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Posted: 2/14/2006 6:48:03 PM EDT
[Last Edit: 2/14/2006 6:54:09 PM EDT by KA3B]
February 20, 2006

Ready for MarSOC
Units already in training as command’s debut nears

By Gidget Fuentes
Times staff writer

The Marine Corps will officially jump into the special operations world when it stands up Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command on Feb. 24 and begins training its first spec ops company for deployment on ships later this year.

Brig. Gen. Dennis Hejlik, who’s been nominated for promotion to major general, said the new 2,600-member command will provide “a sea-based special operations force” to theater combatant commanders.

Hejlik assumed command last fall and is slowly growing his headquarters staff from temporary space at Quantico, Va.

The command, known as MarSOC, will activate at Camp Lejeune, N.C., a location said to be well suited since it’s near other spec ops component commanders under U.S. Special Operations Command, based at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Fla.

MarSOC will include three main components: direct-action companies under a Marine Special Operations Regiment; a Foreign Military Training Unit; and a Marine Special Operations Support Group. Officials expect MarSOC will reach full operational capability by 2010.

But wheels are already in motion.

The first FMTU teams, which are based at Lejeune, are training and will deploy starting in May, said Hejlik, during a Jan. 26 meeting with reporters.

The first Marine Special Operations Company — there will be nine direct-action MSOCs under the Marine Special Operations Regiment — will organize in May, train with the Lejeune-based 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit and deploy later this year. The first West Coast-based spec ops company is slated to join the 13th MEU in September.

Under current plans — outlined to senior leaders during their quarterly “executive off-site” on Jan. 18 and remaining in flux as working group studies and reviews continue — the nine direct-action companies will fall under two Marine Special Operations Battalions. Those battalions report to the Marine Special Operations Regiment.

Besides the direct-action companies and FMTUs, plans also call for the establishment in July of a Marine Special Operations Support Group, which will provide battalions with a range of specialized skills, from security and K-9 teams to communications, intelligence and logistics.

Current plans would organize those into support, intelligence and logistics companies, although officials continue to study skill sets, training standards and structure.

MarSOC “is filling a complementary gap … that we know is out there because the forces of SOCom have been so heavily engaged,” Hejlik said.

As the initial voice of MarSOC, he finds himself juggling continuous questions about its future and e-mails from leathernecks who want to join the new command.

More details will emerge in coming months as service officials draw on feedback inside and outside the service and weigh ongoing studies.

However, Hejlik’s presentation at the Jan. 18 off-site put a lot of meat on the bone concerning how MarSOC will be structured and the kind of people Hejlik is looking for.

Finding the right people

Each of the nine Marine Special Operations Companies will be led by a major and have 97 to 118 Marines and sailors, including about 40 reconnaissance Marines, who have the 0321 military occupational specialty and would conduct direct-action and special reconnaissance missions.

“The core of the MSOC is the 0321 Marine … the force reconnaissance Marine,” said Hejlik, noting the Corps is studying ways to reconstitute and grow enough reconnaissance Marines.

“They’ve got to come from somewhere, and they’ll come from that three-star [Marine Expeditionary Force] commander,” he added.

The Corps is short of 0321s, however — by as much as 25 percent, according to one set of figures — leaving units, such as force reconnaissance companies, short of filling all their platoons.

Hejlik wouldn’t say whether force reconnaissance would be absorbed in part or in whole by MarSOC. Officials also are looking at division reconnaissance battalions, which provide the “eyes and ears” to ground commanders.

But MarSOC won’t just be about recon.

Under plans still being sorted out, each MSOC will include communicators, logisticians, air-naval gunfire liaison companies, supporting fires, explosive ordnance disposal experts and Marines trained in signals, human intelligence and counterintelligence.

Hejlik’s biggest worry, though, is getting enough Marines to fill billets and growing the types of specialized capabilities to round out the gunslingers in each company.

“The hardest part, I think, is the high-demand, low-density MOS, that young sergeant out there and young corporal who’s SIGINT, who’s HUMINT, who’s CI, who’s EOD,” he said.

“Right now, we’ll use the capability that’s inherent with the MEU, and we’ll continue to try to grow our own,” he added.

MarSOC won’t be a full career, however.

Hejlik expects that Marines would spend three to five years in MarSOC and then return to other billets, perhaps as an instructor, or to recruiting or drill instructor duty, to stay competitive for promotion with their peers.

That may not be a popular approach for some reconnaissance Marines, who say the time put into all their specialized training and expertise would be lost.

Hejlik said the Corps would draw back those personnel if needed. “We’ll flag those Marines,” he said, and “bring them back” for shorter duty. Marines could stay longer, “but frankly, I would discourage that,” he added.

It’s unclear yet what the training pipeline will be for the reconnaissance Marines or other MSOC members, or how each company will be equipped. By joining SOCom, MarSOC will get to tap into a larger pool of special operations money, although its funding picture is also unclear.

SOCom’s budget is more than $6.5 billion, and it’s expected to grow as Congress and the Pentagon look to expand spec ops forces, according to the proposed 2007 budget, which includes a request for construction of a battalion headquarters at Camp Pendleton, Calif.

Last year, SOCom began paying retention bonuses, ranging from “special-duty assignment” bonuses of $375 a month to $8,000 to $150,000 “critical skills” retention bonuses for Army Special Forces, Navy SEALs and special-warfare combatant crewmen, Air Force combat controllers and pararescuemen. It’s uncertain what bonuses would be available to MarSOC leathernecks.

Shipboard operators

Under current plans, the nine Marine spec ops companies will train and deploy with a MEU, now a part of Navy expeditionary strike groups. No land-based units have been proposed or studied, nor any similar spec ops companies within Reserve reconnaissance units.

Deploying with a MEU raises questions about command and control, training and logistics of those companies, which would organize and train before “chopping” to the MEU for pre-deployment work-ups and deployment.

However, because the company will be a component under SOCom, operational control of that company will fall to the theater special operations commander, or TSOC, Hejlik said.

“That’s the intent,” he said. “We’re still working out those issues.”

The MSOC would be grown, to a degree, from an MEU’s existing Maritime Special Purpose Force, or MSPF.

Each MSPF typically includes the MEU’s Force Recon platoon, a division reconnaissance platoon and a security “trailer” platoon from the infantry battalion that’s part of the MEU’s ground combat element, plus communicators, EOD, snipers and intelligence. The men are trained in direct action, demolition, maritime interdiction, close-quarters battle and deep reconnaissance.

Until about six years ago, a Navy SEAL platoon permanently assigned to each amphibious ready group trained and operated with the MSPF.

But Naval Special Warfare Command, in a readjustment of its forces, pulled SEALs from the amphibious force and began to base or send platoons overseas or temporarily to ships, when needed. However, MarSOC’s plan would restore and provide SOCom with a more permanent seagoing force.

Some Marines wonder how the existing MSPF would change, what will happen when an MSOC is pulled off the MEU to conduct a SOCom mission, and what the MEU loses in capability when that occurs.

Hejlik acknowledged that officials still must sort through those issues. “The intent is not to rip the gut out of the MEU,” he said, adding that MSOC will be “not separate, but separable” from the naval force.

If the MSOC is available, a MEU commander “can use them as necessary to increase the [unit’s] capability,” he said.

Those links are important, Hejlik said, noting that SOCom’s commander and the Marine Corps commandant “really saw the need to have a sea-based specials operations force, and that’s what we are.”

Another thing that is unclear is whether MarSOC would have its own dedicated air assets.

“We’re working that,” he said, noting that “if there’s a real-life contingency mission for the MSOC, the intent is they will be supported by the MEU.”

The Foreign Military Training Unit will ultimately include two dozen 12-man teams skilled in foreign internal defense. The teams would deploy to Africa, South America “or wherever it happens to be,” Hejlik said.

The typical FMTU mission “is very flexible,” he said. “It could be anywhere from 10 weeks to three to four months,” depending on the country and mission.

Hejlik said his vision for the FMTUs “as we go along, is they’re going to become more ODA-like.” He was referring to Army Special Forces’ 12-man Operational Detachment “Alpha” teams that also conduct foreign internal defense. “Now, that’s not going to be in the next year, because you have to grow the capability and the skill sets,” he said.

Team members are getting language and cultural training, some provided by the Marine Corps and some by SOCom.

In the meantime, Marine Corps planners are pressing ahead with developing, structuring and manning MarSOC.

Whether it would grow beyond the initial 2,600 isn’t certain, although some officials, citing the global needs for highly trained forces, have said that it is possible.

Hejlik thinks that could happen beyond 2010.

“It’s just a matter of how many and how fast,” he said. “Right now, we’ll just stay at 2,600.”

Gidget Fuentes can be reached at (760) 677-6145 or gfuentes@marinecorpstimes.com.

Marine Special Operations Command
Under current plans, the MarSOC will be broken into three main sections:

Marine Special Operations Regiment

1st Marine Special Operations BattalionFour Marine Special Operations Companies1st Special Missions Training Branch

2nd Marine Special Operations BattalionFive Marine Special Operations Companies2nd Special Missions Training BranchSmall Craft Company

Foreign Military Training Unit

Alpha Company 12 teams

Bravo Company 12 teams

Marine Special Operations Support

Support CompanyANGLICO PlatoonSecurity PlatoonCommunications Platoon

Intelligence CompanyCI/HUMINT PlatoonSIGINT PlatoonAnalysis Platoon

Logistics Company
Link Posted: 2/15/2006 2:20:09 PM EDT
KA3B,

Thanks for always keeping us up to date. I'm a pilot and I always enjoy your military aviation news.

My high school age son read your USMC SOCOM article and has informed me that USMC SOCOM is what he wants to do when he gets out of college.

His mother will not be pleased.....

I was hoping for another flyer in the family, just have to wait and see what he chooses when the time comes.

Cheers,

Flyer
Link Posted: 2/15/2006 3:19:53 PM EDT
Cool.
USMC finally getting into SOCOM.

.....Just like The Army.
Link Posted: 2/15/2006 3:47:38 PM EDT
hell yeah NC gets the first operational usmc socom unit. see it pays for our marines to have fort bragg right up the road. home of the spec ops command.
Link Posted: 2/15/2006 4:12:12 PM EDT
These guys will be different in mission from Recon (aside from size) how, exactly???????
Link Posted: 2/15/2006 4:27:46 PM EDT

Originally Posted By BobCole:
These guys will be different in mission from Recon (aside from size) how, exactly???????



They are going to get a lot more money, they will be on the SOCOM tit.

Go get'em Marines !
Link Posted: 2/15/2006 4:31:36 PM EDT
I'm glad this finally happened.......mainly because Army Civil Affairs units, which are 99% reservists, are now moved out of SOCOM and into ARC to help make room for the Marines..(The Army will now standup an AD CA)....Got back from Iraq a month ago where I was assigned to an Army CA group.....bunch of cocky old farts that looked down on everyone because "they" were under SOCOM- they all thought they were Delta commandos........maybe now the Marines will get some M-4's....
Link Posted: 2/15/2006 4:38:45 PM EDT

Originally Posted By BobCole:
These guys will be different in mission from Recon (aside from size) how, exactly???????


Think of it as Recon with more money.
Link Posted: 2/15/2006 5:05:22 PM EDT
As a former Recon Corpsman I think this is great.................

Semper Fi,

DOC
Link Posted: 2/15/2006 5:45:23 PM EDT
I've known Denny Hejlik for several years. I was privileged to have attended his promotion ceremony when he got his star.

He is a man's man, and a Marine's Marine. This outfit will be well lead.

Semper fi!
Link Posted: 2/15/2006 5:47:04 PM EDT

Originally Posted By paramarine326:
I've known Denny Hejlik for several years. I was privileged to have attended his promotion ceremony when he got his star.

He is a man's man, and a Marine's Marine. This outfit will be well lead.

Semper fi!





No doubt. And probably well led as well!!!
Link Posted: 2/15/2006 5:55:10 PM EDT

Originally Posted By BobCole:

Originally Posted By paramarine326:
I've known Denny Hejlik for several years. I was privileged to have attended his promotion ceremony when he got his star.

He is a man's man, and a Marine's Marine. This outfit will be well lead.

Semper fi!





No doubt. And probably well led as well!!!



Yeah, that too!
(So spelling ain't my strong suit!)
Link Posted: 2/15/2006 6:02:40 PM EDT
[Last Edit: 2/15/2006 6:03:44 PM EDT by Pointman_M4A1]

Originally Posted By paramarine326:

(So spelling ain't my strong suit!)



Well you are a Marine


Semper Fi,

DOC
Link Posted: 2/15/2006 6:12:16 PM EDT
I have a question: Has the USMC ever had a special ops unit or part before now?

I seem to remember reading about the pros and cons of this several years back while it was being debated.

Link Posted: 2/15/2006 6:14:22 PM EDT

Originally Posted By Pointman_M4A1:

Originally Posted By paramarine326:

(So spelling ain't my strong suit!)



Well you are a Marine


Semper Fi,

DOC



Exactly. Spelling isnt the strong suit of any Marine - Killing is, however.
Link Posted: 2/15/2006 6:22:21 PM EDT

Originally Posted By Bubblehead597:
I have a question: Has the USMC ever had a special ops unit or part before now?

I seem to remember reading about the pros and cons of this several years back while it was being debated.




Marine Raiders during WWII
Link Posted: 2/15/2006 6:25:09 PM EDT

Originally Posted By bulldog1967:

Originally Posted By Bubblehead597:
I have a question: Has the USMC ever had a special ops unit or part before now?

I seem to remember reading about the pros and cons of this several years back while it was being debated.




Marine Raiders during WWII



Raiders > All
Link Posted: 2/15/2006 6:29:03 PM EDT
Thank you for the info. I take it from reading most of the chronology that they were all disbanded following the end of WWII?
Link Posted: 2/15/2006 6:52:57 PM EDT
Thanks for the info.
Link Posted: 2/15/2006 6:59:48 PM EDT
the Corps has always had special operations units. the difference was they we not offered up to a joint command, they were reserved exclusively for the MEU commander or theatre commander.

does anyone know if the old SOCEX method of spooling up a MEU and certifying it for special operations is going to continue? it would be a shame if that system was scrapped because there would be MARSOC Marines alfoat. The old system worked off of what is known commonly to trigger pullers...that theres nothing magical about special operations if you give a grunt the training and then give him the mission they can get it done. for instance, the extract of scott o'grady from bosnia was done by a mortar platoon who had been training for the TRAP mission. i think traning platoons from the line for special operations missions pays off dividends when it comes to the quality of your force. i would hate to see the SOTG go away because of this.
Link Posted: 2/15/2006 7:04:12 PM EDT

Originally Posted By SJSAMPLE:
Cool.
USMC finally getting into SOCOM.

.....Just like The Army.




Yeah. They were just used to getting the job done without needing speshul forzes.
Link Posted: 2/15/2006 7:11:25 PM EDT

Originally Posted By adair_usmc:

Originally Posted By bulldog1967:

Originally Posted By Bubblehead597:
I have a question: Has the USMC ever had a special ops unit or part before now?

I seem to remember reading about the pros and cons of this several years back while it was being debated.




Marine Raiders during WWII



Raiders > All



I think the name for their new spec ops unit should be called the Raiders. Can't wait till I graduate.
Link Posted: 2/16/2006 1:56:07 PM EDT

Originally Posted By DvlDog:
the Corps has always had special operations units. the difference was they we not offered up to a joint command, they were reserved exclusively for the MEU commander or theatre commander.

does anyone know if the old SOCEX method of spooling up a MEU and certifying it for special operations is going to continue? it would be a shame if that system was scrapped because there would be MARSOC Marines alfoat. The old system worked off of what is known commonly to trigger pullers...that theres nothing magical about special operations if you give a grunt the training and then give him the mission they can get it done. for instance, the extract of scott o'grady from bosnia was done by a mortar platoon who had been training for the TRAP mission. i think traning platoons from the line for special operations missions pays off dividends when it comes to the quality of your force. i would hate to see the SOTG go away because of this.



Don't know, but I hope that they still keep the old method, as well.
Link Posted: 2/16/2006 1:58:47 PM EDT
I love this kind of stuff.
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