The Marine Corps has reinvented itself throughout its history. The new Commandant is doing it again.

In this March 12, 2016, file photo, Marines of the U.S., left, and South Korea, wearing blue headbands on their helmets, take positions after landing on a beach during the joint military combined amphibious exercise, called Ssangyong, part of the Key Resolve and Foal Eagle military exercises, in Pohang, South Korea. (Associated Press/Yonhap/Kim Jun-bum)

Editor's Note: The following is an op-ed. The opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Task & Purpose.

Marines haven't exactly shaken their reputation as crayon-eating meatheads in recent years. Just look to the many scandals over cultural issues like misogynistic Facebook pages and Marines United.

But the Corps recently got a new Commandant, Gen. David Berger. Berger has jumped into the fire with both feet. Only a few days on the job, he has put out a series of initiatives in his Commandant's Planning Guidance (CPG) that point to a period of great change for the Corps.

Through its 243 years, the Corps has had to reinvent itself countless times.

Just in the last century, the Corps went from a shipboard security force to a truly expeditionary force in World War I to inventing modern amphibious doctrine in World War II to pioneering the helicopter borne assault in Korea to counterinsurgency in Vietnam to the modern Marine Expeditionary Units on standby around the world today.

Berger has rightly decided that the way the Marines' plans for amphibious assaults isn't going to work going forward, as a "Sands of Iwo Jima" redux will end with thousands of dead Marines and Sailors at the bottom of the ocean.

The dirty secret behind amphibious assaults is that the development of Anti-access/Area Denial, or A2AD, capabilities by many possible adversaries has made it a lot harder to sneak up and attack from the sea. Berger's planning guidance states that he wants to get away from the "exquisite and the few" in favor of the "affordable and plentiful" when it comes to amphibious shipping. He's explicitly looking beyond the cut and paste of battalion plus squadron plus three gators equal MEU.

The three-ship ARG/MEU isn't going to be the stock solution anymore, orin the words of Berger, it "no longer has the same relevance."

If you put all your eggs in one basket, you're asking for them to be broken. While not committing to a particular concept of employment, Berger's guidance is that the Marine Corps Air Ground Task Force, or MAGTF, isn't the answer to every single question. Talk to any Marine, and he can't shut up about the "Mag Taff."

That's going to change.

The same thing goes for the Marine Expeditionary Force, or MEF. The other thing beaten into Marines is that they fight as MEFs. Berger is also slaughtering that sacred cow. The WestPac-based III MEF is going to be the "focus of effort," while all others will be task-organized for their AORs — every MEF is going to look significantly different — a step back from the mostly uniform and modular Marine Corps organizational structure.

To be clear, Berger has said that he's willing to take some chances.

"If provided the opportunity to secure additional modernization dollars in exchange for force structure, I am prepared to do so," he wrote. The Air Force tried to do that and ended up with not much modernization but a lot less force structure. But Berger seems confident that he can pull it off.

The Corps has always valued quality over quantity, and a clear institutional direction is essential to pulling that off.

Beyond just guns and ships, Berger has also put out a clear message about the value of people. His trial balloon of offering a full year of postpartum leave has gotten a lot of attention. In the big picture, Berger recognizes that the Corps is competing for top talent with every other service and private company. Most importantly, he promises to modernize the evaluation system and recognize that making Marines retire 20 at years of service is often leaving their best years on the table. While not abandoning the culture of the Corps that has kept it in good stead for so long, he has recognized the reality of market competition.

The Corps has always prided itself on being the hardest service to join and serve in, to the point that "embrace the suck" is its unofficial motto. Keeping the pride of being the toughest while incorporating changing societal norms is going to be a tough, but necessary, needle to thread.

Belying its image as a bunch of knuckle draggers, the Marine Corps has a long history of intellectual rigor and dissent. The most famous examples are beaten into every Marine. Maj. Pete Ellis saw the future of war in the Pacific while drinking himself to death in the tropics, which is, in fact, every Marine's fantasy. Lt. Gen. "Brute" Krulak saved the Marine Corps from dissolution after World War II. Gen. Al Gray rescued the Corps from post-Vietnam malaise and made the Corps a true expeditionary force. Even the professional journal of the Corps, the Marine Corps Gazette, goes beyond parroting the official line — witness it publishing a piece on the benefits of microdosing acid. Similar dissent is usually not tolerated in the other services.

The Army tried to reinvent itself with Future Combat System. It failed. The Navy tried to get smaller and faster with the Littoral Combat Ship. It failed. The Air Force tried to trade structure for modernization and got neither.

The Marines have been forced to defend their service's existence since 1775. That institutional paranoia might be the edge they need to make their reorganization succeed where everyone else has failed.

No plan survives first contact with the enemy, which, in this case, means Congress. Perhaps Berger's plans will die the same death as SecDef Carter's "Force of the Future." Still, it's a bigger play than the other services have been willing to make.

If the Marine Corps fails to stay relevant, it won't be for lack of boldness.

Carl Forsling is a senior columnist for Task & Purpose. He is a Marine MV-22B pilot and former CH-46E pilot who retired from the military after 20 years of service. He is the father of two children and a graduate of Boston University and The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. Follow him on Twitter @CarlForsling

A UH-60 Black Hawk departs from The Rock while conducting Medevac 101 training with members of the 386th Expeditionary Medical Group, Feb. 16, 2019. (U.S. Air Force Photo/Tech. Sgt. Robert Cloys)

A Minnesota Army National Guard UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter with three Guardsmen aboard crashed south of St. Cloud on Thursday, said National Guard spokeswoman Army Master Sgt. Blair Heusdens.

At this time, the National Guard is not releasing any information about the status of the three people aboard the helicopter, Heusdens told Task & Purpose on Thursday.

Read More Show Less

The Pentagon's latest attempt to twist itself in knots to deny that it is considering sending up to 14,000 troops to the Middle East has a big caveat.

Pentagon spokeswoman Alyssa Farah said there are no plans to send that many troops to the region "at this time."

Farah's statement does not rule out the possibility that the Defense Department could initially announce a smaller deployment to the region and subsequently announce that more troops are headed downrange.

Read More Show Less

The Navy could send a second aircraft carrier to the Middle East if President Donald Trump orders a surge of forces to the region, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday said on Thursday.

Gordon Lubold and Nancy Youssef of the Wall Street Journal first reported the United States is considering sending up to 14,000 troops to the Middle East to deter Iran from attacking U.S. forces and regional allies. The surge forces could include several ships.

Read More Show Less

I didn't think a movie about World War I would, or even could, remind me of Afghanistan.

Somehow 1917 did, and that's probably the highest praise I can give Sam Mendes' newest war drama: It took a century-old conflict and made it relatable.

Read More Show Less

An internal investigation spurred by a nude photo scandal shows just how deep sexism runs in the Marine Corps

"I will still have to work harder to get the perception away from peers and seniors that women can't do the job."

(U.S. Marine Corps photo)

Some years ago, a 20-year-old female Marine, a military police officer, was working at a guard shack screening service members and civilians before they entered the base. As a lance corporal, she was new to the job and the duty station, her first in the Marine Corps.

At some point during her shift, a male sergeant on duty drove up. Get in the car, he said, the platoon sergeant needs to see you. She opened the door and got in, believing she was headed to see the enlisted supervisor of her platoon.

Instead, the sergeant drove her to a dark, wooded area on base. It was deserted, no other Marines were around. "Hey, I want a blowjob," the sergeant told her.

"What am I supposed, what do you do as a lance corporal?" she would later recall. "I'm 20 years old ... I'm new at this. You're the only leadership I've ever known, and this is what happens."

She looked at him, then got out of the car and walked away. The sergeant drove up next to her and tried to play it off as a prank. "I'm just fucking with you," he said. "It's not a big deal."

It was one story among hundreds of others shared by Marines for a study initiated in July 2017 by the Marine Corps Center for Advanced Operational Culture Learning (CAOCL). Finalized in March 2018, the center's report was quietly published to its website in September 2019 with little fanfare.

The culture of the Marine Corps is ripe for analysis. A 2015 Rand Corporation study found that women felt far more isolated among men in the Corps, while the Pentagon's Office of People Analytics noted in 2018 that female Marines rated hostility toward them as "significantly higher" than their male counterparts.

But the center's report, Marines' Perspectives on Various Aspects of Marine Corps Organizational Culture, offers a proverbial wakeup call to leaders, particularly when paired alongside previous studies, since it was commissioned by the Marine Corps itself in the wake of a nude photo sharing scandal that rocked the service in 2017.

The scandal, researchers found, was merely a symptom of a much larger problem.

Read More Show Less