One thing the U.S. Marine Corps has learned, or relearned, since September 11, 2001 is that flexibility and preparation are powerful and often decisive tools on current battlefields. This the marines learned again and again as they found themselves in landlocked Afghanistan in 2002 and operating as a mechanized assault force during the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Since then marines have done just about everything except their traditional amphibious combat operations.
But now the marines are back to preparing for amphibious operations, but with a difference. The marines have noted that they are often called on to move and operate from any ships available, not just the special amphibious ships the U.S. Navy maintains. So marines are examining the details of operating detachments of marines (from a few dozen to a few hundred) and aircraft (helicopters and V-22s) from a wide variety of commercial ships and foreign (mainly NATO allies) amphibious vessels. This involves learning details of how these other ships operate and how marine amphibious warfare procedures will have to be modified. For commercial ships is means being able to quickly merge the marine communications and operating procedures with the commercial gear and rules on civilian ships. This includes learning how to use new types of military and commercial small boats to get from non-U.S. amphibious vessels to the shore.
The adaptation also includes learning how to use American logistical ships in new ways (supporting amphibious operations). These ships are designed to move supplies and equipment, but can, like any commercial ship, be adapted to use as an amphibious ship. In doing all this the marines are preparing for unknown future operations that past experience has shown will appear in unexpected ways.