Marines on Okinawa stand up a littoral regiment to join sister unit on Hawaii
Stars and Stripes November 15, 2023
CAMP HANSEN, Okinawa — The Marine Corps on Wednesday launched a new seaborne quick-reaction force on Okinawa as friction between U.S. regional allies and China is on the rise.
The 12th Marine Regiment became the 12th Marine Littoral Regiment during a sunlit morning ceremony on Camp Hansen’s football field. The littoral regiment — typically about 2,000 Marines — will specialize in stand-in force operations, a key tenet of the Marines’ revamped island-fighting doctrine, Force Design 2030.
A stand-in force is a small, mobile unit inserted within enemy missile range to seize and hold key islands and deny enemy vessels access to surrounding seas.
“Today marks a significant milestone in the storied history of 12th Marine Regiment as a transition to the 12th Marine Littoral Regiment,” Maj. Gen. Christian Wortman, commander of the 3rd Marine Division, said during the ceremony.
This transformation is “a direct response to the dynamic defense landscape that we face in the 21st century,” he said.
The new littoral regiment is not focused on any particular nation, but is prepared to face evolving regional threats, Wortman said after the ceremony.
The redesignation came less than a day before President Joe Biden is scheduled to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping in San Francisco during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit. The leaders are expected to discuss topics ranging from the resumption of military-to-military contacts to the wars in Gaza and Ukraine.
The Pentagon’s 2022 National Defense Strategy identified China as a global pacing challenge. The communist nation, with its modernizing and expanding military, has provoked U.S. allies Japan and the Philippines in the East and South China Seas. The U.S. is bound by treaty to come to their defense.
Plans for an Okinawa-based littoral regiment were first announced in January by the Japan-U.S. Security Consultative Committee, or 2+2. The new regiment is the second of at least three planned for the Indo-Pacific. The 3rd Marine Littoral Regiment was launched in Hawaii in March 2022.
The freshly minted regiment will resemble its sister unit in Hawaii, built around a headquarters company, with a littoral combat team and anti-air and logistics battalions, Col. Peter Eltringham, commander of the 12th Marine Littoral Regiment, said after the ceremony.
The unit will be fully operational in several years, the service has said.
The ceremony began Wednesday with the III Marine Expeditionary Force band serenading an audience of several hundred Marines, civilians and Japanese troops while the regiment stood at attention.
Eltringham was joined on the field by unit Sgt. Maj. Joshua Minter to case the 12th Marines’ colors and unfurl fresh flags for the 12th Marine Littoral Regiment. The ceremony was capped by a parade of rifle-carrying Marines.
“By being forward deployed in the Western Pacific, we believe we will be more effective in supporting deterrence and also more responsive if there is a crisis,” Wortman said after the ceremony.
“The [littoral regiment] is the Marine Corps’ newest and most advanced naval formation, which is intended to operate and maneuver in contested maritime domains,” he said. “We have the ability to disperse, sense, integrate, target and assess right now.”
The 12th Marine Regiment was created in October 1927 in Tientsin, China, according to a unit history. It fought in Guadalcanal, Guam, and on Iwo Jima during World War II; in Da Nang, Chu Lai and Hue in Vietnam; and in Iraq and Afghanistan.