General outlines future of Marine Corps

SAN DIEGO - Lt. Gen. John Toolan, who commands the Camp Pendleton-based 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, offered a glimpse into the future of the Marine Corps on Wednesday.

During the monthly San Diego Military Advisory Council breakfast, Toolan said, "We have not done our veterans any favors when they transition out of the Marine Corps."

Toolan said Marines come back from deployment and are then slammed with a multitude of decisions. While there are transition courses, they happen 30 days before they get out, and Toolan said that is not working.

Toolan noted 700,000 military veterans are unemployed -- 225,000 are Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom veterans.

Of those veterans who try college, 70 percent drop out after the first year.

"Until you're there, it's absolutely impossible to understand exactly how you're going to feel and how it's going to work out," said military veteran Steve Scott.

Toolan said he wants to push the transition phase all the way back to the recruiting phase.

As for what's next, post-Afghanistan, Toolan said budget constraints is just something that every branch of the service will have to live with as the war in Afghanistan winds down. However, he did say the focus, at least for the Marine Corps, is still in the Pacific.

Two battalions from Camp Pendleton -- anywhere from 500 to 1,000 Marines apiece -- will be moved to Okinawa, Japan. From Okinawa, some 2,500 Marines will be moved in and out of Darwin, Australia, as well as Guam.

"Both Darwin and Guam will become important staging bases for U.S. Marines," said Toolan.

The key, Toolan said, is how the budget affects the Navy and the ships needed to get Marines where they need to go.

Most Camp Pendleton Marines are now out of Afghanistan, but how many will have to be there as trainers and advisors after 2014 is still being decided.

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