WASHINGTON — The Marine Corps hopes to give Marines 14 months at home after deployments by mid-2010, Corps Commandant Gen. James Conway said Thursday.

Currently, Marines spend seven months deployed and seven months home, but that could change now that the Corps has grown to 202,000 ahead of schedule, and with almost all Marines expected to leave Iraq next spring, Conway said.

“That’s going to be very helpful, we think, for our families,” he said. “We think that young Marines who maybe haven’t had a chance to meet someone are going to be afforded that opportunity.”

Marines will also use that extra time to train for amphibious landings and to fight conventional wars, two types of skill-sets that have deteriorated as the Corps has focused on counterinsurgency, he said.

“We believe very strongly in this capacity of the Marine Air Ground Task Force,” Conway said. Its core competency is maneuvering under its own fires and rolling up on an enemy just as the smoke lifts. We used to do 10 of those [exercises] a year at Twentynine Palms. Today we do none.”

The importance of Marines getting back to their traditional warfighting skills is underscored by current tensions on the Korean peninsula, he said.

If a conflict broke out, Marines would likely be called upon to launch amphibious operations, he said.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates implied in April that amphibious landings might be a thing of the past, noting that the Corps’ last major landing was in 1950.

Asked about Gates’ comments later that month, Conway said the Corps had launched amphibious operations since then, most notably when Marines helped to evacuate U.S. citizens from Lebanon in 2006.

Conway quickly added Thursday that the Corps would be able to do the job eventually.

“But I’m simply arguing we can do it better when we’re trained to it, and that’s the value of this 1:2 deployment to dwell: to give us the opportunity to give those young Marines more time with the families and more time to, again, relax at home, but also to get on these training fields and get back some of these core competencies that have withered over time,” he said.

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