The 29th annual Modern Day Marine Expo aboard Marine Corps Base Quantico, VA, enjoyed such beautiful early autumn weather this year that more than a few people kidded the senior Marine officers present about ordering it up from some secretive climate control lab. They laughed, but I didn’t hear a single one directly deny it.
If the Marines do have weather-control equipment, it would likely have been on display at the Expo, which brings Marines and the folks who supply them together for three days of equipment critiques, evaluations and discussions.
The Expo is co-sponsored by our client, The Marine Corps League and the Marine Corps Systems Command (MARCORSYSCOM), the event.
The show has grown steadily since its humble beginning in a hotel – this year more than 400 vendors and 8,000 attendees thronged the enormous exhibition tents on Lejeune Field. Vendors came from as far away as Australia. Besides producing the League’s member magazine, Semper Fi, we also produce the Expo directory, which has grown to 40 pages, including quite a few advertising pages.
Many of the Marines in attendance have seen one or more deployments to war zones, or are about to go. Quantico, known as the Crossroads of the Corps, trains newly minted 2nd Lieutenants as well as more senior officers and also enlisted personnel in a wide variety of specialties. So when they pick up a rifle, run their hands over the seams of a boot, or inspect the guts of a field-hardened rack of computer servers, they can tell right away what’s good and what needs more work.
And that’s the whole purpose of this and the other two expos — Marine West aboard Camp Pendleton, CA, in late January, and Marine South, on Camp Lejeune in North Carolina in April: To help better protect Marines in the field, better equip and train them, and make their foes regret that they ever saw an Eagle, Globe and Anchor emblem.
As the Corps draws down its presence in Iraq, Marines are gearing up for a different kind of war in Afghanistan. Flat deserts give way to ankle-breaking mountains; searing heat and blinding dust storms are replaced by bitter cold and driving icy winds. The massively armored vehicles that saved lives from IEDs on Iraqi highways must be retooled to traverse twisted incline paths – or replaced altogether with blast-resistant yet lighter and smaller vehicles. Even the pounds of body armor each Marine wears are under study, as lighter and more efficient replacements are sought.
The future of warfare can be glimpsed here — robotic air and ground vehicles, increasingly networked computer and communication systems, weapon systems that allow their users to employ different levels of force depending on the situation, even devices that blend Marine and machine.
Still, no one has figured out an alternative to boots on the ground. Until they do, the United States Marines will likely be the first boots ashore, and the League and its Expos will help carry those boots to victory.