For years, Special Operations forces were the unloved stepchildren of the American military community, owned but not understood very well, or given priority. After the failed Desert One raid to free American hostages in Iran, however, the need to do better became apparent. Eventually real changes were made, and US Special Operations Command (US SOCOM) stood up as its own independent command with contributions from the Army (“Green Berets”, 75th Ranger Regiment, civil affairs & psyops, helicopters), Navy (SEALs), and Air Force (Pararescue, specialty aircraft). As the events of September 11, 2001 made the nature of the current global war clear, SOCOM stepped into a leading role – first in Afghanistan, then in the war as a whole. Current plans call for a 33% increase in American special forces numbers by 2013. This will be a challenge given the limited pool of applicants who can make the grade, and the continued lure of higher-paying private sector jobs as security contractors.
Who was missing from this picture? The Marines. Why? Because to the Marines, every Marine is special. After all, what higher honor could there possibly be than to say you were a US Marine? None. Which is why the USMC had Force Recon personnel, and whole Marine Expeditionary Unit – Special Operations Capable formations. They had no special forces. Until November 2005, when the US Marines agreed to stand up MARSOC with 2,500 Marine special forces – even as they managed to remain true to their credo. MARSOC was formally established on February 24/06.
Of course, a service that has never had any special forces doesn’t really have any facilities for them. Then again, separate facilities pose a problem. To square this circle, the Marines are building the new facilities at Camp LeJeune and now at Camp Pendleton, right alongside their fellow Marines…
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