If you were to ask some people in U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Special Operations Command what Master Gunnery Sgt. Mark A. Arnold did for MARSOC, you might find the answer is often, “everything”.
MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. -- Arnold, the recruiting and screening manager for MARSOC, joined the Marine Corps in 1978 and has continued since that time with the determination to accomplish every mission and with a deeply-engrained love for the Corps. Arnold retired on June 20, but the experience and leadership he has built over his 30 years in the Corps won’t be lost on the Marines and sailors of MARSOC.
According to Arnold, taking on and overcoming challenges has been a hallmark of his career, so it comes as no surprise that it started with a challenge.
“My friend John, who I knew from the work I did before I joined the Marine Corps, bet me ten dollars that I wouldn’t join the military and that I couldn’t make it through boot camp, so I took the challenge,” said Arnold. “John still owes me that ten dollars.”
Arnold entered as an infantryman. In February 1979, he was assigned to Marine Barracks North Island Naval Air Station, Calif., to a Marine Security Forces position. After Arnold’s first tour, he still wasn’t sure if he was going to stay in the Corps.
“Making the decision to stay in the Marine Corps was a big decision,” said Arnold. “After my first tour, I was really thinking of getting out, but I stayed in, which I now clearly see was the right choice.”
Arnold continued to develop as a Marine and a leader when he was selected for drill instructor duty.
“One of the best things for me was being able to develop civilians into Marines,” said Arnold. “I was actually selected from the rest of the drill instructors to be a DI instructor, which was a great honor for me.”
During drill instructor duty in September 1986, Arnold met the woman he wanted to spend the rest of his life with.
“The best part of my 30 years in the Marine Corps has been meeting my wife,” explained Arnold. “If you find the right partner, then it will make your career more successful because I was an extremist and she brought balance to my life.”
Arnold said he left the drill field in 1987 after he was chosen to be the first ever Marine instructor for the Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape training course at the SERE training facility in Warner Springs, Calif. Arnold was part of a joint Navy and Marine Corps SERE school that taught advanced survival skills to service members preparing to deploy.
“We brought the Marine side into the school,” said Arnold. “They tasked me and my team to create and teach desert evasion and survival as we were gearing up for Desert Storm.”
It wasn’t until June 2005 that Arnold received orders to be the Senior Enlisted Advisor for the Foreign Military Training Unit, which existed under 4th Marine Expeditionary Brigade. That unit eventually became Marine Special Operations Advisor Group, MARSOC. In October 2006, Arnold became MARSOC’s operations chief, where he worked for just over a year before being assigned to MARSOC’s recruiting team.
As MARSOC builds toward full operational capability by the end of this year, Arnold’s role as manager of recruiting and screening gives him the challenge of filling MARSOC’s subordinate units with special operations warriors. It is the kind of urgent and important challenge he has always looked for in his career as a Marine.
“When you get to be here on the ground floor and be involved in almost every facet of building MARSOC, then continue to see it move forward, it is such an honor,” said Arnold. “We are the tip of the spear, and if we don’t keep going in the right direction, then we could lose what we have already attained.”
Arnold said his father was a World War II veteran who was wounded on Iwo Jima, and that he is proud when he thinks of the legacy he carried on as a Marine. Arnold will continue to work with MARSOC as a civilian conducting the same mission of helping fill MARSOC’s ranks.
“I wish I could stay in the Marine Corps until I pass away,” said Arnold. “You know, they call me a dinosaur and I admit I am a dinosaur, but I feel like a young dinosaur.”