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Types of MAGTFs

Last Revised: January 23, 2015, 8:51 am

There are four types of MAGTFs:

  • Marine Expeditionary Force (MEF)
  • Marine Expeditionary Brigade (MEB)
  • Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU)
  • Special Purpose MAGTF (SPMAGTF)


The MEF is our Corps’ principal warfighting organization during larger crises or contingencies. Normally commanded by a Lieutenant General, a MEF can range in size from one division and aircraft wing to multiple divisions and aircraft wings, together with one or more logistics groups. MEFs are capable of amphibious operations and sustained operations ashore in any geographic environment. With appropriate augmentation, the MEF CE is capable of performing as a Joint Task Force (JTF) headquarters. MEFs often deploy in echelon and designate the lead element as the MEF (Forward).

MEFs are the primary “standing MAGTFs” in peacetime and wartime. Our Corps is organized with three standing MEFs, each with a Marine division, aircraft wing, and logistics group. The I Marine Expeditionary Force (I MEF) is located at bases in California and Arizona. The II Marine Expeditionary Force (II MEF) is located at bases in North Carolina and South Carolina. Lastly, the III Marine Expeditionary Force (III MEF) is located at bases in Okinawa, main land Japan, and Hawaii. In addition, we also have plans for rotational forces in Guam and Australia.


The MEB, normally commanded by a Brigadier General, is a scalable MAGTF that ranges from a General Officer-led staff up to a force of 20,000 Marines. The scalable MEB is capable of full spectrum operations, and self-sustainment for 30 days. The three standing MEB CEs are the 1st MEB, which is embedded in the I MEF staff, while 2d and 3d MEBs are stand-alone organizations. The standing MEB CEs do not have permanently assigned forces, instead they maintain habitual relationships with associated major subordinate elements through planning and exercises. When mobilized a MEB is comprised of a CE, GCE, ACE, and LCE. These elements are comprised of a reinforced infantry regiment, a composite Marine Aircraft Group, and a Task Organized Combat Logistics Regiment.

MEBs provide CCDRs with a scalable warfighting capability across the ROMO and can conduct amphibious assaults and operations ashore in any geographic environment. As an expeditionary force, a MEB is capable of rapid deployment and employment via amphibious shipping (normally 15 amphibious ships for the assault echelon), strategic air and sealift, geographic or MPF assets, or any combination of these. A MEB can operate independently, serve as the forward echelon of a MEF, or act as a JTF headquarters with augmentation.

The Deputy Commandant for Concept Development & Integration (DC, CD&I) is conducting a detailed assessment of future MEB structure requirements. The assessment’s results will provide a guide for the future size, composition, and capabilities of this type of MAGTF.


Forward deployed MEUs aboard Amphibious Readiness Groups (ARGs) operate continuously in the GCCDR’s areas of responsibility (AOR). These units provide the President and the GCCDRs with a forward deployed and flexible, sea-based MAGTF. These units are capable of conducting amphibious operations to respond to crisis, conduct limited contingency operations, introduce follow on forces, and support designated SOF. In effect, they provide an afloat “on-station” force capable of responding to any situation that may arise. MEU’s are characterized by their sea-based forward presence, expeditionary nature, and ability to plan for and respond to: crises, combined arms integration, and interoperability with joint, combined, and SOFs. The MEU’s composition is informed by Marine Corps order 3120.9C, Policy for MEUs.

The MEU is commanded by a colonel and is able to deploy with 15 days of accompanying supplies. Prior to deployment, a MEU undergoes an intensive six-month training program, focusing on its Mission-Essential Task (MET) List and interoperability with Joint and SOF. The training culminates with a thorough evaluation and certification known as “Operationally Ready to Deploy.” The organic capabilities of the MEU are as follows:

  • amphibious operations
    • amphibious assault
    • amphibious raid
    • small boat raid (specific to the 31st MEU)
    • maritime interception operations
    • advance force operations
  • expeditionary support to other operations/crisis response and limited-contingency operations
    • non-combatant evacuation operations
    • humanitarian assistance
    • stability operations
    • tactical recovery of aircraft and personnel
    • joint and combined operations
    • aviation operations from expeditionary sites
    • theater SC activities
    • airfield and port seizures
  • theater SC operations to build the capacity of partner nations and increase interoperability

The MEF commander exercises full command of his organic MEU prior to deployment. The Geographic Combatant Command (GCC) delineates MEU command relationships once embarked. The MEU’s assignments are normally operational control (OPCON) to the naval service component. However, during crisis response and contingency operations GCCs may shift OPCON of the MEU as articulated in Joint Publication (JP) 3-02, Amphibious Operations:

“While the full range of command relationship options as outlined in JP 1, Doctrine for the Armed Forces of the United States, are available, in amphibious operations, service component commanders normally retain OPCON of their respective forces. If the Joint Force Commander organizes along functional lines, functional component commanders will normally exercise OPCON over their parent Services’ forces and tactical control (TACON) over other Services’ forces attached or made available for tasking.”


A SPMAGTF is task organized to accomplish a specific mission, operation, or regionally focused exercise. They can be organized, trained, and equipped with Marine forces to conduct a wide variety of expeditionary operations ranging from peacetime missions, to training exercises, and responses to contingencies and crises. SPMAGTFs can support theater campaign plans, security cooperation (SC), and civil-military operations requirements.

SPMAGTFs have capabilities, mobility, and sustainability similar to mission requirements in order to increase interoperability with, and provide training to, less developed military forces. SPMAGTF tasks include building and supporting partner nation security capacity efforts in specific regional areas. The SPMAGTF provides the CCDR with a flexible expeditionary force employment option that further augments the traditional capabilities provided by our Corps. The Marine component service headquarters designate SPMAGTFs in response to the CCDR requirements.

The Nation’s MAGTFs thus provide a continuum of capabilities to support naval, CCDR, and national requirements. These MAGTFs, joined by special-purpose forces and unique Marine forces, enable the Corps to address the full range of conventional, unconventional, and irregular/hybrid threats as well as other taskings as the President might require.


The Marine Corps Security Cooperation Group (MCSCG) achieved full operational capability in Oc¬tober 2012 as a unique command that consolidates all facets of SC to include advisor skills, training and assessment expertise, and security assistance program management. A Marine colonel commands MCSCG and has 203 personnel organized in to the following: headquarters staff; instructor group; and regionally aligned coordination, liaison, and assessment teams (CLATs). The assigned command is a subordinate element of Marine Forces Command (MARFORCOM).

The MCSCG mission is to execute and enable security cooperation programs, training, planning, and activities in order to ensure unity of effort in support of U.S. Marine Corps and Regional Marine Component Command (MARFOR) objectives and coordination with operating forces and the MAGTFs. The accomplishment of U.S. Marine Corps and Regional Marine Force (MARFOR) Component Command SC objectives include: assessments, planning support, SC related education and training, and advisory support. MCSCG achieves this by concentrating on three SC focus areas: build relationships, facilitate access, and build partner capacity (BPC).

MCSCG accomplishes its mission through six principal lines of effort in order to provide integrated security cooperation solutions:

  1. Security Assistance/International Programs: Coordinate and manage Security Assistance education and training programs
  2. Foreign Security Force – Capability-Based Assessments: Conduct detailed and comprehensive assessments that inform the SC Planning Cycle
  3. Security Cooperation Engagement Plans: Develop long-term and enduring Security Cooperation Engagement Plans with our partners and provide deployable planning support elements to the regional MARFORs
  4. Education: Provide resident and deployable instruction to our Corps’ personnel assigned to manage SC activities
  5. Training: Provide SC training to Marines tasked to conduct SC missions
  6. Unity of Effort: SC coordination across U.S. Marine Corps and Maritime services
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