As many readers have recently seen, the Marine Corps has authorized Raiders (MARSOC) with the military occupational specialties (MOS) of critical skills operators (0372) and special operations officers (0370) to wear the newly released Marine Special Operator insignia after a decade of attempts to make it a reality. However, while the informed public is applauding the decision, not all Raiders are jumping on the bandwagon just yet – if ever.
One of their biggest issues is not necessarily with the end result, but the voting process itself. One anonymous active duty Marine Raider said, “The voting process for the insignia options were not made available to everyone in the community as it was supposed to, so there is frustration with how that was handled. However, we are ultimately satisfied with the current selection. It is good be recognized within the SOF community by having our own insignia.”
He added, “If anything it validates Raiders within the eyes of the Marine Corps, who have historically been resistant to accepting us. We are part of SOF, and we are able to represent the Marine Corps with distinction.”
There are two predominant stances taken by Raiders (and Reconnaissance Marines) on the matter of the insignia.
The first and most common line of thought is that the insignia is a great way to honor the lineage of modern Raiders, while also acknowledging their personal achievement in earning the title of Marine Special Operator. A recent quote from a Marine Corps Times article confirmed this when the source stated, “This is about the young Marines and recognizing the qualifications that they have earned.”
Those who are supportive of the idea within the Recon and Raider communities are glad to see this change, not necessarily because they care about being recognized, but because it finally puts an end to the hassle of outsiders confusing their separate communities by not being able to discern between them in uniform. Raiders were at times even mistaken for support personnel on occasion by higher commands during deployments.
In years past, Marine Recon and MARSOC operators could typically be identified by their distinctive dive bubble and jump wings that were pinned over their heart – when earned.
That leads to the main question in the second line of thought regarding the insignia, which is, “What does the insignia actually do for these warriors at the end of the day?” Is there an actual need to differentiate by introducing the insignia, or is it just a marketing tool disguised as a noble gesture?
One source from an article by the official website of the United States Marine Corps stated, “This badge serves as a visual certification that they have trained and prepared to accept their new responsibilities.” Some Raiders argue that such a visual representation isn’t necessary for these men. Another source from the same article stated, “This badge will distinguish a SOF-qualified Marine, just as the combat crew wings distinguish an aviation crew chief or the jump wings and dive bubble distinguish a Recon Marine”.
Some Raiders are arguing that the dive bubble and jump wings that have long distinguished Recon Marines and Raiders alike, should still be good enough for them.
It has been said by some in the Raider and Reconnaissance communities that high numbers of Reconnaissance men and Raiders are having trouble passing dive school these days (in all fairness it is an INCREDIBLY difficult school), and their problem is that those men who weren’t able to earn their dive insignia now get to wear a new insignia. It isn’t that these Raiders don’t deserve it and shouldn’t be proud to wear the new insignia, but it ostensibly takes away from what used to be the pride of earning your combat dive bubble and jump wings because now you’ll always have your MARSOC insignia to fall back on.
This stems from the fact that with the new age of the Marine Corps, men are highly prepped for many of the schools through online programs, yet they still aren’t passing in large numbers. In the old days, you had no formal prep – you just showed up in the best shape you could possibly be in and made it happen without knowing what to expect.
An anonymous active duty Marine Raider who is in favor of the insignia had this to say, “Dive school used to be a rite of passage for Recon and Force Recon Marines (pre-MARSOC). There was an old saying that if you’re not a diver, you’re not a Recon Marine. Having your dive bubble is something to be very proud of.”
To add to the case of those in opposition, these former Recon Marines and Special Operators point to the fact that other branches of the military do not have special insignia for each tier within their special operations groups. For example, there is no difference in insignia for SEALs and DevGru, Special Forces and Delta, etc. So why is there a difference between Recon and Force Recon – who already wear combat diver and gold jump wings if they earn them – and MARSOC? Yes, technically Recon and Force Recon are not part of US Special Operations, but they have many of the same capabilities.
A Marine Raider source said, “Although we all get along fine with one another, MARSOC simply isn’t Recon and we deserve a different identifier – not to forget where we came from (Recon community) – but to distinguish ourselves because our capabilities, responsibilities and missions are different.”
One very positive thing that is sure to come out of this is that the insignia will ensure only personnel within MARSOC commands who have gone through the proper qualifications and schools will be identified as special operators. Currently there are significant numbers of officers in particular (this does not refer to H&S support personnel, but actual commanders at different levels) who have never gone to ITC to become operators, yet they are ostensibly posing as operators within that community simply by being assigned there. Only those who earn the title will be able to wear it. It will incentivize Marines in that community that are not currently qualified as operators, to become qualified instead of just hanging out with their jump wings on. This will be a great opportunity to see leadership by example from those Marines by paying the price to represent that community.
No matter which side you take – supporting the new insignia, or thinking it is unnecessary – at least one thing is true: Those who earn the title of Marine Raider are among the most elite warfighters in the world, and they deserve respect for their achievement.