The Unofficial Elite: Understanding the Classification of MARSOC Raiders

USMC Reconnaissance Battalions are the eyes and ears of the Marine Divisions
Recon Marines wearing the full combat gear during the exercise Talisman Saber in 2007 (Photo: USMC)

There is often confusion regarding the Marine Raiders (MARSOC Raiders) status as a Tier 1 unit. It is important to note that MARSOC Raiders are not officially designated as a Tier 1 unit and do not hold that status. However, this does not diminish their capabilities or reputation. The Tier 1 Forces currently recognized by the U.S. military include DEVGRU (SEAL Team 6), 1st SFOD-D (DELTA FORCE), and the 24th Special Tactics Squadron.

What are MARSOC Raiders?

To put it simply, MARSOC (Marine Raiders) has been the Marine Corps’ contribution to the United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) since 2006. Through rigorous training and education, MARSOC creates and maintains highly skilled combat athletes organized into small, adaptable teams of 14. They are Marines first, but their experience and training as expeditionary warfighters and MAGTF mindset make them well-suited for special operations missions. MARSOC Marines are Critical Skills Operators (CSO) or Special Operations Officers (SOO).

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)

The MARSOC Raiders use specialized skills to carry out a range of complex missions as part of USSOCOM. USSOCOM and MARSOC invest significant time and resources in each Marine Raider, providing a level of training and preparation that is unavailable to conventional forces. CSOs and SOOs are ready for any mission, anywhere, and their proficiency in regional, cultural, and linguistic matters and their ability to work with other agencies, coalitions, and host nations make them valuable assets.

MARSOC’s mission includes six pillars: Foreign Internal Defense, Direct Action, Counterinsurgency, Special Reconnaissance, Preparation of the Environment, and Security Force Assistance. In some ways, they are similar to the U.S. Army Special Forces (Green Berets) and the U.S. Army’s 75th Ranger Regiment.

Why are MARSOC Raiders not Tier 1?

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

It is important to note that the Tier 1 designation, as used by the Pentagon, refers to how a Special Operations Forces (SOF) unit is utilized and does not reflect the capabilities or lethality of the unit. This designation is not particularly relevant to Special Operators or those hoping to become Special Operators.

Navy SEALs and Delta Force have specific jobs qualifying as Tier 1, such as airplane hostage rescue. This means that other units, such as the Marines and the U.S. Air Force, do not need to train for these missions.

Unlike other SOF units, MARSOC closely connects with JSOC (Joint Special Operations Command) and maintains strong ties to the Marine Corps. While MARSOC falls under SOCOM (Special Operations Command), they are still closely aligned with the Marine Corps. MARSOC is comparable to the 75th Ranger Regiment, a light infantry unit with good air support and amphibious capabilities. It is unlikely that a MARSOC unit will ever become a Tier 1 force.

Still, individual Marine Raiders may occasionally be selected to serve in a joint Tier 1 unit. Marines have served in Tier 1 forces before the re-establishment of MARSOC Raiders.

US Navy SEALs in hard firefight with ISIS militants
A Navy SEALs in a gun battle in Iraq, 2016 (Photo: YouTube/Still)

Becoming a Special Operator

Suppose you aspire to become a Special Operator, particularly a Marine Raider. In that case, it is more important to focus on achieving this goal rather than worrying about which Tier you will fall into. The MARSOC Raider/Marine Raider training program has a high dropout rate, even among those who make it past the tryouts, which are only open to exceptionally fit and experienced Marines. To become a Marine Raider, you must first excel as a Marine, pass the tryouts, and then complete the rigorous training. If you can achieve all of these milestones, you will join the ranks of some of the most elite warriors in the world.

Marine Raiders (MARSOC Raiders) have long and extensive selection and training but MARSOC Raiders are not designated as a Tier 1 unit
Marine Raiders (MARSOC Raiders) have extensive selection and training, but MARSOC Raiders are not designated as a Tier 1 unit (Photo: X.Y…)

It is worth remembering that lacking a Tier 1 label does not mean you are not skilled at what you do. Special Operators often work together on missions that require specialized training and generally have a high level of respect for each other, as they are all aware of the difficulty of becoming a Special Operator. Ultimately, it does not matter what Tier designation a unit has – the Marine Raiders are still highly capable and respected.


  1. MARINE Raiders will never be a Tier 1 unit under a subunified command. MARSOC’s first deployment when they got kicked out of Afghanistan is a stain that they cannot ever remove. MARSOC had their chance to prove that their Tier one capable and they blew it in a big unprofessional disgusting way.

  2. Ignore that first post by one such “R.A.” Must be stuck back in 2007. As Fox Co. was exonerated in 2008 and has since been recognized and apologized to for the false accusation of war crimes. There is no stain on MARSOC that any other special operations group hasn’t been accused of before. MARSOC isn’t Tier 1 because it wasn’t designed to be Tier 1. Just like the SEAL Teams (minus one) they are designated Tier 2. Doesn’t mean an individual SEAL won’t be selected to Tier 1, but they don’t start out there. Raiders have operated with and will continue to operate with tier 1 units as needed.

  3. So first, what T.L. writes is exactly correct. They were innocent of the charges against them and were exonerating, even though it ruined the careers of several amazing warriors.

    Second, (to the author) don’t kid yourself, everybody wants to make it to the big leagues. The idea that these warriors don’t want to make it to the big show (Tier 1) is absurd. These folks, in all branches, are the alphas of the alphas. They definitely want a chance to prove themselves with NAVWARDEVGRU or the Unit.

    Third, (also to the author) you need to get your facts straight. Raiders have been selected and are another source in the pipeline to Tier 1 units. Look up Gunnery Sergeant Tate Jolly. Marines are now selected, upon their individual merits, to be a part of Delta.

  4. It is my understanding that when an Army or Navy personnel sets foot on a foreign soil it is an act of war, however when a Marine does it is a police action

    Gregory G Parke,
    proud son of one of the original WW II Raiders… Harry L Parke
    Marine Raider Roster page 54

  5. I’m currently assigned to 5TH SFG(A). These guys absolutely belong in JSOC. We as a nation will be better for it. I deployed with 3/5 and MARSOC was doing joint ops with us. To be short a lbs to the point, they performed very well.

    We need to get rid of this tribalism and recognize that, JSOC needs as many tools at their disposal as possible, even if there is some overlap in missions.

    Hopefully, they get added in 2023.

  6. Marines have no need for Tier 1 Operators, Marines already are.
    The Marine Corps is a SF always has!!
    Remember Smedley Butler said( And they’re they were the most highly trained and disciplined soldiers in the world ever, and my Marines Killed them all in under two minutes) so we packed up and move on to the next objective.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here