The headline in the New York Times on June 1, 1918, read “Marines – First to Fight.” The day before, a brigade of Marines attached to the U.S. Army’s 2nd Division had raced to the Western Front to halt a breakthrough threatening Paris. They stopped the Germans cold, and five days later, the brigade successfully counterattacked at Belleau Wood becoming the first publicly identified American unit to enter combat in World War I. Ever since that epic battle, the Corps has embraced “First to Fight,” initially as a recruiting slogan, and then as an ethos that reflects its place in the country’s security architecture. As part of that ethos, the U.S. Marine Corps has promoted an institutional mindset about a high level of readiness for crises small and large. Since 1952, the Corps has been designed and postured as an amphibious “force in readiness” poised for immediate use in an array of missions, exploiting its expeditionary tool kit and naval mobility. In response to the Pentagon’s defense strategy, the Marine Corps’ leadership plans (called Force Design 2030) to reshape its focus and force structure, and just possibly change its reputation as a “force in readiness” with broad utility.
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