Intro: The purpose of this article is to shed a little light on the linear heritage line of MARSOC as the newest and youngest component of SOCOM. The original spark of inspiration for this piece came to me in a small bar called the “Public House” in La Jolla, California, just north of San Diego. I was on a mission to put back as many free imported beers as possible because Jeff Scholz, the owner of Visual Unrest Apparel, was graciously picking up the tab. In the mix with some MARSOC team guys, the conversation was laced with crude humor, blunt talk and booze. The topic: MARSOC is thinking about developing a device for CSOs (Critical Skills Operators-0372) to wear that would rival the show-stopping effect of the SEALs Special Warfare insignia, which, in my opinion, is the greatest recruiting tool ever, next to the 1917 Navy Recruiting Poster by artist Howard Chandler Christy.
This is how we arrive to the subject of this article, MARSOC and its association to the legendary Marine Raiders of Merritt Edson and Evans Carlson. Make no mistake; I hold three things very near and dear to my heart. My Velcro Raider patch from my time with MSOT 8222 is one of them, the others being my little girl and a pink shower towel that was given to me as a joke from my fellow team member GySgt. Robert Gilbert (DOW March 16, 2010).
In order to understand where the MARSOC/Raider heritage is today, we must state the facts and place them in the modern Marine Corps atmosphere of today.
Back-story: For the sake of argument and to keep this article to a digestible length let’s assume we all have a relatively good grasp of the units that lead up to the formation and unfurling of the MARSOC colors. Born in the belly of Southeast Asia under the banner of “Raiders”, Battalion Recon, Marine Reconnaissance; Force Recon in the jungles of Vietnam/Cambodia to the short-lived and milestone achievements of DET-1 in Iraq.
Current Command: I understand both positions here. MARSOC is a new creation unto its self and wants to generate a new line of modern warriors in the SOCOM family. I get it. No matter how deep the Raider/Recon heritage roots goes, MARSOC does not want to bring along the politics and infighting that comes from a bloodline that started in 1942 (USSOCOM was formed in 1987). I understand that MARSOC wants to start a fresh; but the Marine in me wants an official recognition of the heritage. MARSOC was created on the back of the Marine Reconnaissance community which derived its core warrior ethos from the Raiders legacy. In this “political correct” world we live in, I realize that we can’t have an elite military force operating around the globe called “the Raiders”. I personally have no problem with this but I know for a fact the protected huddled masses out there will have a conniption fit over it, guaranteed. The world is a different place from 1942 or is it? Gear, weapons and mission change yes. But the warrior spirit of Patriots does not.
The personnel that first manned the ranks of MARSOC was an overnight free-for-all grab from Force Recon. The Marines and Sailors were assembled into formation outside of 2nd Force as the command rolled up the colors from 2nd Force Recon and then unfurled the one for 2nd MSOB (Marine Special Operations Battalion). SOCOM waved its magic wand and BOOM! You just went from Marine Recon to SOCOM Special Operations. Do you feel any different?
Fact 1: MSOB unit logos are taken directly from the Raider patch e.g. shield, southern cross star formation, the color blue signifying amphibious capabilities and the bright red color of warrior’s blood shed. The dagger is symbolic of U.S. Special Operations, a throwback to Cloak and Daggers days.
Fact 2: MSOB still goes by the callsign “Raider”. It doesn’t really get any more direct than that? P.S. please do not send me hate mail about “dirtying” callsigns, this in no way compromises OPSEC.
Fact 3: The atrium of the MARSOC HQ building at Stone Bay, NC is literally a museum dedicated to the Marine Raider heritage. In addition, the lower hallways display a hand-full of life size photographs of MSOT 8222 operating in Balal Murghab (BMG), Afghanistan-proudly wearing their Raider patches in combat.
MSOTs in Afghanistan: Marine Special Operations Team 8222 in BMG, Afghanistan 2009-10. We were directly told by our Battalion command that we were not authorized to wear the legendary Raider patch on our uniforms. One of the benefits of having your team assigned to a remote and isolate valley is that you are about 180 km away from the Command Element. This allows you to operate the way you see fit to accomplish the mission at hand. The only downfall is… no running water, living off of airdrop resupplies and spending the harsh Afghan winter in a G.P. tent. Our team wore those patches every day we were in that violent hell-hole valley. They would have to be standing at the passage point of friendly lines to personally remove those patches from us. We wore them with pride and they gave us courage in something bigger than us. We had no choice but to live up our heritage of every patrol.
One thing I hear a lot is “why would you wear a bright blue patch in a war zone, why not subdued colors?” Answer, we were note afraid or concerned with the patches giving away our location. BMG was a hopeless situation and there was no “avoiding the enemy” there. We liked it that way and after the first few run ins with the Taliban and subsequent ass-kicking, they began to associate that “blue patch” to a world of hurt. They became a clear indicators to the enemy that we are not the guys you want to fuck with, go find some NATO/European patrol to ambush… you don’t want this.
EXFIL: Is the Raider heritage alive and well in the MARSOC community? Yes. Will we ever see a “formal” recognition or projected “Raider pride” from the MARSOC command? I would not hold my breath too long. But make no mistake about it, the Raider ethos still exists and is operating downrange in some shitty dark corner of the world as you read this article. Regardless of whether MARSOC will allow the CSO and specialty enablers (e.g. JTACs, EOD, HET, K9…) too proudly/openly carry the title of Raiders? Who knows? But it is in their hearts and it drives their warrior spirit with courage.
There are not too many original Marine Raiders still with us, please visit their Facebook page and give them a big Semper Fi from the SOFREP community. They love to hear that the Raider ethos is still alive and wrecking shop!
In closing, I hope this article sparks a constructive conversation. I hate to end on such a serious note here but we need to make sure that we continue to keep laughing along the way. Below I have posted one of the funniest recruiting videos I have seen to date… enjoy!
Cleared Hot –Ski (BMG Raider 2009-2010)
(Cover photo: courtesy of BMG Archive)
Level Zero Heroes | The Story of U.S. Marine SOF in Bala Murghab, Afghanistan
Dedicated to the loving memory and sacrifice of GySgt. Robert L. Gilbert & SSgt. Patrick R. Dolphin