I found an excellent piece that explains the relationship the USMC now has with US SOCOM.
By: Eric O’Neil, USMC Officer
Force Recon should not be confused with the newly established (circa. 2007) Marine Special Operations Command (MARSOC). Whereas MARSOC is Special Operations Command’s (USSOCOM’s) newest unit, Force Recon is considered a “Special Operations Capable” unit that belongs exclusively to the Marine Corps.
A good way of explaining this difference is to understand how things worked before 2007, and how they now work.
(Some would dispute this) but the Marine Corps has in the past been considered the US’ “elite” force. The Marine Corps is a quick reaction force and are experts at conducting amphibious operations, which are considered the most challenging of all military engagements to pull off. In WWII, for example, the Marine Corps was able to be quickly deployed to the Pacific and began their brutal “island hopping campaign” years before the Army was able to land forces in North Africa and Normandy.
As a result (and because of the fact that the Marine Corps has come close to being disbanded several times), Marines are a proud species. We really do think that we are the best. As a result, with the advent and growth of the Special Operations community in the 1970s and 1980s, the Marine Corps resisted in creating its own Special Operations unit. When SOCOM was inaugurated in 1987, the Marines chose not to include their own Force Recon. The attitude of the Marine Corps at the time was essentially, ”Every Marine is special and elite, therefore we refuse to label some Marines as being more special and elite than the others.”
Force Recon was created in the 1950s. Its mission, then and now, was to go deep behind enemy lines in order to gather reconnaissance of the enemy (hence Force RECON). They are similar to the Navy SEALs in that they are heavily trained in airborne and combat diving techniques in order to allow them to bypass traditional land defense systems. The water, and swimming, is a heavy component of being in Force Recon (they are Marines after all, we operate on the sea). The difference between them is that the SEALs’ purpose is to kill the enemy, while Force Recon’s main purpose is simply to gather intelligence. Force Recon’s mission is considered a success if absolutely no shots are fired. Marines in Force Recon are absolutely trained in direct action missions, and are capable of performing in combat situations, but that is not their primary role.
Fast forward to immediately after 9/11.
The United States sends its most elite operatives (SOCOM) into Afghanistan way before it sends in conventional forces. This is the role that Marines have historically been employed in. However, since the Marine Corps declined to have any units in SOCOM, no Marines are sent to Afghanistan during the opening stages of the war. The top brass of the Marine Corps had to suffer the embarrassment of being the only branch of the military with no troops in Afghanistan immediately post-9/11.
As a result, the Marines, working closely with then Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld, reversed course and created MARSOC to be the Marine Corps’ unit in SOCOM, starting in 2007. As of now, MARSOC has had to find its own niche in the already crowded SOCOM community. Its current role is a lot like the Army’s Special Forces (Green Berets), working closely with foreign militaries to help in training. Since the Marine Corps has historically had a heavy presence in Southeast Asia, MARSOC has been working closely with military forces in places like the Philippines, Australia, Malaysia, South Korea, and Indonesia to train their military forces to combat al-Qaeda and other threats.
But the question is about Force Recon, not MARSOC.
Read the rest here.