authorize one-year unaccompanied tours.
The 24/36-month policy for Okinawa is being reviewed at Headquarters Marine Corps to assess whether it can be modified to meet the Commandant's intent without disrupting operations within Okinawa units, Senter said.
That could mean early rotation dates would be authorized for Marines rotating from Okinawa to deploying units, but Senter said Headquarters Marine Corps has to address the issue of cost as well.
"Early (permanent change of station) orders will create a large bill to pay," he said.
There are many variables that make implementation of the policy slow-going initially, but Senter said Marines can expect to see several Marine administrative messages in the coming months that, in addition to the policy change, will address the overall OIF theater plus-up of troops.
Conway's intent is clearly stated in ALMAR 002/07.
"When they join our Corps, Marines expect to train, deploy and fight. That's who we are. That's what we do. And we must allow every Marine that opportunity."