U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Special Operations Command celebrated its fifth birthday, which was on Feb. 24, 2011, with a ceremony and presentation of annual awards at the 1st Marine Special Operations Battalion headquarters building March 2, 2011.
A simultaneous ceremony was held at Camp Lejeune which was linked via video teleconference to the West Coast event.
The awards presented included the MARSOC Commander’s Award of Excellence, Special Operations Forces Support Marine of the Year, MARSOC Instructor of the Year, SOF Operator of the Year,
MARSOC Marine of the Year, MARSOC Sailor of the Year, and MARSOC Civilian of the Year.
MARSOC has come a long way in just a few short years. Beginning with former Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, directing the formation of MARSOC in October of 2005, the command was born on Feb. 24, 2006.
“Although we are relatively young, we bring 235 years of ethos that has thrived in chaos and friction and is comfortable in the uncertainty of combat,” said Maj. Gen. Paul E. Lefebvre, MARSOC commander, during a speech at the ceremony.
Even though MARSOC is still a new command within the U.S. Marine Corps and U.S. Special Operations Command, special operations is not a new concept with Marines.
“The Marines of MARSOC continue to build upon the war fighting excellence established by the Marine Raiders of 1941,” said Capt. Waiann W. Mai, the ceremony’s narrator.
The Raider units were a highly trained and lightly armed force whose mission had three categories: make amphibious landings ahead of larger landings on beaches thought to be inaccessible, surprise raids requiring swiftness and conduct operations behind enemy lines utilizing guerrilla tactics.
“Edson’s Raiders of the 1st Marine Raider Battalion and Carlson’s Raiders of the 2nd Marine Raider Battalion are said to be the first U.S. special operations forces to form and see combat in World War II,” said Mai.
As advances in aviation brought about the more common use of helicopters, the Commandant of the Marine Corps approved the activation of Marine Test Unit 1 in 1954.
“This unit developed and performed innovative clandestine insertion methods before the Navy SEALs and the Army’s Green Berets (U.S. Army Special Forces),” said Mai.
These methods were then practiced and developed further in between conflicts with Test Unit 1 until Marine force reconnaissance units were created after combining Test Unit 1 and the Amphibious Reconnaissance Battalion to create the first force reconnaissance companies.
“Force reconnaissance companies deployed to Vietnam in 1965 and operated independently behind enemy lines, conducting deep reconnaissance and direct action using heliborne and waterborne insertions and extractions,” said Mai.
“An agreement between the Marine Corps and U.S. Special Operations Command lead to the activation of Marine Corps Special Operations Command Detachment 1 on June 19, 2003,” said Mai. “As the Global War on Terrorism drew more and more heavily on special operations units it was decided to formally incorporate a Marine special operations force element into SOCOM to ensure success in the long war ahead.”
MARSOC has come a long way in just five years but will continue to grow in the future and uphold Marine Corps traditions which is described in the motto, “Marines are who we are, special operations are what we do.”
Lefebvre stated that MARSOC’s successes are due to the accomplishments of its Marines, Sailors, civilians and most importantly their families.
“Our goal will never be to merely participate, it will be to lead the effort. We will never be happy with the status quo, we are fixers and innovators and we must keep pressure on the system,” said Lefebvre.