What I am about to say is going to blow some O-rings out there. I’m hoping it will blow some minds as well. I say this from a position of love and affection for my beloved Corps. As a whole, the Marine Corps sets higher standards and embraces Mother Violence better than the other branches. We are the President’s 911 force…we are the smallest branch of service…and I am honest as shit, proud to be a Marine.
But this needs to be said and it is a long time coming. OK, here goes… “Regular Marines are not fucking equal to SOF! If you think Boot Camp and SOI have put you on the same operational plane as a Green Beret, CCT, Ranger, CSO or SEAL, then you have really bought into that recruitment commercial of some PFC slaying a dragon with a fucking NCO sword! I love you, Marine, but you drank too much of the Tun Tavern Kool-Aid. You’re drunk and you need to go home.”
I can’t keep track of how many times some 03-whatever or some non-infantry, extra-motivated type has told me how, “Every Marine is a Rifleman.” And how there are no ‘special’ Marines because all Marines are equally outstanding. If you are one of these Devil Dogs and you harbor this belief, then you are truly living in the Matrix. To put it simply: you don’t know what you don’t know.
I confess! I was once one of them. I used to think that, because I shot expert on the annual rifle range and ran a 300 PFT, I was a warrior of the highest order. As I bumbled my way through my first deployment, I gained an unbridled confidence in my abilities as a war fighter. And then on my second deployment, I was billeted across from the SEAL compound. That’s when I saw my first Remote Weapon System on an MRAP, my first MK-48, the first glimpse of men riding ATVs into Indian Country. That’s when things started to fall into perspective.
That is when I realized the bar was in fact set a lot higher for being a professional warrior.
I was fortunate in that the SEALs living next to me were extremely humble and generous with their time. They took us to a range, gave us time on their weapons (which were way cooler than my M16-A4). They gave us some 77 grain 5.56 ammo for our designated marksmen. Most importantly, they talked to us and not down at us.
That was the first experience I had with SOF, and it really opened my eyes.
Marines have pride buried in their DNA. And I think this pride is threatened by the fact that there are small groups of warriors out there that have the word ‘special’ attached to them. Maybe if the phrase ‘special operations’ was never coined this wouldn’t be such an issue. Maybe if we were called something other than ‘special’ it wouldn’t threaten the pride of all my Teufel Hunde.
As someone who is both a Marine and a member of a unit that is ‘special’, perhaps I can put things into perspective, much like those SEALs put things into perspective for me, years ago.
First off, Operators are not the best at everything. For example, I am the Weapons Sgt. for my team. I am expected to be proficient in foreign weapons of all varieties, as well as our team organic weapons, such as light, medium and heavy machine guns, mortars, rockets and missiles. That does not mean I am better at mortar gunnery than a Marine Mortarman. I am not more proficient at machine gunnery than a Marine Machine Gunner. I know a little bit about a lot of things, but I am a master of none. I believe this misconception about SOF bears a lot of responsibility for the Marine Corps’ negative attitude towards Special Operations.
Second: not even all Marines are created equal! Not all Marines can be Scout-Snipers or be a MCIWS. It is a fact that some Marines just do not have the physical ability, the inner drive or the intelligence to be whatever they want. If we can accept this truth about Marines, than maybe we can begin to open our collective minds and explore the possibility that not every Marine is qualified to be a SOF Operator.
That’s my rant. Feel free to slam me on my lack of loyalty for the Corps. Just do me this kindness: if you’re a Marine who is going heavy on the rhetoric, try to educate yourself a little bit about what SOF really means.
(Featured Image Courtesy: DVIDS. Marines with Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, NATO – International Security Assistance Force conduct operations in Garmsir District, Helmand province, Afghanistan.)