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Critical Skills Operators are the brain and muscle of MARSOC

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Marine Raiders training
Editor’s Note: This article was sponsored by the Marine Corps Special Operations Command (MARSOC) and contains content developed in collaboration with their team.

Critical Skills Operators (CSOs) are the front-line warriors of the United States Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command (MARSOC). They operate on the cutting edge of military capabilities, executing a diverse range of missions that demand unparalleled expertise, resilience, and precision.

These highly trained individuals specialize in several mission sets, from direct action and unconventional warfare to special reconnaissance and counterterrorism; their tasks cover a spectrum that lies at the very heart of modern warfare.

In terms of skill sets, CSOs are experts in several core and advanced special operations skills, including small unit tactics, close-quarters combat, specialized demolitions, military freefall, helocasting, and amphibious operations, among others. 

To become a CSO, a candidate must first enlist in the Marine Corps. After that, they undergo rigorous selection and training that starts with Assessment and Selection. As Sandboxx News has previously described, Assessment and Selection is a tough, two-phase program that evaluates a candidate’s physical abilities, situational awareness, mental resilience, and adaptability. The attrition rate of the course is high, and only those who have the necessary physical, mental, and emotional stamina make it through. 

Related: What exactly is MARSOC, the Marines’ elite special operations component?

MARSOC Critical Skill Operators Master Assaulter Course
Critical skills operators attending MARSOC Master Assaulter Course implement various shooting techniques while firing around vehicles at Camp Lejeune, N.C., Sept. 1, 2021. MMAC is a five-week course designed to ensure selected team members are capable of conducting unit training and operating as the unit close-quarters battle and dynamic entry expert. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Ethan Green)

If they successfully make it through, Marines have to then complete the Individual Training Course (ITC) which takes place at the Marine Special Operations School in Camp Lejeune, NC. This is an intensive nine-month program covering various skill sets. Its goal is to transform Marines into versatile and capable special operators ready to join a Marine Special Operations Team.

After they complete ITC, Critical Skills Operators are ready to go into the operational teams, joining Special Operations Officers (SOOs) and Special Operations Combat Specialists (SOCSs) to execute challenging missions. These missions could involve performing direct combat operations, conducting clandestine reconnaissance deep behind enemy lines, or training conventional and special operations partner forces. 

The elite Marines that become Critical Skill Operators operate in demanding and high-risk environments, working tirelessly to neutralize threats and achieve mission success using their advanced training, skills, and unwavering dedication.

MARSOC’s mission is to recruit, train, sustain, and deploy scalable, expeditionary forces worldwide to accomplish special operations missions assigned by U.S. Special Operations Command. To accomplish that, MARSOC equips and trains Marines to succeed in austere conditions against a wide range of adversaries in competition through conflict. Marine Raiders execute complex, distributed operations globally in uncertain environments, achieving silent success and strategic impact. For more information visit www.marsoc.com.

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Stavros Atlamazoglou

Greek Army veteran (National service with 575th Marines Battalion and Army HQ). Johns Hopkins University. You will usually find him on the top of a mountain admiring the view and wondering how he got there.