Photo Information

U.S. Marines with 1st Battalion, 12th Marines, unload a joint light tactical vehicle from a U.S. Army logistics support vessel attached to 8th Special Troops Battalion, 8th Theater Sustainment Command, during the Spartan Fury 21.1 training exercise, March 3, 2021, Major's Bay, Pacific Missile Range Facility, Kauai, Hawaii. Exercise Spartan Fury demonstrates 1/12's ability to conduct distributed operations inside an adversary's sensors and weapons engagement zone, attain and defend key maritime terrain, and conduct sea denial in support of fleet operations.

Photo by Lance Cpl. Brandon Aultman

Distributed Operations (DO)

2 Aug 2021 | Courtesy Story Headquarters Marine Corps

The success of our future force will be measured in part by its ability to remain forward and mobile in the face of contested operating spaces; to be able to move seamlessly between contact and blunt activities — persistent and combat credible to deter and win.  While this capability is relevant across multiple scenarios, it assumes a particular sense of urgency in an era of precision-strike missiles, sensing technology, counter reconnaissance capabilities, and the proliferation of unmanned systems.

Distributed operations see small, dispersed land and sea detachments threaten the ability of adversary forces to concentrate from within their anti-access/area denial umbrella. Forces conducting DO deny freedom of movement along key sea and air lines of communication. Distributed forces change the adversary’s cost calculus and buy time for flexible deterrence options and assembling a joint task force.


Radio Communications Photo by Cpl. Kallahan Morris

We distribute for five reasons:

• We disperse to better accomplish the mission against a distant or distributed adversary.

• We disperse to improve maneuver options in order to gain a positional advantage to assault, or engage more effectively with direct or indirect fires.

• We disperse to reduce the effects of enemy fires.

• We disperse to impose costs and induce uncertainty.

• We disperse to reduce our signature to avoid detection. In a precision strike regime, sensing first and shooting first are a tremendous advantage.

Traditionally, the infantry company has been the lowest echelon capable of coordinating the full-range of combined arms, but miniaturization of electronics and increased processing power enables us to push combined arms to the squad.  Smaller combined-arms-capable units allow us to be more distributed.