The Marine Corps is a small organization that does a good job of producing a united front. Marketing people call it consistent messaging, and the Corps has long made it a part of their communications strategy. It’s simple. Marines are Marines. There are no special Marines.
While this narrative approach gives the Corps a consistent message and appearance, it also fails to highlight many of the special missions the Corps accomplishes that involve small teams of elite, specifically trained, war fighters. Today we are going to highlight one of those small teams of elite service members, commonly called FAST Marines.
FAST stands for Fleet Anti-terrorism Security Team. These FAST units fall under the branch’s Security Force Regiment, which provides a dedicated security force and anti-terrorism unit made up of Security Force Marines. These Marines usually guard a variety of installations like Naval bases and others too sensitive to leave without an armed presence.
FAST Marines have a very specific and specialized job. FAST teams are highly trained Marines who deploy across the world to serve as security at United States government installations. Imagine an embassy is threatened, and they need an immediate shot of highly trained Marines with a whole lot of guns.
They call FAST, and those Marines live up to their acronym. FAST Marines do non-traditional deployments to Guantanamo Bay, Bahrain, Spain, and Japan, where they essentially stage as a just-in-case precaution. These ‘staging’ deployments allow them to deploy at a moment’s notice to nearly anywhere in the world. On these deployments, they train extensively and keep their skills sharp in case they are called upon. FAST Marines also deploy stateside to aid Marine Security Forces in guarding nuclear subs and ships during nuclear rod replacement.
History of FAST
FAST saw its establishment in 1987. The 1970s and 1980s saw the rise of modern terrorism, and American interests overseas become targets of it. The President issued an order for the military and federal law enforcement to enhance their anti-terrorism capabilities. The Marines did as ordered and found a weakness in their Security Force infrastructure.
In the event of an attack that could overwhelm a Security Force detachment, they had no dedicated quick reaction force to enhance a Security Force’s numbers and capabilities. Thus, FAST Marines were born. Their mission was simple: they exist to reinforce an installation’s security force when the threat outguns the security forces on hand.
Since then, FAST has been called in to help secure Naval stations In Panama, where they engaged with what they believed to be Cuban special forces in an intense 30-minute firefight. From there, the Fast Marines would continue into Operation Just Cause, or the full invasion of Panama, in December of 1989.
FAST Marines deployed to Bahrain to protect the Naval Installations during Desert Storm, and in 1991, helped evacuate U.S. personnel from Liberia. When the U.S. established a liaison office in Mogadishu, they called FAST to provide security.
Without going through the entire history of FAST, it’s easy to say they’ve operated at a relatively high tempo since their inception, and have always been there when the Marine Corps and their nation called upon them.
How to become a FAST Marine
FAST Marines have a long pipeline of training before they become active-duty operators. It starts with speaking to a recruiter and obtaining a Security Forces contract. Like everyone in the Corps, it starts at a recruit training depot.
From there, Security Force Marines will attend Infantry Training At the School of Infantry West or East and obtain a MOS of 0311. Security Force Marines will maintain an infantry MOS as their primary MOS.
After SOI, they attend Security Force School. Here they can volunteer for FAST company. There is no guarantee for acceptance, and it’s all based on the needs of the Corps.
After acceptance into FAST Company, they begin 5 Weeks of FAST training. From there, they go to an 8-week Close Quarter Battle School. The CQB school teaches FAST Marines how to fight in extremely close quarters. Here they become experts in clearing rooms, hallways, stairways, as well as dynamic entry and various other tasks associated with urban combat.
Following CQB school, they take a tactical driving course. Here Marines learn Motorcade Operations, high-risk driving, evasive driving, PIT maneuvers, ramming, close proximity driving, and driver down drills.
Marines then become bodyguards at a High-Risk Personnel course where they learn close quarters protection tactics.
From there, they begin training in individual nonlethal weapons. This course teaches them tactics and weaponry they can use to deal with threats in a nonlethal manner. Finally, they attend the Helicopter and Rope Suspension Techniques Master Course, where they learn how to fast rope, rappel down structures and out of helicopters, and use SPIE rigging.
Life as a FAST Marine
After all that training, they’ll still be expected to know basic Marine skills. This includes basic and advanced trauma medicine, how to use nearly every weapon in the Corps’ arsenal, how to use night vision and thermal optics, land navigation, HMMWV course, and more.
FAST Marines will be stationed in either Naval Station Norfolk or Naval Weapons Station Yorktown in beautiful Virginia in companies Alpha, Bravo, or Charlie. 400 Marines and Sailors make up a FAST company.
From there, they can look forward to a potential deployment at the Platoon level to one of several naval stations where they can further their training and be on call for a mission. FAST Marines can expect to be constantly training in one direction or another.
FAST Marines utilize a lot of the same gear as their infantry counterparts. This includes the M4 and likely the M27 in the near future, as well as the Beretta M9, the M249 SAW, and M240B medium machine gun. Shotguns from Mossberg and Benelli offer a powerful close-quarters fighting tool, as well as a nonlethal option with the right rounds. Some Senior FAST Marines may have even been to designated marksman school and be wielding specialized rifles for that role.
Per their contract, a Security Force Marine will only serve two years active duty with Security Forces. After these two years, most will be reassigned to conventional infantry forces. It’s an odd system that doesn’t make much sense to me. It seems like after an expansive series of schools that FAST Marines would stay FAST Marines, but the Force dictates differently.
In the Infantry
Security Force Marines often have difficulty adjusting to the infantry. They’ve spent years in Security Forces and often come to the infantry as Non commissioned officers. Their specialized training is just that, specialized. It doesn’t translate over to conventional infantry operations, and because they lack the experience of most infantry Marines, they can feel like a fish out of water in the new surroundings and operational environment.
FAST Marines do come to the ‘fleet’ with a more advanced set of skills and can serve as excellent advisors in close quarter’s combat, however. Urban terrain has been a big factor in recent wars, and knowing how to properly fight in it is invaluable.
FAST is simply one small cog in a large Marine Corps. These small teams of specialists always interest me, and I think the Marine Corps does a disservice to itself by failing to highlight their unique capabilities. Regardless, when American installations overseas dial 911, it’s FAST that answers the call.
Sam Brock says
Wanted to be an 0311 as my primary MOS but this was the only one available to me. Does this mean I serve as security forces for 2 years then get to do strictly infantry?
Yes, unless you’re a screw up. Then they’ll send you back to the fleet, which would be your primary anyway, which is 0311.
My brother lost his life while a member of FAST CO. The opinions submitted here are interesting. As far as I understand military entities must always follow orders. In terms of my brother personally he was exceptionally skilled and obtained many commending certificates. I would say had above average intelligence as well. I am sure that each individual’s experience is unique. I realize that much of the banter is simply fraternization. It is my desire, nevertheless, that all of them respect the other.
His time in was pre and just post 911.
Dante C Doles says
LMAO. This is highly glorified. I was a “FAST” marine(2011-2013) You go to ITB then BSG. Before a deployment you got to AUC not CQB (that’s for 8154, RTT) then a 2 week non lethal course. All at the same base in Chesapeake. FAST has a cool mission that is becoming mainstream in the corps. No need to lie to pump it up.
James Canady says
In 1988, I was part of the Security Force detachment in Panama guarding the Naval Base located near the Panama Canal when the FAST Team arrived to provide us with support. There was intel that an invasion would happen. At some point after the FAST Team arrived, there was a fuel farm located in the jungle near our barracks that was attacked. The firefight lasted approximately 30 minutes (seemed like it lasted all night) and the FAST Team and the Security Force detachment kicked ass. We suffered zero casualties, but took out a few insurgents. Word was Gaddafi sent troops to Panama to help Noriega.
If your husband has to do FAST, I know you can’t deploy with him but are you able to live with him during the training or once he hits the fleet first than it’s deployment?
I was also an 8151 at Earle NWS a 2 year stint before I was transferred to 2nd MAR India Company as a Machine Gunner then on to Quantico in early 79 before discharge . I wish I had the opportunity to go FAST .I definitely would of stayed in then.
Gary Roberts says
If he “Walked the Walk”. He wouldn’t
“Talked that Talk”.
Donald R Poolaw Jr says
Who are all you noobs ? I was 8151 NAS Guam, (nukes), before it became 8152. ‘66-‘68. We trained the same as FAST before it existed, also RTT before there was an RTT. We didn’t think we were special. We were just Marines doing a job. SFMFs ! I’ll kick anyone’s ass in the room. Just help me out of this chair first and hold my cane.
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Robert Minichino says
I ended up in Mcsfco Charleston guarding nukes. I had enlisted as infantry and was told at the beginning of SOI that Charleston was where I’d end up. They sent me and a bunch more of us to Norfolk at their little camp pendleton just south of the strip. We would go to the swamp everyday to fire weapons on a range that we pretty much built. Good time. I was not aware that FAST company was such a new thing at that time. After 2 years in Charleston I ended up at 2/8 in Lejeune. Don’t know what these fleet only Marines made them feel so tough about in 1900 once I got my legs under me (I was a little out of shape, which I took care of rather quickly) it was easy, boring duty. Hadn’t so much as touched a blank round after 2 years on barracks duty. Would have liked to have had the opportunity to go to FAST company but from what I remember they already had them dudes picked out. Sfmfs
FAST is a good tour. I was in 1sr FAST 1st Platoon. Training is more extensive, and he is right, you will know every weapon system that the Marines have to offer. The deployments are legit, and you will get unconventional missions if your lucky to get one. With that being said, there are a lot of downsides to FAST also, but if it were a 4 yr program and FAST teams were used right, best duty hands down. My opinion and Semper Fi.
I was fortunate enough to serve in FAST company beyond the 2 year rotation because I did my first year overseas with 4th Marines in the Fleet Marines Force Camp Schwab.
So after my (1) year deployment went MSCF and was assigned to FAST Company which I was deployed on various mission and was part of FAST Company 3rd, 4th & 6th platoon during me tenure.
Served with many that went out to the Fleet and ended being Sr. NCO’s and Officers for the CORPS.
CPL. Fern Acuna
Why are the remarks so hostile, negative, and personally referential? One Corps. If FAST assignments require both the extensive training and mature judgment such anticipated and prior events suggest, would it not be better to offer such duty to exceptional candidates after a full tour or first deployment? That
might obviate subsequent reintegration with FMF elements at all levels.
Paul Simon Coupa says
Fast Marines are basically pogues. When they show up to a true grunt company they’re lost..
1st battalion 8th Marines Charlie company we had a few of them.
I wasn’t impressed..
My time in FAST was harder than my time in the fleet. I ended up as a squad leader despite plenty of guys with more fleet time. No one even really cared that I had come from FAST, I knew my fundamentals really well and had great marksmanship and weapons proficiency.
Prolly mad a FAST Cpl took your billet cause you’re trash
1st Sgt Bill Combs says
We are All Marines.
When YOU get to thinking ” YOU ”
Are. So much Better…
Get ” YOUR HEAD
OUT OF YOUR BUTT”…
Robert Minichino says
I love how all these Victor unit guys act like every rifleman in the fleet is the cream of the crop. I served as a FAST Platoon Sergeant after having served in (2) different victor units. Not every FAST Marine is exceptional, but many of them look forward to their fleet tours. It sucks that when they get there, they’re met by one pump chump LCpls who think they are better because they completed a UDP. The fact is, every unit has crappy Marines, and FAST is no exception. But they are grunts weather you want to admit it or not.
Eric akey says
Well you answered your own rant ….Lance criminals meet them in the fleet. Then they meet their sqd leaders and I welcomed the grunts as they showed up as my new training experts. Yes the fleet has the shitbags, God himself can’t save us all with those idiots. But FAST Marines are good pieces of gear.
Sgt Akey 2/4 – MWTC instructor Rah!
Hey bro you still got limbs? Or you dead? Lmao
From A Former Cpl (USMC), your absolutely right Citydave , that guy is full of shi#
Interesting Story. American 911 🇺🇸
Jeffrey Mcintosh says
I was stationed at Gaurd Company West Loch 1990 – 1992 and it was cool it didn’t have all the cool names just Barrick Marines and went to the fleet after 2yrs
I did your in 2980s we did security and guard
In those days
Were you assigned to MB Pearl Harbor HI? I spent ~ 11 years with the Marine Corps as a corpsman. Marine Barracks Subic Bay Philippines was the largest security company in the Corps. I’ll never forget how professional they were wherever they were on duty. After 7 days in the NAVMAG, libo was well deserved. They also showed up in the 1st Marine Division later on. Great men.
Steve Duncan says
You know it ACO port platoon Subic bay. 1984-1985
Tim Ireland says
Excellent response. Semper Fi.
36 years in military and proud to have had a WW II, China Marine “Frozen Chosin” veteran father. During this time I have never experienced or seen or heard or read about a single instance when the marines have accomplished anything right. With the exception of that produced by, as Harry Truman described it, the marine propaganda machine. This is just more of same from an organization that can’t even get its history right or its missions.
Jeremiah McKenna says
We do everything right. It’s just in our own way.
Nate Hess says
So Iwo Jima, Okinawa, Saipan, Guadacanal, Belleau Wood, Inchon, Hue City, Battle of Fallujah, etc., were not considered victories? Or could it be that you’re the person who does not know their history.
Thomas Shockome says
Just curious as to which branch of the military you served in since it sounds like you didn’t include that part in your critique of a fine military organization.
Guy is full of shit. No way an E9 or O6/above has that hot take. And if he really served 36 years that’s what he would have to be. Unless he was a Guardsman or Reservist. Not to mention the shit talking he’s doing about his dad given the alleged experience. The only reasonable explanation I can think of is that he may be trying to say that the Marine Corps fucks up a lot of shit on an organizational level. Which, as Marines, we all have experienced a lot of the asinine stuff and big green weenie.
1st Sgt Bill Combs says
Oh Yeah the army..
Look at most of them…
And out of Shape…
I’ve trained and worked some good.. But saw even their special forces were
Out of shape and sad looking… Not all …
What happened …
I’ll put my Marines up
In front any time.
I am a retired MARINE GRUNT
Joe Dechirico says
Why are you dishing your dad dude and why didn’t you follow, you know if you ain’t played in the sand, you got no right to swim in the ocean.
Yea I can see this jerkoff. 5 feet tall 300 lbs. Never came out from behind his desk. If his father is really who he says he was, can’t be proud of this moron. I’m betting he never said anything like this to his dad. Or to any Marines face. Coward
1973 TO 1990
Are you Chestys’ fruit son he never spoke of? …
Fixing idiots says
Just talk with all the enemies that out numbered the Marines and they still came out Victorious…..or you can ask your wife. I’m sure she has more than one call sign she can Roger up.
You’re either fishing for a Convo argument or dumb as shit. Tell your old man thanks for service. You need work though.
Daniel Wilson says
You mentioned ” Frozen Chosin. ” The Marines got that right. It was right in your own post, and you missed it. You are too easy, not to mention full of shit. Old Doc