What takes place before a Marine Raider unit is deemed ready to deploy downrange and pour some hate onto the nation’s enemies?

The answer is RAVEN.

This final certification exercise is a scalable unit readiness test that encompasses many command structures and capabilities. It can assess, for example, the leadership qualities of a whole company or an individual team. Moreover, it tests both the individual and collective capabilities of an MSOT. These could range from marksmanship to Tactical Combat Casualty Care (TCCC) to comms.

Since 2012, Marine Raider units have to go through RAVEN before they are deemed operational and send out on a deployment. RAVEN is culmination of the six-month training cycle that precedes a deployment.

During the most recent RAVEN, the Marine Raider officer in charge (OIC) of the training event said that the exercise’s scenario design

“incorporates current and future dynamics the joint force may encounter to present exercise participants challenges across the range of military operations. Within this, participants must account for the implications of tactical actions across operational and strategic levels. The great thing about RAVEN is that it lets a unit execute full spectrum operations in a realistic military training environment without any requirements to support the exercise.”

With every iteration the exercise is refined, incorporating lessons learned from previous RAVENs as well as from recently returned units from deployments. Technological and materiel advances, both friendly and enemy, are also incorporated in every new iteration to mirror the operational reality as closely as possible.

“This enables the exercise the ability to immediately implement the Commander’s initiatives while quickly adapting to emerging indicators of the future operating environment,” added the OIC.

Another important aspect of RAVEN is the opportunity it provides to both Raider units and conventional forces, regardless of branch, to familiarize themselves with their respective operating procedures. One of the five SOF Truths is that most Special Operations units require conventional assistance to be effective; and recent combat operations have highlighted the veracity of that statement. Whether an Army infantry platoon supports and SEAL platoon in Afghanistan or a Marine platoon operates alongside a Special Forces Operational Detachment in Syria, interoperability between SOF and conventional forces is essential for both to be more lethal.

SOF are inherently reliant on support from joint forces across conventional and SOF formations,” added the OIC.

“Conventional forces gain the exposure and experience of working aside SOF units and the joint force improves interoperability with both SOF and conventional forces. As Marines, [Raiders] are intimately familiar with the task organized Marine Air-Ground Task Force concept. Our understanding of the MAGTF, and both USMC and SOCOM concept allow us to improve institutional and operational cooperation through interdependence, interoperability, and integration with conventional forces.”

Established in 2006, MARSOC is the latest addition to the U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM). It’s comprised of three Marine Raider Battalions (MRB), which contain four Marine Special Operations Companies (MSOC), with each MSOC having four Marine Special Operations Teams (MSOT).