This is what it takes to become a legendary Marine Raider

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Marine Raiders with 1st Marine Raider Battalion, U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Special Operations Command, provides security while onducting a simulated night-raid on a warehouse in Los Angeles, California, Sept. 3, 2015. 1st Marine Raider Battalion is organized, trained and equipped to deploy for worldwide missions as directed by MARSOC in support of their regionally-aligned Theater Special Operations Command. (MARSOC Photo by Sgt. Scott A. Achtemeier)

Disclaimer: This article was sponsored by the Marine Corps Special Operations Command (MARSOC) and contains content developed in collaboration with their team.

Being a U.S. Marine is not for the faint of heart. For nearly 250 years, the Marine Corps has answered our nation’s call in numerous conflicts across the globe and has traditionally been the U.S. military’s tip of the spear. And the most elite warriors of the Corps are the Marine Raiders.

Marine Raiders fall under Marine Forces Special Operations Command (MARSOC), the Marine Corps special operations component of the U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM). MARSOC is comprised of the Headquarters, Marine Raider Regiment, Marine Raider Support Group, and Marine Raider Training Center.

To become a Marine Raider, a candidate must first join the Marine Corps. Whether one is an officer or enlisted, MARSOC has a place for you. Commissioned Marines can volunteer to be a Special Operations Officer (SOO), while enlisted Marines can pursue roles as Critical Skills Operator (CSO) or Special Operations Capability Specialist (SOCS).

Marine Raiders fire the Mk 19 grenade launcher during a company training event in Jacksonville, N.C., Oct. 1, 2021. The Marine Raiders refined their marksmanship techniques on various weapons systems including sniper rifles, machine guns, and grenade launchers prior to conducting team-level training. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Ethan Green/MARSOC)

To be eligible to become a Special Operations Officer, an officer must meet the following requirements:

  • Be eligible to obtain and maintain a secret clearance;
  • Have a minimum GT/GCT score of 110;
  • Have a minimum PFT of 235;
  • Be able to pass the MARSOC swim assessment;
  • Meet the MARSOC medical screening criteria;
  • Have no more than 24 months time in grade (TIG) as a captain (O-3) upon attending the Individual Training Course (ITC) Make a lateral move to the special operations officer MOS upon selection.

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

The requirements for enlisted Critical Skills Operators are a bit different:

  • Be eligible to obtain and maintain a secret clearance;
  • Have a minimum GT score of 105;
  • Have a minimum PFT of 235;
  • Have no more than two NJPs on current enlistment;
  • Be able to pass the MARSOC swim assessment;
  • Be eligible to reenlist;
  • Meet the MARSOC medical screening criteria;
  • Have no more than 18 months time in grade (TIG) as a sergeant (E-5) upon attending the Individual Training Course (ITC) Make a lateral move to the critical skills operator MOS upon selection.

A Marine Raider candidate must then pass Assessment and Selection and complete the Individual Training Course (ITC) at the Marine Special Operations School in Camp Lejeune, NC. Here’s how that plays out:

Assessment & Selection Phase 1

Marines in U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Special Operations Command’s Assessment and Selection Preparation and Orientation Course conduct a 3-mile hike September 27 aboard Camp Lejeune, N.C. ASPOC is designed to prepare Critical Skills Operator candidates for the challenges of the Assessment and Selection Course. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Thomas W. Provost/Released)

The three-week Assessment and Selection Preparatory and Orientation Course (ASPOC) begins the training pipeline. Candidates will be challenged mentally and physically during this phase.

Assessment & Selection: Phase 2

Assessment and Selection Phase 2 is a challenging three-week evaluation to identify Marines with certain attributes compatible with special-operations missions and with working in a small-team environment.

Individual Training Course (ITC)

The ITC training occurs in four phases and takes place over nine months of intensive training. Those four phases break down as follows:

Phase 1 – Basic Skills

Phase 1 trains and evaluates students in basic skills including land navigation, patrolling, mission planning, SERE (Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape), TCCC (Tactical Combat Casualty Care), fire support, and communications.

Related: The history of MARSOC is the history of the Marine Raiders

Phase 2 – Small unit tactics

Marines attending the Individual Training Course conduct patrols during the course’s culminating exercise, Raider Spirit. (Photo by Cpl. Thomas/MARSOC)

Phase 2 consists of small boat and scout swimmer operations, crew-served weapons training, demolitions, photography, and information collection and reporting.

Phase 3 – Close-quarters battle (CQB)

Phase 3 consists of rifle and pistol combat marksmanship, the tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs) needed to serve as a Marine operator during assault operations.

Candidates will also conduct a series of full-mission profile precision raids on rural and urban objectives.

Phase 4 – Irregular warfare

In the final phase of ITC, Marine Raider candidates put all their newfound skills to use. The candidates will receive instruction on irregular warfare operations and on training, advising, and operating with a partner nation and irregular force.

Upon graduation, MARSOC enlisted Marines are awarded the primary MOS 0372, Critical Skills Operator. CSOs then go on to attend a six-month basic language course.

Related: MARSOC Raiders to deploy in smaller, tech-loaded teams as conflict gets more complex

Special Operations Capability Specialists

Marines with Marine Raider Support Group conduct amphibious entry and recovery drills during the Special Operations Capabilities Specialist D (Multi-Purpose Canine Handler) Level 1 training course in Camp Pendleton, Calif., Jan. 6, 2021. The students learn amphibious techniques during the first week which provides basic waterborne capabilities and prepares them for the rest of the amphibious operations conducted during the course. The level 1 course familiarizes the students and dogs with visit board search and seizure operations, zodiac boats, amphibious operations (water entry/exit, scout swimming techniques), distance swimming, and helocasting. (U.S Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Ethan Green)

But while Critical Skills Operators and Special Operations Officers make up the fighting backbone of MARSOC, you can also earn the title of Marine Raider as a Special Operations Capability Specialist (SOCS). While the route to MARSOC is slightly different for these Marine Raiders, it isn’t without its own unique challenges.

These SOCS directly support Marine Raiders on the ground and from the tactical operations center in several ways, including intelligence, fire support, tactical communications, and K-9 operations. SOCS can be assigned to tactical and operational units. In total, there are 11 SOCS specialties, each with its unique attributes and contributions to the team.

SOCS start their journey in MARSOC with the Special Operations Forces Training Course, where they learn the fundamentals of the special operations trade. Those who make it through, proceed to the Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape (SERE) course. In SERE, SOCS learn how to escape enemy forces, survive in the wild, and resist interrogation. SOCS who graduate SERE become proficient in their specific MOS before getting assigned to MARSOC on a five-year tour.

Are you ready for the challenge of becoming a Marine Raider? Contact a Recruiter today.

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