After years of discussion and intense debate, Operators in MARSOC will now officially earn the title of Raider. After an announcement by General Amos, Commandant of the Marine Corps, 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Marine Special Operations Battalions will be re-designated as 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Marine Raider Battalions, along with other subordinate commands in MARSOC.
The Raider lineage is traced back to the Raider Battalions of WWII. Shortly after the start of WWII, Marines formed Raider Battalions to conduct special operations. The Raider Battalions utilized amphibious insertion techniques to conduct long-range reconnaissance, direct-action, and sabotage missions. The Raiders were involved in many facets of the island-hopping campaign and completed some incredible missions (for more info visit the Marine Raider Association website). After WWII ended, the battalions were disbanded as part of the post-war transition, but their legacy has continued to live on.
The Raiders were a very unique organization. Although there were many things that distinguished them from other US Military units at the time, one practice has continued to resonate with me to this day. Gung Ho is a Chinese phrase that means working together. The Commanding Officer of 2nd Raider Battalion, LtCol Evans Carlson, picked up this phrase while serving as an attachment to Mao’s 8th Route Army fighting in China, and used this to inspire his junior Raiders to speak up and seize initiative when they felt strongly about a situation or had information that others did not.
He held regular Gung-Ho sessions, in which Raiders of any rank could speak freely and critique their leadership or offer advice on how to solve problems the unit faced. This practice was unorthodox at the time, but went a long ways to develop subordinates as critical-thinkers and problem-solvers, and also increased buy-in from men of all ranks. This is just one of many lessons that has influenced the culture within the Marine Special Operations Teams today.
The men of the Marine Raider Association have been supporters of MARSOC since its inception, and Operators have built strong personal relationships with them. Every time I have attended an event or spent time with any of them I have left humbled, inspired and grateful to have a personal connection with men who have experienced other conflicts in our Nation’s history.
Regardless of any potential sensitivities of creating an ‘elite within an elite’ unit, I trust that everyone can empathize with the WWII Raiders. Their desire was to ensure that their legacy was not forgotten, and the process to formalize this is a logical step in honoring the sacrifices of these great Warriors.
This legacy has been entrusted to the current generation of Marine Special Operators today, and I can personally say that any modern-day Raider will do whatever it takes to uphold the honor of those who have come before him.