The Marine Corps Advisor Company or MCAC is a new unit that has been established to provide trained and capable military advisors to work with foreign militaries and security forces of partner nations. The MCAC units will focus exclusively on training, equipping, and deploying military advisor teams that will operate around the world.
Eventually there will be four Marine Corps Advisor Companies. The first two MCACs – part of the Marine Corps reserves – were formally activated on June 7, 2019 at Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling (JBAB) – MCAC Alpha and MCAC Bravo. Both MCACs will provide Marine Corps Advisor Teams (MCATs) to conduct the Security Force Assistance mission with partner nation militaries at or above the brigade level.
Marines who are assigned to the MCACs will attend the four-week long Marine Advisor Course at the Marine Corps Security Cooperation Group (MCSCG). the MCSCG carries out foreign military training and cooperation as well as training Marine advisors in culture, foreign weapons handling, force protection, and other advisor skills. The MCSCG was stood up in 2012.
In addition, the Marine advisors will conduct unit training and attend military schools that increase their skills – such as shooting, communicating, and battlefield survival. Advisory skills such as knowing the human terrain and cross-cultural communications, negotiations, and more will be trained up.
The MCAC advisor teams are rank-heavy – a requirement for advising at foreign militaries at the brigade or higher level. The MCATs are led by a colonel or lieutenant colonel and structured like an infantry battalion staff. The officers and NCOs have expertise in one or more of the functional areas of operations, intelligence, fires, logistics, and communications.
Advising is not a new mission for U.S. Marines. In the past several decades there have been several programs, courses, and schools to train Marines for the advisory mission. However, what has been lacking in the past has been a permanent and professional advisory corps.
In the history of the Marine Corps advisors and trainers have been employed in places such as Latin America, Vietnam, the Philippines, Korea, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Georgia. The Marines were busy advising and training during the “Banana Wars” in Central America and the Caribbean in the first part of the twentieth century as well as in the later part of the century. In Vietnam the Marines took part in the Combined Action Program (CAP) – where they worked with the paramilitary Popular Forces (PF). The Marines also trained and advised the Vietnamese Marine Corps (VNMC).
In Afghanistan, the Marines provided advisor teams to train up the Afghan National Army 201st Corps in the early years of the conflict. Most recently Marines have been conducting the Security Force Assistance mission in Afghanistan as part of Task Force Southwest in Helmand province. They are advising and training the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF).
In the establishment of the MCACs the Marine Corps has recognized the importance of a permanent advisory corps. This moves follows the formation six Security Force Assistance Brigades by the U.S. Army in the past two years. The formation of the MCACs shows that the Marine Corps is shifting from the ad hoc nature of advising efforts to one with a more permanent capability. The personnel of the newly established Marine Corps Advisor Companies will certainly be busy in the future!
References: For a detailed examination about the Marine Corps advisory missions of the past read United States Marine Corps Advisors: Past, Present, and Future, CNA Analysis & Solutions, August 2013. (PDF, 136 pages).
Photo: Col. Christopher Douglas, senior advisor with the 505th Zone National Police (left), and BG Benjamin Watson, CG of Task Force Southwest (TFSW), conduct planning for operation Maiwand 11 with the Afghan National Defense and Security Force (ANDSF) leadership at Bost Airfield, Afghanistan, Jan. 25, 2018. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Conner Robbins).