July 22 (UPI) -- The deactivation of the U.S. Marine Corps' tank battalions has begun, following a directive to divest material which could not survive modern warfare.
Companies within the Marines' 1st Tank Battalion in Twentynine Palms, Calif., and the 4th Tank Battalion at Camp Pendleton, Calif., held their first deactivation ceremonies this week. Several combat logistics regiments, engineer support units, ground cannon artillery and light attack air platforms are scheduled to be eliminated as well. The tanks will likely be sold to the U.S. Army or to foreign armies.
"They [tanks] were of massive value, I mean huge value, in the past," Lt. Gen. Eric Smith of the Marine Corps Combat Development Command said in March, when the charges were ordered. "I used them in and around Ramadi [Iraq] and in and around Fallujah [Iraq]. They've paid their dues in blood. These are Marine warriors from the Korean War until now. It's just that for the future fight, [tanks] are of less value than the things that we need most, such as long-range precision fire."
The divestments are part of an aggressive plan, called Design Force 2030, announced earlier this year by Marine Corps Commandant Gen. David Berger. The plan aims to make the Marines better prepared for future action, including defense of ships at sea and operating in hotly contested spots near the shore.
Use of tanks in warfare has been complicated by the number of sophisticated and available anti-tank systems in worldwide counterinsurgency conflicts, and access to long range drones now operated extralegally by militia groups.
"Remember that our tanks were just weapon systems," Capt. Mark Rothrock, commander of Alpha Company, 4th Tank Battalion at the Camp Pendleton deactivation ceremony. "A damn fine weapon system, but nonetheless, just equipment. You individual Marines were always the key to the company's success."