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Marine Raiders with Marine Forces Special Operations Command participate in Para Bellum Horizon 23 alongside foreign partners and special guests on Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, May 15-17, 2023. Para Bellum Horizon is an annual wargame event designed to continuously evaluate the deployment of MARSOC forces in ever-changing environments. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Henry Rodriguez)

Photo by Cpl. Henry Rodriguez 

Para Bellum Horizon 23: Let the games begin

2 Aug 2023 | Cpl. Henry Rodriguez II Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command

CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. - U.S. Marines are wargaming a new type of Special Operations Force deployable team with the help of foreign partners and the Center for Naval Analyses.

Para Bellum Horizon is an annual wargame in the MARSOC wargame series designed to challenge key leaders in the command to come up with innovative solutions to complex and dynamic problem sets.

This year’s event featured a unique breakdown of personnel into two teams with different operational concepts. Team A, known as the “as is” force, spent the wargame working under MARSOC’s current concept of employment. Team B, known as the “to be” force, worked while testing new potential operating concepts.

“As we move through the scenario and events, the goal is to help MARSOC see where the design and deployment of forces can evolve to different challenges in the world,” said Megan Katt, the program director for Para Bellum Horizon 2023 from Center for Naval Analyses. “We want to gain more understanding of how MARSOC can leverage its resources, those of the joint force, and those of partners and allies to contend in the battle space of the future.”

Throughout the course of the three-day exercise, participants were given an initial scenario on which to base their deploying force. Following their initial setup, individual events were injected that the participating teams were required to respond to with the resources and personnel they notionally had available.

As the scenario progressed, participants were able to reflect on their decisions and how the insights could directly apply to MARSOC.

“This event really helps bring together specialists and operators within the community,” said a special operations officer participating in the wargame. “As we go through, we illuminate what MARSOC’s capabilities are now and what we bring to the future with our contributions of strategic shaping and reconnaissance for both the special operations enterprise and the larger Marine Corps.”

The individual members of the teams were aided by a panel of experts from a variety of backgrounds that helped provide insight into external factors that would weigh on decision making in a real-life scenario.

Upon the conclusion of the event, the information gleaned from the three days proved useful on multiple fronts. For the small unit leaders acting as troop leaders, completing iterations of strategic planning and employment of troops helps improve combat effectiveness.

“The data we pull from this exercise will show the strengths and weaknesses of the current force design structure at MARSOC,” said the wargame lead for Para Bellum Horizon 202 and member of the futures division with MARSOC CD&I. “It will help shape future force development for senior leaders within the command.”

As the strategic environment continues to change, Para Bellum Horizon 2023 helps MARSOC understand what will be necessary for the future employment of the force.

“This wargame will identify what MARSOC’s force requirements are to progress forward with the strategic shaping and reconnaissance mission of the command moving forward,” said a plans officer with MARSOC CD&I.

As pointed out by one of the critical skills operators involved in the wargame, “I think we are much closer to the Marine Special Operations Team of the future than we realize.”

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