MARSOC evolving into Marine Raiders might have been the greatest asymmetrical operation in the history of MARSOC. Half kidding, but it was a long road filled with lots of conflict along the way. In typical Marine fashion, the USMC was stubborn, and MARSOC (Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command) used the tools they had to accomplish the mission.
Before we go forward discussing the name change, it would be unjust if I fail to mention how we got to this point.
In 2003, the Marine Corps established a pilot program called Marine Corps Detachment One to assess our capability to operate in the special operations space. It was disbanded in 2006 and was succeeded by MARSOC. In 2006, 1st and 2nd Force Reconnaissance Companies cased their colors and became 1st and 2nd Marine Special Operations Bn, now 1st and 2nd Marine Raider Bn.
Marines began to connect with the Raider lineage as you can see in Det One’s logo below, and almost immediately upon MARSOC’s establishment, Marines connected those dots as well. That connection was further established with the World War II Raider Association, based on MARSOC critical skills operators calling themselves Raiders and wearing the patch. The association actually sent a bunch of the iconic Raider patches to 1st and 2nd Raider Bn Marines while they were deployed in Afghanistan.
“The military in general derives it names and traditions from our predecessors. We are finally paying homage to the men who paved a path for us in the past and for all of special operations. We can now honor them and continue to set the standard for special operations to come.” —Marine Raider
The name change to identify MARSOC Marines as Raiders was not publicly supported by the United States Marine Corps. That’s because there is no special units within the Marine Corps. A Marine is already special. Ironically enough, this is essentially the reason why the original Raider battalions were disbanded in 1944. But thanks to the continual support from the WWII Raider Association and the majority of the MARSOC command, we were granted the honor of carrying on the Raider lineage within special operations.
One of the most notable events was when General Amos (the USMC commandant at the time, shown above) had a patch slapped on his sleeve by U.S. Marine Raider Association President Andy Koehler during a WWII Raider reunion in Wilmington, North Carolina. Amos had shot down the request of MARSOC Marines calling themselves Raiders, so obviously this created quite a stir throughout the community.
The general was a good sport about it, and I truly believe that it is incidents like this one that laid the groundwork for change. In the years that have passed since, critical skills operators have begun wearing the Raider patch on deployments and adopting it in their team shirts and tattoos.
I personally felt like this was a huge victory for our community. As silly sounding as needing a name to identify with might be, it is a sign of respect in the special operations community. What better sign than something we have already identified with for decades? Everyone understands what a Navy SEAL or a Green Beret is, but what exactly is a CSO? The official adoption of “Raiders” will set up MARSOC for the future and assist them in solidifying their position within special operations.
“The CSO, Recon, SOAG, Devil Dog identity crisis has hopefully has been solved with the Marine Raider title. Whether or not SEALs are the best, they’re still a household name built on a badass reputation from the frogmen of the Vietnam era. Hopefully ‘Marine Raider’ has the same reputation inside and outside of our community in the near future.”
“And it really begins with distinguishing/separating the 0372 from every other Marine. Also, on our side of the house, it boosts morale and gives us espirit de corps that our community has been lacking (which has held us back) for decades.” —Marine Raider
This comment took me back to how leadership was telling us we were not special, even though we went through selection after selection and continued to prove ourselves as the tip of the spear for our organization. “Well, if a cook or administrative Marine could do my job, why is he not here?” It felt as if the Marine Corps’ leadership completely discredited how hard we had to work to get to the position that we were in.
My personal opinions are probably obvious, but I was curious to hear what my brothers who were still active had to say about it. It was pretty even across the board, with one small issue. The agreement to the name change was not exclusive to critical skills operators; it includes the support Marines as well. While we truly appreciate and have deep friendships with the warriors who support us, it does not make sense that they also carry on the name.
“Basically the Marine Corps won. They generalized the Raider name and its recognition to the masses. Quoted from the original Raiders, ‘Who did you guys call Raiders?’ The response? ‘Men who killed Japs, members of whatever Raider battalion they were.’ Now everyone is hailed as a Raider, and yet again the CSO and SOO community has no true delineation separating them from the masses. We claimed the title Raider to set apart and claim a title from the past.”
“Yet the only name change is from the regiment. Support battalions, and operation battalion companies are still Marine Special Operations Companies (MSOC), teams are still Marine Special Operations Teams (MSOT), a CSO is still a CSO. With everyone calling themselves Raiders, the confusion shall continue with who’s who. At the end of the day, people can tell who’s a team guy and who’s not, but to the operators of the unit, it’s a communal water fountain.” —Active-duty Raider
In the other communities, you don’t see a support individual supporting an ODA calling themselves a Green Beret. You don’t see a JTAC supporting a Navy SEAL team call himself an NSO. Did you go to selection? Did you go to the Q Course, BUD/S, ITC?
There are also talks at the executive leadership level about a MARSOC device similar to the SEAL community’s trident or the Green Berets’ Special Forces tab. I would imagine that this is something that will take some time to establish, just as it took some time for our official change to Marine Raiders.
We still have some changes that need to happen, but all in all this is a huge step forward as well as an honor for the Marines in Det One, the two Force Recon units who established MARSOC, and the Raiders who serve SOCOM now. I think the issues will eventually solve themselves, but we have taken a huge step in the right direction.