MARSOC – component command of the US SOCOM

Author: Eric Sof


As a service component of USSOCOM, MARSOC is tasked by the Commander USSOCOM to train, organize, equip; deploy task-organized, scalable, and responsive U.S. Marine Corps special operations forces worldwide in support of combatant commanders and other agencies. The command initially consisted of a small staff and the Foreign Military Training Unit (FMTU), which had been formed to conduct Foreign Internal Defense. FMTU is now designated as the Marine Special Operations Advisor Group.

Marine Forces Special Operations Command (MARSOC) has been directed to conduct Foreign Internal Defense, Direct Action, and Special Reconnaissance. It has also been directed to develop a capability in Unconventional Warfare, Counter-Terrorism, and Information Operations.

Marine Raiders often abbreviated as MARSOC Raiders are part of the United States Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command
Marine Raiders often abbreviated as MARSOC Raiders are part of the United States Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command (Photo: MARSOC)


Marine Forces Special Operations Command is created on 1 November 2005 and that was announced by US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, following a meeting between him, the USSOCOM commander General Bryan D. Brown, and the Marine Corps Commandant General Michael Hagee on October 28, 2005. MARSOC was officially activated on February 24, 2006, with ceremonies at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.

Marine Corps participation in SOCOM has been controversial since SOCOM was formed in 1986. At the time, Marine Corps leaders felt that their Force Reconnaissance units were best kept in the Marine Corps’ MAGTF command structure and that the detachment of an “elite” Marine Special Operations unit from the Marine Corps would be to the detriment of the Marine Corps as a whole.

Following the September 11 attacks and the War on Terror, they made a re-evaluation, along with a new policy established by Secretary Rumsfeld and then-Commandant Gen. James L. Jones at The Pentagon, caused the Marine Corps to work towards integration with SOCOM.

MARSOC Raiders aiming their weapons during the training
Marine Raiders aiming their weapons during the training (Photo: Pinterest/Marines)

The establishment of Marine Forces Special Operations Command represented the most significant step towards that goal and followed the establishment of MCSOCOM Detachment One (DET1), a small Marine Corps detachment formed as a pilot program to test Marine Corps integration into SOCOM. It was made up of mostly Force Recon Marines from 1st and 2nd Force Reconnaissance Companies along with other hand-picked support men and served with Navy SEALs under Naval Special Warfare Group One.

Detachment 1 conducted a multitude of special operations in Iraq alongside their Special Operations brothers of the sister services. SOCOM conducted a study of the unit’s deployment, which clearly indicated success and strong performance. Detachment 1 was disbanded in 2006 soon after the creation of MARSOC.

Marine Forces Special Operations Command deployed its first units in August 2006, 6 months after initial activation. The first Marine Special Operations Individual Training Course began at Camp Lejeune on 6 October 2008. MARSOC’s stated end-goal is 850 CSOs. MARSOC has reached its full operational capability in 2008.


MARSOC has around 2,500 Marines and sailors under its command and their current commander is Major General James F. Glynn.

  • Marine Special Operations Battalions (MSOB)
    • 1st MSOB (Camp Pendleton, CA)
    • 2nd MSOB (Camp Lejeune, NC)
  • Marine Special Operations Advisor Group (MSOAG), formerly the Foreign Military Training Unit
  • Marine Special Operations Support Group (MSOSG)
  • Marine Special Operations School (MSOS)

Marine Special Operations Team (MSOT)

The base unit of MARSOC is the fifteen-man Marine Special Operations Team (MSOT), which is commanded by a Captain (O-3) and has three fireteams, a Navy Hospital Corpsman, and a radio operator. The operators of the MARSOC are also known as the Marine Raiders.

Bow and arrow in modern warfare
Operators practicing with bow and arrow (Photo: US Military)

The Marine Forces Special Operations Command is based at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, and is split into three subordinate commands.

MARSOC’s selection and training

Marine Forces Special Operations Command seems like it is trying to be a jack of all trades. It is a hybrid between Green Berets, Rangers, SEALs, and Marine Force Reconnaissance. It pulls its candidates from 3–4 year seasoned Marines. Most of the candidates have already been deployed and many have actually seen combat. Most of the Critical Skill Operators are seasoned marines coming from Infantry battalions, Recon and Force Recon(initially they all came from Force Recon).

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