car·riage re·turn

n. the lever or mechanism on a typewriter that would cause the cylinder on which the paper was held (the carriage) to return to the left margin of the page

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The Regiment’s Best

Military unit organization isn’t the easiest concept to grasp.  Unless you’re in regular contact with a particular branch of the military,you’re as lost as most of those Athenian youths in the Minotaur’s labyrinth.

One of the things I’m typically asked when I meet someone new is what unit I belong to.  My standard response is either “2/11″or “Second Battalion,11th Marines.”  Usually,this statement is followed by a rather puzzled look on the part of my new companion.

I’m going to try and clear a few things up,and to help me (and you) along,I’ve created a very rudimentary diagram:

USMC Organization

At the top of the food chain is the Marine Corps.  The Corps is one of two parts of the Department of the Navy,the other being the US Navy itself. The Department of the Navy is one of the branches of the Department of Defense,which is overseen by Secretary Rumsfeld.

The second level is composed of the various divisions.  The Marine Corps has four ground divisions,four air wings,and four support groups.  Ground divisions,which is what we’re concerned with in my case,are the Marines who fight house-to-house,go on patrols,shoot artillery,drive tanks,and build fortifications.

There are four such divisions in the Corps,numbered (cleverly) 1-4.  Three of these divisions are Active Duty,while the 4th Marine Division is composed of reservists.

I belong to the First Marine Division,the oldest and most-decorated.  Composed of some 19,000 Marines,it is the largest of the three Active Duty divisions.  The Division is composed of a Headquarters Battalion (more about battalions later),four regiments,and various other independent battalions.

The four regiments in the First Marine Division are composed of three infantry units (the 1st Marine Regiment,the 5th Marine Regiment,and the 7th Marine Regiment) and one artillery unity (the 11th Marine Regiment).  I’m part of the latter,which is commonly referred to as simply “11th Marines”or “The Cannon Cockers.”

11th Marines is divided into four battalions and a headquarters unit.  Each artillery battalion is assigned to provide artillery gunfire for an entire regiment.  The battalions are generally referred to by number.  For example,you’re much more likely to hear “2/11″come out of a Marine’s mouth than the more formal “2nd Battalion,11th Marines,”even though they mean the same thing.

Now we’re getting somewhere.  2/11 is my parent unit,and is divided into four “batteries”(the artillery term for the more common “company”).  The batteries are Headquarters (HQ),Echo,Fox,Golf,and Kilo.  Kilo is actually part of 12th Marines (the artillery regiment for the Third Marine Division),but they are permanently assigned to our battalion for logistical reasons.  Delta Battery existed at least as recently as the Vietnam War,but for some reason is no longer around.  I don’t know the story there.

So,we’re down to the most basic components now.  I belong to HQ Battery,which has three platoons.  Operations Platoon is in charge of planning and supervision,well,operations,not only for HQ Battery,but for all of 2/11.  Service Platoon consists of three sections,Supply (more or less self-explanatory),Logistics (getting the supplies where they need to go),and Motor Transport (maintaining and managing vehicles).  The last is Communications Platoon,where I work.  We plan,implement,troubleshoot,and maintain all of 2/11′s communications capabilities,from telephones and e-mail to satellite and Ultra-high frequency radio transmissions.

So,if someone were to ask me specifically who I belong to,my answer would be the following,from bottom to top:Data Section,Communications Platoon,Headquarters Battery,2nd Battalion,11th Marine Regiment,1st Marine Division,United States Marine Corps.  Kind of a mouthful,eh?

A few random facts about 2/11:

Activated:3 January,1918

Motto:“Second to None –The Regiment’s Best”

Significant operations:Guadalcanal,Okinawa,Inchon,Chosin Resivoir,Hue City,An Hoa,Desert Storm,Global War on Terror

Personnel:approximately 750 Marines and Sailors

Primary weapons systems:M198 howitzer and M777 lightweight howitzer

A Brief Note Regarding Upcoming Events
The next few weeks are going to be very atypical.  I’m heading out to Chicago at the end of the week to visit Jo,and I won’t be back until Wednesday.  There won’t be any updates after this Friday until I return.

The week after I get back from Chicago (which would be the second week of June) I have to go out to the field for nine days.  Some reservists are coming out to do their annual training,and that means us Active Duty guys get to miss a weekend and supervise them.  I’m going to try to keep it interesting by altering my usual field routine,but I can’t say I’m particularly hopeful that I won’t be completely bored out of my mind by the second evening.

1 comment to The Regiment’s Best

  • Jo

    I can’t say my head still isn’t a little spinny. But at least now if someone asks me which unit you’re with,I can answer 2nd battalion,11th Marines.

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