Berger says Marine Special Ops should do more than just downtown

  • Top Marine takes General Corps back to its naval roots, turning it into a super-power rivalry.
  • This has implications for Corps’ special operators and Marine Force Special Operations Command.
  • The Marine Riders have a “tremendous value” that conventional forces do not have, says General David Berger.

The U.S. Special Forces have been at the forefront for more than 20 years.

Those forces played a key role in the US counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency campaigns in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria. But as Russia and China pose a growing challenge, the Pentagon is looking at how to use the unique capabilities of those operators in a different context.

Every U.S. military branch is brainwashing how its specialized operators can contribute. For the Special Operations Command of the Marine Forces, the question is particularly relevant.

New member of SOCOM

Sea rowdies

US Marine Riders before the Japanese excavation at Bougainville in the Solomon Islands in January 1944.

Photo by American Marine Corps


Other U.S. military branches established their Special Operations Command in the late 1980s and early 1990s. U.S. Special Operations Command, created in 1987.

The Marine Corps resisted calls to contribute to SOCOM because “every Marine is special” and the Marines do not make separate Special Operations Forces. The Corps eventually repented, however, and MARSOC joined SOCOM in 2006.

The Marine Rider Regiment, also known as the Marine Unit affiliated with SOCOM, specializes in direct-acting missions such as raids, special reconnaissance operations and foreign internal security – training and counseling for allied forces. They can wage unusual wars, including working with proxy fighters and counter-terrorism operations.

“MARSOC initially started with a unique organizational structure and capabilities,” it was unparalleled in either the U.S. Army Special Operations Command or the Navy Special Forces Command, retired Marine Rider Major Fred Calvin told Insider.

Marine Corps Special Operations MARSOC

Marines participate in the MARSOC assessment and selection course on January 30, 2015 at the Camp Legion in North Carolina.

US Marine Corps / Sgt. Donovan Lee


“These capabilities provided a very strong ‘raid’ capability with an Organic Infantry Defense Force, which did not even have Tier 1 units in their organic system, or Tier 1 units were not available for integrated training throughout their entire pre-employment training life cycle,” Calvin added.

Calvin is the author of the book “A Few Bad Men”, which deploys the first maritime special operations war for Afghanistan and how it repelled attacks from all sides.

Throughout the global war on terror, the Marine Riders were stationed and fought throughout Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Africa. In January 2020, the Marine Raiders, the first responders to the al-Shabab attack on a Kenyan military base that killed three Americans, made headlines.

With the end of major war operations in the Middle East and the declining demand for counter-terrorism and insurgency operations, the MARSOC Navy is competing for finance and missions with special war and military special operations.

Culture, language and low visibility functions

Marine Rider Battalion

Marines with the 3rd Marine Rider Battalion during an urban combat exercise on November 17, 2016 at Camp Legion.

US Marine Corps / Cpl. Christopher A. Mendoza


During a conference in February, US Marine Corps Commandant General David Berger gave some insights into how the Marine Corps’ Special Operations Forces might fight in the future.

As the war on terror draws to a close, SOCOM has announced the need to better balance strategic rivalries with counter-terrorism and insurgency operations.

Having a forward-facing force that works with allies and allies around the world is just as important as building credible defenses against close adversaries such as China and Russia, targeting violent extremist organizations.

To support MARSOC such a center, Berger emphasized the low-choice and operational preparation of combat operations that prepare a battlefield for potential operations, not combat operations.

Marine Rider Regiment Free-Fall Parachute

Members of the Marine Rider Regiment perform a free-jump jump from the MV-22B Aspray over North Carolina on September 1, 2015.

US Marine Corps / Lance CBL. Austin A. Louis


Berger said the Marine Raiders’ “greatest value is their continued perspective and their deep cultural and linguistic skills, as well as their connection through the country team within the country.” “It has nothing in common with conventional forces.”

For example, a Marine Rider team can travel to Kenya and map roads, safe houses, active or potential runways, and other areas of interest used to support the rapid deployment of specialized operators in response to an attack.

To carry out such activities, special-function units must have mature troops that can blend in with the environment, and the racial and linguistic diversity of the American special-functioning community facilitates that goal. For example, units such as the Army’s 7th Special Forces, which is assigned to Central and South America, emphasize those cultural connections and establish language teaching appropriate to the region.

Specialized operators with those backgrounds and skills make it easier for them to integrate with potential partners, where they operate, and make it harder for competing forces to locate them.

‘Back to Navy Roots’

Marine Special Operations Holocaust VBSS

Marines with 1st Marine Special Operations Battalion Holocaust during arrival, board, search and seizure training near Bentilton Camp, California.

US Marine Corps / Cpl. Kyle McNally


After years of war in places like Afghanistan, Berger sought to relocate the Marine Corps to the Maritime Area, and he said he would like to see a similar transition for the Marine Raiders.

“If you want to see two or three or four years in the future, hopefully, [MARSOC] Other Marine Corps will follow the same path as Navy Roots [and] That’s how it supports the Navy’s naval forces going forward, “Berger told the National Defense Industrial Association.

Berger’s drive to push “big and heavy things” and create a smaller, lighter, more naval-centric force has garnered support among Congress and Pentagon leaders, but it has drawn back. More than twenty retired generals have campaigned against it.

Like other U.S. Special Operations Forces, the Marine Corps Special Operations Command has recognized the difficulty of continuous combat operations over the past 20 years in the Middle East and Africa. But that experience has provided lessons and skills that can be used to command great power competition in the future.

MARSOC has come a long way, “combining with more combat capabilities and more assets to deliver an unprecedented advanced death of their deployable forces,” Calvin said.

Stavros Atlamsoklo is a defense journalist specializing in special operations, a Hellenic soldier (575th Marine Battalion and National Service with Army Headquarters), a graduate of Johns Hopkins University.

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