Special Operations Capable refers to special tasks that the tangible Marine Air-Ground Task Force units are capable in providing to the Fleet Marine Force (FMF), or foreign uniformed services of maritime regions worldwide. These task are similar to the roles that the United States Special Operations Forces are operationally responsible in providing the United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM).
Traditionally, the United States Marine Corps has been at the forefront of the United States's exceptional elite warriors. The special operations-type units within the Marine Corps eschewed the idea of being referred or compared to the traditional special operations forces (SOF) of the United States Special Operations Command due to the ad hoc idealism the Marines are traditionally known to carry—being special operations capable is temporary to their protocol.
The Marine Corps's specialized units have always yielded performance and mission plans that distinguish them from the United States Special Operations Forces. One significant detail is that the Marine Corps solely manages their battlespace shaping methods mainly in the aspect of conventional warfare. Most of the SOFs involved in USSOCOM however are more directed in unconventional warfare. Every SOC [special operations capable] unit that existed in the Marine Corps are versatile enough to be capable in conducting special operations under 'unconventional' methods while engaging on a 'conventional' battlefield. While not specifically a Secretary of Defense-designated U.S. Special Operations Force, when directed by the National Command Authority and/or the force commander, the Fleet Marine Force may conduct special operations under circumstances where designated special operations forces are not available.
In February 2006, the Marine Corps made its first commitment to the USSOCOM community in cause of the establishment of the Marine Special Operations Command, or MARSOC. This new commitment allowed MARSOC to form the Marine Special Operation Teams (MSOT), assigned under the Marine Special Operation Battalions, or MSOBs. The MSOTs are the Marine Corps's first SOF unit to be trained and reserved for missions specifically regarding unconventional methods, which consequently disbanded the FMF's Force Reconnaissance companies to make way for the MSOTs' fully committed direct action capabilities. Many force reconnaissance operators were used to form the MSOTs, the rest were folded into the division-level recon units. The Deep Recon Platoons (DRP) were created to maintain the deep reconnaissance capabilities for the Marine Air-Ground Task Force (MAGTF) commanders.
Therefore, the joint-Navy/Marine Corps's Fleet Marine Force is the proponent service for all special operations missions involving maneuverability from the sea. Historians can trace the evolution of the Corps’s specialized amphibious warfare since its formation, traditionally being tasked in conducting specialized missions conformed to maritime environments. The U.S. Marines and sailors are already equipped and well-prepared because of their expeditionary capabilities that are well-known to the community.
- 1 Concept
- 2 Special Operations Capable (SOC)
- 3 Pre-deployment Training Program (PTP)
- 4 Special-operations-capable forces
- 5 See also
- 6 Notes
There have been controversial effects of incorporating the MEU (SOC)'s capabilities. The Marine Corps periodically had to struggle with the Department of the Navy or Department of Defense in formulating a special operations force within the combined functions of the FMF. In fact, the FMF formulated several SOF-type units in the past. The Marine Raiders dissolved moments before the end of World War II, terminating their direct action-stylized institution. It was felt throughout the Marine Corps that the Raiders were acting in complex of being "an elite within the Elite", nonetheless the Raider Battalions were deactivated. Momentarily, the Paramarines also shared the same fate.
Ever since World War II, new threats that have been emerging became the main focus: terrorism, warring factions, and environmental catastrophes, while the worldwide population increases. Marines must now cope with the expected changes of the way warfare is being fought in the 21st century. Its reason is that the Marine Corps has epitomized its sole function in modern amphibious and expeditionary warfare. No other armed naval services throughout history has reasoned feasibly in sustaining a rapid, offensive landing force onto hostile shores, yet remaining co-dependent on conventional strategies. In order for the Corps to send Marines to accommodate new perils, recommendations were made to standardize and relate all their training for modern warfare. The Fleet Marine Force revised its Title X charter by incorporating their already ‘amphibious and expeditionary capability’ into unique missions; including a special operations mission, if the need arises.
U.S. National Security requires the maintenance of Special Operations Forces (SOFs) capable of conducting the full range of special operations on a worldwide basis, and the revitalization of these forces must be pursued as a matter of national urgency.
Despite efforts, the perception of competition between the SOFs and the specialized Marine units has persisted, and caused friction in USSOCOM.
Special Operations Capable (SOC)
In the past, the Marine Corps focused more on yesterday's high intensity, conventional, open "sea, air-land" battlefields, such as those expected during the Cold War. Nowadays, it has been replaced by the more probable mid- and low intensity conflicts. Missions that would require armed conflicts or humanitarian/disaster relief were conceived and many tacticians feared that the Marine Corps were trying to emulate the larger, land-based United States Army.
With counterparts from the United States Navy, Marines have the ability to be projected to any hostile area around the globe due to their maneuverability from the sea. This gives the Marine Corps the advantage over the other military branches; Marines can be deployed to a hostile situation, large or small, within short notice from the Commander-in-Chief.
Ever since the Advanced Base Force was conceived, the enhanced and inherent capabilities of the Fleet Marine Force has proven the Marine Corps operational flexibility as a unique, elite maritime force. The Marine Corps is far more capable of making the adjustments to the changing threat than any other service. Marine Corps Commandant General P. X. Kelley demonstrated capabilities of the Fleet Marine Force's, smaller forward deployed Marine Air-Ground Task Force elements.
- the Marine Corps possessed an inherent capability to perform Special Operations in a maritime environment;
- certain initiatives could be taken to enhance resident capabilities;
- advantages of optimizing the Fleet Marine Force's inherent capabilities to the National Command Authority by offering complementary its services in joint special operations capabilities.
Each Marine Expeditionary Force (MEF) has MEUs. When specifically trained and operationally qualified to perform special operational duties, they are then known as a Marine Expeditionary Units (Special Operations Capable), or MEU (SOC); designed under the battle plans of combined maritime-based ground and air elements that make up a MAGTF.
- Battle Area Ingress/Egress: enter and exit a battle area.
- Locate and Fix The Enemy: locate and fix the enemy, involving finding and identifying enemy forces, maintaining surveillance once located, assessing the capabilities and intentions, and reporting these findings.
- Engage The Enemy: engage, destroy, or capture the enemy in a rural or urban setting, in hostile environments, with minimized/controlled collateral damage.
- Rapid Staff Planning: the capability to rapidly plan and be prepared to commence execution of operations within six (6) hours of receipt of the warning order/alert order. Commencement of operations is signified by the launch of forces by air and/or surface means. This may range from the insertion of reconnaissance and surveillance assets in support of the mission to the actual launch of an assault force. Rapid staff planning is a key to MEU(SOC)s overall operational success.
- Joint Force Interoperability: the MEU will normally be committed in conjunction with joint or combined task force (J/CTF) operations. Joint/combined force interoperability is a shared responsibility of the force commander and subordinate elements. Interoperability depends on compatible C4I equipment and standardized procedures while embracing common terminology and techniques. The objective is a thorough understanding of mutual command and control procedures, capabilities, and limitations developed through continual participation in joint and combined exercises.
- Amphibious Raids: conduct amphibious raids via air and/or surface means from extended ranges in order to inflict loss or damage upon opposing forces, create diversions, capture and/or evacuate individuals and material by swift incursion into an objective area followed by a planned withdrawal. The amphibious raid is the primary operational focus for the forward-operating MEU(SOC)s.
- Limited Objective Attacks: assaults based on limited force.
- Non-combatant Evacuation Operations (NEO): conduct NEO by evacuating and protecting noncombatants in either a permissive or non-permissive environment. This capability includes the requirement to provide a security force, evacuation control center, recovery force, medical support, and transportation of evacuees.
- Show of Force Operations: engage in show of force operations, to include amphibious demonstrations, presence of forces, or flyovers in support of U.S. interests.
- Reinforcement Operations: reinforce U.S. (or designated Allied/friendly) forces by helicopter and/or surface means. This includes the capability to conduct relief-in-place or a passage of lines.
- Maritime Security Operations: conduct security operations to protect U.S. (or designated Allied/ friendly nation) property and noncombatants in maritime areas. Forward-operating MEU(SOC)s will be capable of establishing an integrated local security perimeter, screening for explosive devices, and providing personal protection to designated individuals.
- Mobile Training Teams (MTT): provide training to assigned individuals, groups, or units.
- Civil-Military Operations - Humanitarian/Civil Assistance in Disaster Relief: provide services such as medical and dental care, minor construction repair to civilian facilities, temporary assistance to local government, and assistance to counter the devastation caused by a manmade or natural disaster.
- Tactical Deception Operations: design and implement tactical deception operations plans in order to deceive the enemy through electronic means, feints, demonstrations, and ruses which cause the enemy to react or fail to react in a manner which assists in the accomplishment of the overall mission.
- Fire Support Control: control and coordinate naval surface fire, air support and ground fire support coordination measures for U.S. or designated Allied/friendly forces.
- Counter-Intelligence Operations: conduct counterintelligence and human intelligence operations that protect the MEU(SOC) against espionage, sabotage, terrorism, and subversion by developing and providing information the commander can use to undertake countermeasures to protect his resources.
- Initial Terminal Guidance (ITG): establish and operate navigational, signal, and/or electronic devices for guiding helicopter and surface waves from a designated point to a landing zone or beach.
- Electronic Warfare/Signal Intelligence: conduct tactical SIGINT, limited ground bases EW, and communications security (COMSEC) monitoring and analysis in direct support of the MAGTF. This is accomplished by employing organic collection and direction finding (DF) equipment as well as through connectivity to national and theater SIGINT/EW assets.
- Military Operations in Urban Terrain (MOUT): conduct military operations in a built-up area.
Maritime special operations
The Marine Corps does not deploy traditional Special Operations Forces (SOF). Forward-operating MEU(SOC)s receive enhanced training and are specially equipped and organized to provide selected maritime special purpose capabilities complementary and in support of special operations. In addition to the conventional capabilities noted above, MEU(SOC)s will, upon deployment, possess the following skills and capabilities:
- Close Quarters Battle (CQB): conduct direct action missions, employing close quarter battle combat and dynamic assault tactics and techniques.
- Direct Action: conduct raid, ambush, or direct assault tactics; conduct standoff attacks by fire from air, ground, or maritime platforms; and provide terminal guidance for precision-guided munitions.
- Clandestine Recovery Operations: ability to recovery downed aviation pilots or sensitive materials behind enemy lines; conduct clandestine extraction of personnel or sensitive items from enemy controlled areas.
- Tactical Recovery of Aircraft, Equipment and Personnel (TRAP): conduct overland recovery of downed aircraft and personnel, aircraft sanitization, and provide advanced trauma-life support in a benign or hostile environment.
- Specialized Demolition Operations: conduct specialized breaching; to employ specialized demolitions in support of other special operations. This includes an explosive entry capability to support close quarters battle/combat.
- In-Extremis Hostage Rescue (IHR): conduct recovery operations during an in-extremis situation by means of an emergency extraction of hostages and/or sensitive items from a non-permissive environment and expeditiously transport them to a designated safe haven. The IHR capability will only be employed when directed by appropriate authority and when dedicated national assets are unavailable. Emphasis is placed on isolation, containment, employment of reconnaissance assets, and preparation for turnover of the crisis site when/if national assets arrive
- Airfield/Ports/Other Key Facilities Seizure: secure an airfield, port, or other key facilities in order to support MAGTF missions or to receive follow-on forces.
- Gas and Oil Platforms Operations (GOPLAT): conduct seizure and/or destruction of offshore gas and oil platforms.
- Maritime Interdiction Operations (MIO): conduct MIO in support of visit, board, search, and seizure (VBSS) operations during day or night on a cooperative, uncooperative, or hostile contact of interest.
- Reconnaissance and Surveillance (R&S): conduct clandestine reconnaissance and surveillance through entry into an objective area by air, surface, or subsurface means in order to perform information collection, target acquisition, and other intelligence collection tasks.
Pre-deployment Training Program (PTP)
Every 18-months, all units that are under the Marine Air-Ground Task Force's MEFs assemble the MEUs and train them individually within their units, or together in a cohesive exercise. They have one purpose, to become certified in special operations. The Special Operations Capable Certification process is in three phases; the Initial Training Phase, Intermediate Training Phase, and the Final Training Phase. Once certified, they are under status as "force-in-readiness" for 15-months.
Initial Training Phase
The Initial Training Phase is the phase that focuses on training of individual personnel and small units of the Marine Expeditionary Units. Many Marines attend courses or training schools that may require advancement or additional skills to meet the demand of their unit's quota. Training and exercises by many cooperative cross-service agencies also help set courses of instruction for the MEU's Command Elements, subordinate elements (MSE), and the Maritime Special Purpose Force. Also, staff training is included in the MEU's CE and MSE elements. Because of time constraints and limited training resources, every effort must be made to efficiently use the training time available during this phase.
- Expeditionary Strike Group/Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) Staff Planning Course
- Operations and Intelligence Seminar
- MEU Command Element Situational Training Exercises (STX)
- Initial Training Phase "at-Sea-Period"
- Special Operations Training Group (SOTG) Special Skills Courses
- Fire Support Coordination Exercise
- Interoperability and Parallel Training: conducted jointly with an Amphibious Squadron and Naval Special Warfare detachment
Intermediate Training Phase
All the training and exercises that are conducted by the Marine Expeditionary Units while either on pre-deployment, or currently deployed, under a training curriculum, or not deployed operationally are during the Intermediate Training Phase. The purpose of this phase is to build unit cohesion and leadership, and emphasis on functioning as a team. A string of exercises are begun, and a MEU utilizes this time to rehearse for the upcoming Special Operations Capable Exercise that will determine their Special Operations Capable certification.
At the beginning of the Intermediate Training Phase, an operational analysis is conducted by the MEU Commander in order to assess the strengths and weaknesses of the subordinate elements. This will also assist in developing the commander’s guidance regarding training priorities. Once developed, the MEU Commander will provide training guidance to improve and sustain the MSE’s required capabilities.
- Intermediate Training Phase at Sea Period: emphasis the training of Gas/Oil Platform (GOPLAT) and Visit, Board, Search, and Seizure (VBSS) training. Under unique predeployment or operational circumstances, the MEF Commander can reduce or increase the emphasis on either of the mission. Concurrence on this modification to training will be obtained from Headquarters Marine Corps Plans, Policies and Operations (PP&O) from the appropriate Commander, Marine Corps Forces.
- Long-range night raids: takes place on ground or other structures.
- Maritime Special Purpose Force Interoperability Training: following the successful completion of individual and small unit special skills training conducted during the "Initial Training Phase", the purpose is to consolidate the Command and Control (C&C), Reconnaissance and Surveillance (R&S), Assault, Security, and Aviation Assault elements. The training is either conducted locally or off-site. It also proves a logical prerequisite for the TRUEX and opportunity to conduct basic level training with the Amphibious Squadron, Navy Special Warfare Detachment.
- Training in Urban Environment Exercise (TRUEX): The TRUEX provides the MEU's elements of the CE, ACE, CSSE, and along with the MSPF, the opportunity for training in unfamiliar built-up environments during urbanized warfare. The MEF's Special Operations Training Group (SOTG) coordinates their training with the municipal, state, and federal officials, such as the local and state police, fire departments, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to make this training as realistic as possible for Marines within the MEU. This Exercise gives the MEU the preparation for any world conflict or peacekeeping/humanitarian operations. Many local towns have participated in the events. TRUEX provides an opportunity to integrate unique individual and small unit, close quarters combat (CQC) skills in conjunction with the MEU’s increased proficiency in the rapid response planning process (R2P2), and practice in enhanced urban operations.
- Marine Expeditionary Unit Exercise (MEUEX): The MEUEX is the final Intermediate Training Phase exercise that evaluates the MEU’s core capabilities before commencing the final test during the Special Operations Capable Exercise, which will determine its certification for special operations. All of the MEU's subordinate units participate in the MEUEX. The primary focus of this exercise is to refine the unit standard operating procedures’s and R2P2. In some cases, if possible, the MEUEX is conducted in conjunction with an at-sea period.
Final Training Phase
The Final Training Phase is the culmination of all predeployment training activities. Its focus is on preparation for the Special Operations Capable Exercise, and predeployment embarkation requirements.
- Pre-embarkation Maintenance Stand-Down: This is held before the last scheduled at-sea training period. It allows the MEU time to ensure all equipment is in the highest state of readiness prior to the SOCEX.
- Advanced Amphibious Training: During the last scheduled at-sea training period, the Amphibious Squadron (PHIBRON) and MEU refine their ability to conduct amphibious operations, and conventional and selected maritime special operations capabilities.
- Fleet Exercise (FLEETEX) - Supporting Arms Coordination Exercise (SACEX): This is the PHIBRON and MEU’s final evaluation of its amphibious warfare, conventional, and selected maritime special operations capabilities prior to SOCEX.
- Special Operations Capable Exercise (SOCEX): Final Evaluation and Certification. This is the final test that certifies the MEU to be capable for maritime special operations. It designates the MEU into MEU (Special Operations Capable), or MEU(SOC).
- Pre-Overseas Movement (POM): During the POM period, the final preparations for deployment are conducted. The focus is on personnel and equipment readiness. Training and operational deficiencies noted during the SOCEX evaluation are corrected as required.
- Crisis Interaction Requirements Exercise (CIREX): The CIREX is a discussion built around a crisis scenario tailored to the PHIBRON and MEU(SOC). It is conducted at Fort Bragg, NC to ensure the maximum exposure of the PHIBRON/MEU personnel to their SOF counterparts. The CIREX enhances PHIBRON and MEU(SOC) understanding of, and interoperability with, Joint Special Operations Command Task Forcess and Elements. Staff members from the PHIBRON and MEU CE and selected members of the MEUs MSEs participate in the CIREX.
- Washington, D.C. Area Commanders’ Briefings: During this period select members of the PHIBRON and MEU(SOC) receive briefings from senior United States Department of State, Department of Defense, Joint Chiefs of Staff, Headquarters Marine Corps, and Central Intelligence Agency personnel. Conducting these briefings within the Washington D.C. area ensures the highest level of participation by the organizations and external agencies involved. Other agencies or Unified Combatant Command representatives may be added at the request of the PHIBRON and MEU(SOC) commanders.
- Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable)
- Special Operations Forces
- United States Special Operations Command
- United States Special Operations Forces
- United States Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command
- Major W. J. Morrissey, United States Army Reserve; "The USMC Special Operations Capable (SOC) Concept: An Alternative Approach," (CSC 1992)
- Allan R. Millett, Semper Fidelis: The History of the United States Marine Corps, (New York, NY: Macmillan, 1980).
- C. L. Updegraph, Jr., Special Marine Corps Units of World War II, (Wash., DC, HQMC: Historical Division, 1972); 1-104.
- Special Operations/Low Intensity Conflict Office, "Position Paper on MEU (SOC) Predeployment Training Cycle", (20 September 1991); 1-4.
- Metz, Steven, "US Strategy and the Changing LIC Threat," (Military Review: June 1991); 21-29.
- Stone, Michael, "Strategic Force - Strategic Vision for the 1990s and Beyond", (Wash., DC, HQUSA: January 1992).
- LtCol Anderson, Jr., USMC(Ret)., "The Corps and Special Operations". Marine Corps Gazette. (December 1985; pgs 16-17).
- MAGTF Warfighting Center Concept Publication 8-1 (WCCP 8-1): Operational Concept for Marine Expeditionary Units (Special Operations Capable); September 1990.
- Marine Corps Order 3120.9B, Policy for Marine Exeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable), (Wash., DC: HQMC, 2001)
- MAGTF Special Operations Capable, Standardization Conference Paper. (Wash., D.C, HQMC: January, 1992); 1 to Encl 4.
- Marine Corps Order 3502.3A, Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) Predeployment Training Program, (Wash, DC: HQMC MCO, 2001)
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