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United States Marine Corps Special Operations Command
Marine Corps Special Operations Command Emblem
Active February 24, 2006 - present[1]
Country United States
Branch United States Marine Corps
Type Special Operations
Role Train, organize, equip and deploy task organized, scalable and responsive Marine Corps special operations forces worldwide in support of combatant commanders and other agencies
Size 2,600[1]
Part of United States Special Operations Command Insignia.svg U.S. Special Operations Command
Garrison/HQ Camp Lejeune, North Carolina
Nickname(s) Raiders
Motto(s) "Always Faithful, Always Forward"
Engagements Afghanistan War
Iraq War
Major General Mark A. Clark[1]

United States Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command (MARSOC) is a component command of the United States Special Operations Command that comprises the Marine Corps' contribution to SOCOM. Its core capabilities are direct action, special reconnaissance and foreign internal defense. MARSOC has also been directed to conduct counter-terrorism, information operations, and unconventional warfare.[2]

History and lineage

Marine special operators conduct combat operations in eastern Afghanistan.

Its creation was announced on 23 November 2005 by US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, following a meeting between him, the USSOCOM commander General Bryan D. Brown, and the Marine Corps Commandant General Michael Hagee on 28 October 2005. MARSOC was officially activated on 24 February 2006 with ceremonies at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.

The potential participation of the Marine Corps in SOCOM has been controversial since SOCOM was formed in 1986. At the time, Marine Corps leaders felt that their Force Reconnaissance units were best kept in the Marine Corps' MAGTF command structure, and that the detachment of an "elite" Marine Special Operations unit from the Marine Corps would be to the detriment of the Marine Corps as a whole. A re-evaluation following the 11 September attacks and the War on Terrorism, along with new policy established by Secretary Rumsfeld and then-Commandant Gen. James L. Jones at The Pentagon, caused the Marine Corps to work towards integration with SOCOM. The establishment of MARSOC represented the most significant step towards that goal, and followed the establishment of MCSOCOM Detachment One (DET1), a small Marine Corps detachment formed as a pilot program to test Marine Corps integration into SOCOM. It was made up of mostly Force Recon Marines from 1st and 2nd Force Reconnaissance Companies along with other hand picked support men and served with Navy SEALs under Naval Special Warfare Group One. Detachment 1 conducted a multitude of special operations in Iraq alongside their Special Operations brothers of the sister services. SOCOM conducted a study of the unit's deployment, which clearly indicated success and strong performance. Detachment 1 was disbanded in 2006 soon after the creation of MARSOC. The first Marine Special Operations Individual Training Course began at Camp Lejeune on 6 October 2008.[3] MARSOC's stated end-goal is 850 CSOs.[4]


A Marine special operator glides towards his target during HALO operations.

Marine special operators conduct CQB training.

MARSOC comprises roughly 2,500 Marines[5] and sailors, and is currently commanded by Major General Mark A. Clark (general). MARSOC's organization was finalized in 2007. The base unit of MARSOC is the fourteen-man Marine Special Operations Team (MSOT). Each 14-man MSOT is organized into three elements: a Headquarters (HQ) and two identical Tactical Elements. The HQ element consists of the Team Leader (Captain), Team Chief (Master Sergeant), Operations SNCO (Gunnery Sergeant), and a Communications SNCO. Each Tactical Element consists of an Element Leader (Staff Sergeant), three Critical Skills Operators (Sergeant/Corporal), and a Navy Special Amphibious Reconnaissance Corpsman (SARC). MARSOC is based at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina and is split into three subordinate commands:

Name Insignia Headquarters Description
Marine Special Operations Regiment USMC MSOR logo.svg Camp Lejeune, NC and Camp Pendleton, CA MSOR consists of a Headquarters Company and three Marine Special Operations Battalions (1st, 2nd and 3rd). The MSOBs are tasked with direct action, special reconnaissance, counter-terrorism, and information operations. They are also trained to carry out peacetime foreign internal defense[6] and unconventional warfare. This includes giving military training to friendly foreign nations. Each MSOB consists of four Marine Special Operations Companies (MSOCs) that contain four Marine Special Operations Teams (MSOTs) in each Company. The organization allows a Team to operate on its own if needed, but maintains the ability to operate as part of a bigger unit such as an MSOC or SOTF, similar to Army Special Forces ODA/B.[7] The core personnel strength of the MSOBs was initially drafted from Force Reconnaissance Marines.
Marine Special Operations Support Group MSOSG1-LOGO.jpg Camp Lejeune, NC Comprises 400 personnel, contains the Command's administrative, and support assets.[8]
Marine Special Operations Intelligence Battalion Marine Corps Special Operations Intelligence Battalion.jpg Camp Lejeune, NC Provides intelligence support at all operational levels in order to support training and operations worldwide with mission-specific intelligence capability.[9]
Marine Special Operations School MSOS Insignia.jpg Camp Lejeune, NC Conducts screening, training, selection, assessment, and development functions for MARSOC.[10]



A Marine special operator conducts shooting drills.

A Marine special operator leads his pack mule at Mountain Warfare Training Command.

An SH-60 Seahawk waits for a simulated Medical evacuation.

Selection of the right personnel begins with a rigorous screening process designed to identify the right Marines for the right billet within MARSOC. Operational billets are open only to males. Only those Marines wanting to serve as special operators, as opposed to support, must attend Assessment and Selection (A&S); however, all Marines are screened to ensure that the Marines joining MARSOC meet the established prerequisites for duty within the command. Screening takes place in 3 stages: record screening, physical screening, and a psychological and medical evaluation.

Assessment and Selection

Once a Marine is qualified through the MARSOC Recruiter's screening process, he will be assigned to the Assessment and Selection (A&S) Program. A&S is mentally and physically challenging. The program is conducted 3 times a year at an undisclosed location following the 3 week Assessment and Selection Preparatory and Orientation Course.

Individual Training Course

The Individual Training Course is a physically and mentally challenging 7-month course designed to produce Critical Skills Operators who can operate across the spectrum of special operations in small teams under spartan conditions. ITC uses a building block approach; the training rigor will systematically increase to mimic the complexity and stresses of combat. During ITC students are under constant observation from the instructors as well as their peers. ITC is broken down into four training phases:

Phase 1

Phase 1 trains and evaluates students in the basic skill sets required of all special operators. Physical fitness, swimming and hand-to-hand combat are stressed in a PT program designed around endurance, functional fitness and amphibious training. This physical training program will continue throughout the course and has been designed to prepare the student for the unique demands of special operations. Field skills including: navigation, patrolling, Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape (SERE), Tactical Combat Casualty Care (TCCC). Mission planning, Fire support training and Communications round out the first phase.

Phase 2

Phase 2 builds upon the foundation of Phase 1, training the student in small boat and scout swimmer operations, crew served weapons, demolitions, photography and information collection and reporting. Students will be evaluated in two Full Mission Profile exercises “Operation Raider Spirit”, a 2 week exercise focused on patrolling and combat operations, and “Operation Stingray Fury” focused on urban and rural reconnaissance.

Phase 3

Student will be trained in rifle and pistol combat marksmanship and will then learn the tactics, techniques and procedures needed to serve as a member of a Marine Special Operations Team during assault operations. This Phase culminates in a series of full mission profile precision raids on rural and urban objectives during “Operation Guile Strike”.

Phase 4

In the final phase, students will receive instruction on Irregular Warfare operations. The course culminates with “Operation Derna Bridge”. Derna Bridge will require the student to use all of the skills mastered throughout the course while training, advising and operating with a Partner Nation / Irregular force. Newly graduated Marine special operators will be assigned to one of the three Marine Special Operations Battalions.

Language Training

All Marine special operators are required to undergo continual language training. However, based on ability, certain Marines will be selected for follow-on language training at an Advanced Linguistics Course.

Advanced Training

The training of Marine special operators does not end with ITC. Marines will continue training at their assigned battalion for another 18 months. In addition, the MSOS offers advanced-level courses in a number of subject areas: Special Reconnaissance, Close Quarters Battle, Sniper, Breaching, and weapons employment. Marine special operators also attend U.S. Army Airborne School and the USMC Combatant Diver Course.

See also


 This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the United States Marine Corps.
  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 SOCOM Public Affairs (2013). SOCOM Fact Book 2013. SOCOM Public Affairs. 
  2. Hejlik, Major General Dennis J; Gilmore, Major Cliff W; Ingram, Sergeant Major Matthew P (August 2006). "Special Operations Marines and the Road Ahead". Marine Corps Association. ISSN 0025-3170. 
  3. Armistead, Michael Warren (20 October 2008). "First US MARSOF Individual Training Course has begun". United States Marine Corps. Retrieved 15 November 2008. 
  4. Kyle McNally. "ITC 2-11 Graduation". 
  5. U.S. Seeks Faster Deployment; Smaller, More Flexible Special-Operations Teams Would Tackle Emerging Threats Under New Plan May 7, 2012
  6. Stahlman, Josephh (28 August 2007). "MSOAG Marines get LIT". United States Marine Corps. Archived from the original on 15 June 2008. Retrieved 20 November 2008. 
  7. "Questions & Responses Page". U.S Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command. United States Marine Corps. 30 October 2007. Retrieved 28 May 2008. 
  8. "Marine Special Operations Support Group". U.S. Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command. United States Marine Corps. 15 November 2008. 
  9. Richard Blumenstein. "MARSOC stands up MIB". 
  10. Maurer, Kevin (26 October 2008). "Marine Leader: Unit A Good Fit". Fayetteville Observer. 

External links

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