Shortly after the attacks of September 11, 2001, Lt. Colonel J. Giles Kyser was assigned to reinvigorate the lapsed relationship between the USMC and USSOCOM. LtCol. Kyser had previously done a staff tour at SOCEur (Special Operations Command Europe) and had a working knowledge of how SOCOM ran. The ranking Marine filling a billet at SOCOM, Col Paul Hand, was, in contrast, a regular infantry officer, with no Recon, Force Recon, or other special operations background. Only a few months before LtCol Kyser’s arrival, Col Hand had published an article in the Marine Corps Gazette on the subject of a possible Marine force within SOCOM. His conclusion was essentially “It’s a good idea, but no.”
At the time there was no actual consideration of a Marine SOCOM unit; the sole duty of both Col. Hand and LtCol. Kyser was to repair the relationship between SOCOM and the Marine Corps, and reinstate the moribund USMC-SOCOM cooperation board. They encountered strong opposition from both sides. A lot of SOCOM felt the Marine Corps had gotten its chance back in ’86, didn’t want to play, so they could go do their thing. It was felt that the Marines didn’t have anything to offer SOCOM. On the other side, there was the belief that anything SOCOM could do, the Marine Corps could do just as well, maybe better. There was also the fear that a SOCOM unit would drain quality Marines from the Fleet Marine Force.
LtCol. Kyser knew from his personal experiences that the fears and prejudices on both sides were spurious, and worked hard shuttling back and forth between HQUSMC in Washington and SOCOM in Tampa. Commandant Gen James Jones was already shifting the Marine Corps’ official attitude toward SOCOM, especially in the wake of 9/11 and the Special Forces operations in Afghanistan. It was becoming increasingly clear that if the Marine Corps wanted a role in a SOF-centered war, they were going to have to venture more fully into the Special Operations realm, and that meant working with, or even within, SOCOM.
Shortly after 9/11, in fact, General Jones offered forces to SOCOM, in the form of a Force Reconnaissance Platoon. The offer was a major subject for discussion when the Marine-SOCOM board met again for the first time in January, 2002. The NSW representative argued that if a Force Recon platoon was given to SOCOM, it should fall under NSW’s umbrella, as the Marines had a maritime background. USASOC’s rep argued otherwise, urging the Marines to be placed with Army SOF. While at the time, Col. Hand didn’t lean one way or another, he later admitted that he thought it would have been a good idea to partner with USASOC.