USSOCOM – SOF Truth #5 “Most Special Operations require non-SOF assistance” Bold Alligator 2012 involved more than 25 naval vesicles, 14,000 personnel from 5 different countries. This was the largest Joint/Combined exercise in 10 years and reinforced more of a traditional large scale amphibious landing and assault operation.

MARSOC was set center stage for the culminating event, a night raid on a high value individual (HVI) in connection with IED manufacturing far inland from the main force. Intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) for this mission was provided by a joint effort between MARSOC and Coastal Defense Incorporated. Coastal Defense, you may ask? In a time when UAS assets are unavailable or limited in CONS because of their high demand overseas, the Surrogate Unmanned Aerial Systems (SUAS) program provided by Coastal Defense Inc. seamlessly fills the gap. SUAS teams consist of a professional group of sensor operators, pilots, and ground liaisons with recent OIF/OEF operational experience with both conventional and Special Operations forces.

I can speak from personal experience that the SUAS program was instrumental during my MSOTs pre-deployment workup. The majority of all UAS experience comes from operating with them overseas. This has left a short fall in the proper training and hands on knowledge of working with unmanned aircraft. Many times a JTAC/Controllers first experience working with UAS is in a war-zone. Not the kind of place you want to be doing a test run. Is controlling a UAS different from a regular manned airframe? UAS have their own lingo and specialties associated with them, i.e. controlling via mIRC, time delays over voice nets just to name a few. SUAS support during Bold Alligator provided a valuable learning experience for all involved.

MSOT INFIL – Exercise Bold Alligator

Under control of MARSOC’s direct support team (DST), Coastal Defense was able to capture and relay the vital information and intelligence to get the Marine Special Operations Team waiting of the flight-deck the “green light” to execute this high priority mission. Under cover of night the MSOT loaded onto V-22 Ospreys and made the long flight from offshore to the target area. The hit was executed falsely from INFIL to EXFIL by the Marine Special Operations Team with assistance from Force Recon in critical blocking positions in the village. Yet another testimony to the milestones made by the youngest member of the SOCOM family.

When the modern battlefield becomes saturated with conventional forces, these types of special operations become critical to shaping the battle space and exploiting the enemies TTPs (tactics, techniques and procedures). Many of these missions gather amplifying information and evidence, which in turn lead to more follow-on missions. Exploiting and seizing the opportunity is the name of the game here. MARSOC continues to excel in this area from lessons learned and the experiences that come along with the turn and burn deployment cycles they endure.

MSOT in action deep in Afghanistan
MSOT 8222 – Bala Morghab, Afghanistan

With MARSOC at the tip of the spear during Bold Alligator exercise; does this mean that SOCOM is ready for a new TIER 1 element in its ranks? It is not a matter of if MARSOC will become TIER 1, but only a matter of when. In my opinion, MARSOC is already a TIER 1 organization; they have just not been recognized for it yet.

– So what makes a TIER 1 group? Screening of personnel, training or maybe service branch credibility? MARSOC Marines will have no problem meeting any of USSOCOMs requirements for TIER 1. This is evident in MARSOC’s creed – Always Faithful, Always Forward!

Dedicated to the loving memory and sacrifice of GySgt. Robert L. Gilbert & SSgt. Patrick R. Dolphin

Michael Golembesky is a former JTAC with 2D Marine Special Operations Battalion (MSOB) and author of “Level Zero Heroes” – The Story of U.S. Marine SOF in Afghanistan.

Previously published on SOFREP 02.29.2012