The bulletin to stand up MCSOCOM Detachment One came just before the Marine Corps went full-swing into preparation for Operation Iraqi Freedom. This led to some speed bumps getting the unit actually stood up, as so many of the Corps’ resources were dedicated to the coming push to overthrow Saddam. The Command Element was given until 1 March, 2003 to report in, while the rest of the Marines and sailors in the Det had until 1 June. Given operational commitments in Iraq, many didn’t make it until after June 1st.
Col Robert Coates, the Detachment Commander, was one of the first to arrive on March 1st. In fact, being the commander of 1st Special Operations Training Group, he was really already there. Over the next several months the selected personnel began to arrive. While MSgt Troy Mitchell had outlined the billets to be filled, the Reconnaissance MOS monitor, MSgt James Rutan, had gone through the records and selected the Marines to fill those billets. All were experienced Recon Marines, many with nearly 20 years already in service. MSgt Rutan would be the Detachment’s acting Sergeant Major, being the senior enlisted Marine present.
Just about everything about the Det had to be built from scratch. While initial work was done out of 1st Special Operations Training Group’s headquarters, the new compound near the dive locker at Camp Del Mar, on the southwest corner of Camp Pendleton, had to be prepared with few personnel. The Det’s network specialist, Sgt Victor Guerra, had to do a great deal of the work himself, setting up not just the computer networks, but getting power and phone lines into the compound, as well as starting to set up the comm shop. Often Guerra had to deal with staff officers and senior NCOs who vastly outranked him, but Col Coates made it clear that Sgt Guerra spoke for him in such situations. Having the bulk of Camp Pendleton preoccupied with preparing to deploy to Iraq didn’t help things from a logistical standpoint either.
The personnel selected for the Det began to filter in. Lt Col Craig Kozeniesky was appointed the Executive Officer. MSgt Thomas Muratori came in as the Operations Chief. Capt Eric Thompson took command of the Reconnaissance Element, which was to be the core of the Detachment. Thompson had previously served at 1st Force Recon Company under Col Coates and Lt Col Kozeniesky. The Recon Element was set up as having four teams of six men each, along with the commander, platoon sergeant and corpsmen. MSgt Kieth Oakes took over as the platoon sergeant, with GySgt Terry Wyrick, GySgt Joseph Morrison, GySgt Charles Padilla, and GySgt John Dailey as team leaders. All were highly experienced Force Recon Marines. Gunny Morrison was in fact getting ready to retire, but put it off for the opportunity to serve in the Det.