CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. --
For an evolving Marine Corps, a step forward means having fewer Marines and Sailors in the ranks, but a more effective strength to carry out the mission.
The Corps faced several cuts last year, and the trend continues into 2021 as 8th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, ends its most recent, 70-year, activation period with a deactivation ceremony on January 28.
“It’s just a natural transition that we go through as we contract or expand the Marine Corps in certain locations and places, either by skillset or by geographical location, that fits with force design,” said Maj. Gen. Frank Donovan, commanding general, 2nd MARDIV.
The 8th Marines Regimental headquarters, which has participated in myriad major conflicts over the last two centuries, including World War II, the Cuban Missile Crisis and Operation Desert Shield, has been deactivated three times since its 1917 establishment: In 1919, 1925 and 1949. It reactivated in 1950 and remained active until the ceremony.
In casing its colors, it joins a growing list of Camp Lejeune-based units that have recently been deactivated, which includes Combat Logistics Regiment 25, 2nd Law Enforcement Battalion and, soon, 2nd Tank Battalion.
“Losing a regiment, we lose some flexibility,” Donovan said. “But the reality is we also spread some of that talent and that capability to our other regiments.”
The cuts aren’t specific to Camp Lejeune, however; the deactivation is part of an overall restructure in accordance with the 38th Commandant of the Marine Corps’ Force Design 2030. The intent is to reshape into a leaner, more efficient maritime-centric operational force with a focus on adversaries overseas.
To accommodate the naval focus, one aspect of FD 2030 is to reduce personnel attached to the ground combat element. As a result, the total number of regimental headquarters in the Corps three active Marine divisions will be limited to seven, as well as reducing the number of associated infantry battalions to 21.
“It’s just a natural transition that we go through as we contract or expand the Marine Corps in certain locations and places, either by skillset or by geographical location, that fits with force design.” Maj. Gen. Frank Donovan, 2nd MARDIV commanding general
“This will allow us to modernize and prepare for the next fight against a peer competitor,” said Col. John Rochford, commanding officer, 8th Marine Regiment.
According to FD 2030, by reducing legacy systems and capabilities, the Marine Corps is afforded the opportunity to reallocate revenue in order to incorporate long-range precision fires and refocus on integration with the Navy, in accordance with its roots as a naval expeditionary force.
“The force design effort does not imply that [the capabilities and units] are not of value,” wrote Gen. David Berger, Commandant of the Marine Corps, in his FD 2030 mandate. “Rather, this effort confronts the reality that in a future threat-informed fight, other capabilities will be more useful to the maritime and joint mission.”
Despite the deactivation of this nearly century-old unit, two of its three infantry battalions will carry on its name and continue the fight.
Marines and Sailors from 1st Battalion, 8th Marines, now belong to the 6th Marine Regiment and currently serve as the battalion landing team for the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit; and 2nd Battalion, 8th Marines, now falls under 2nd Marine Regiment. However, 3rd Battalion, 8th Marines, will deactivate following its return from its Unit Deployment Program rotation to Okinawa, Japan.
“The last six months have been the most impactful for me,” Rochford said. “We’ve been undermanned and understaffed. During that time we were able to certify and deploy 1st Battalion to a Marine Expeditionary Unit, another [battalion] to a UDP on Okinawa, and we’ve also been able to accelerate this shutdown four months ahead of schedule.”
Going forward, the service members from the deactivated unit will either move to other units, be assigned new military occupational specialties, or they may opt to transition out of the Marine Corps.
“I hope that we’ve made them proud, those of the past and those who have now moved out of the [regiment] to other battalions and units,” said Sgt. Maj. Keith D. Hoge, 8th Marine Regiment sergeant major. “They can take with them the 8th Marine Regiment’s fighting spirit and go on and do good things in the Marine Corps.”