May 6, 2009:
The U.S. Marines have troops trained for many special missions, but none as special as their FAST (Fleet Antiterrorism Security Team) force. These units were first organized in 1987 and there was no shortage of volunteers. There were eleven FAST platoons, organized into three FAST companies.
Each platoon is commanded by an experienced captain, plus a senior NCO, three or four sergeants, three or four corporals and about thirty other marines. There are about 500 FAST marines overall, including 20 officers. Three platoons serve seven month tours at overseas bases. In addition, one or two platoons are on alert in the United States all the time, ready to be flown to any hot spot anywhere. Often, the FAST platoon will be sent to a marine amphibious task force that is near a potential trouble spot. Half the FAST platoons will be training at any time, but in the past few years, FAST marines have spent about half the year overseas.
Technically, FAST marines are not commandos. Most of the enlisted FAST marines are selected from those who volunteered for the Marines Security Force. There are nine Security Force companies, and these guard high value (or profile) items (nuclear weapons, embassies and sensitive facilities.) The FAST marines are the elite of this security service. FAST can fight, but only if what they are guarding is threatened. FAST marines are trained to lock down a facility very quickly and very tight. FAST marines platoons have been called out over a hundred times since the late 1980s. FAST marines are meant for emergencies, they do not do long term security. They may look like commandoes, but in reality they are the guards who guard the guards who watch over the crown jewels.