Special Operations: Marines Use the Wrong Rules

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March 29, 2007: In an unusual move, the commander of U.S. special operations troops in the region, ordered a unit of 120 U.S. Marines out of Afghanistan on March 23rd. This was because of the way the marines handled a March 4th incident where they were ambushed by a suicide car bomber and gunfire.

The marines were removed because their reaction to the ambush used "Iraq Rules", and not the less violent procedures employed in Afghanistan. There's more to it than that. SOCOM (Special Operations Command) has long had an uneasy relationship with the U.S. Marine Corps. SOCOM was also uneasy with the leadership of this Special Operations company, and was hoping that the unit would perform well in Afghanistan. The March 4th incident became big news, and that made it difficult for the marine unit to do well in the "winning hearts and minds" department.

This incident is part of an older problem. The marines finally got around to working with SOCOM (Special Operations Command) in late 2005, when it was agreed that they would create a marine special operations command. The Marine Corps had long resisted such a step, largely because of its belief that marines are inherently superior warriors, capable of highly specialized missions. This attitude began to change during the fighting in Afghanistan, when marines were assigned to support SOCOM troops there.

As a result of that experience, marines were attached to SOCOM for liaison and observation purposes. In 2004, the marines organized a company sized unit of commandos, Detachment One, using volunteers from their Force Recon troops, the closest thing the marines had to commandos. Detachment One was sent to Iraq, where it's performance convinced SOCOM that marines could operate at the SOCOM level.

As a result, Marine Special Operations Command (MARSOC) was organized. This unit has some 2,600 marines, organized into a headquarters, a two battalion Special Operations Regiment, a Foreign Military Training Unit, and a Marine Special Operations Support Group.

The only people the marines had who were trained to SOCOMs highest standards were the troops in the four Force Recon companies (one of them a reserve unit). So, naturally, the marines recruited heavily among Force Recon units in order to build MARSOC. As a result, the 2nd Force Reconnaissance Company was disbanded. In effect, an enhanced version of the 2nd Force Recon was created with the formation of Fox company within the new MARSOC 2nd Marine Special Operations Battalion. The two Special Operations Battalions provide a combination of services roughly equal to what the U.S. Army Special Forces and Rangers do. The marines feel that, for some missions, Fox Company marines can perform jobs that SEALs do.

The marines do not intend to just provide some additional Special Forces and Ranger manpower, but people who can do those jobs, but with the addition of amphibious capabilities. Eventually, there are to be nine companies in the two Special Operations Battalion. So far, only four of those companies have been formed. The company that was banished from Afghanistan was the first of these companies formed.

 


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