February marked the 15th anniversary of the Marine Forces Special Operations Command (MARSOC).
MARSOC was established in 2006 as the Marine Corps’ component of the US Special Operations Command (SOCOM). Comprised of the Marine Raider Regiment, Marine Raider Support Group, and Marine Raider Training Center, MARSOC focuses on direct action, special reconnaissance, foreign internal defense—the training and advising of partner forces—unconventional warfare, and counterterrorism.
To join MARSOC and become a Raider, a Marine has to successfully pass the Assessment and Selection (A&S) and the Individual Training Course (ITC). Support personnel assigned to the Marine Raider Support Group also undergo a screening process to ensure that only the top performers serve in MARSOC.
“We recognized that the strength of our organization would be the drive and the pride, the character, the esprit and the commitment to be the best. You all represent and are setting the conditions like those 15 years ago, that will stand here 15 years from now and profess with pride all that has been achieved,” Major General James F. Glynn, MARSOC commander, said in a press release.
MARSOC functions and operates around the Marine Special Operations Team (MSOT). These 14-man teams are the tactical arm of MARSOC and are designed in a similar way as the Army Special Forces Operational Detachments.
In 2020 alone, MARSOC teams participated in 13 named operations across 18 countries in Africa, Southeast Asia, and the Middle East.
“As MARSOC enters its 16th year, it’s important to know and understand the history of this exceptional group of warriors, where you came from, why and how,” Lieutenant General Dennis J. H Hejlik, MARSOC’s first commander, said.
“You have become the go-to Special Operations Force in the battlefield and are becoming world renown as America’s finest and most intelligent warriors with unparalleled technology, intelligence gathering and dissemination to many controlled surveillance, direct action and training techniques.”
However, not everything has been rosy for the Command. MARSOC and its Marine Raiders have had to deal with the skepticism of their special operations counterparts, especially at the beginning. The fact, moreover, that Marine Raiders share a lot with Army Special Forces operators in terms of missions and capabilities has encouraged a competition for funds and missions.
For example, both units specialize on Foreign Internal Defense (FID), the training, advising, and assisting of partner military and paramilitary forces.
But as the Global War on Terror is dying down and Great Power Competition is rising up, SOCOM will need every unit it can muster. A crucial element in the competition—and potential conflict—with a near-peer state such as Russia and China is regional partnerships, which can act as a force multiplier, especially when the US is engaged in more than one region. Special operations and conventional units that can conduct foreign internal defense are often the glue that holds together military partnerships.