View Full Version : Marines, Navy SEALs forge new special operations team

08-16-05, 03:25 PM
Beyond the DropZone
by W. Thomas Smith Jr.

Marines, Navy SEALs forge new special operations team
An exclusive interview with U.S. Navy SEAL Commander Mark Divine


A brand-new Marine Corps special operations force is a project that has been in the conception and experimental stages since the terrorist attacks of 9/11. It became an operational test unit following the 2003 invasion of Iraq, and its official existence is now pending only the signature of U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

But few insiders are talking about it, and for a variety of reasons.

As I wrote in a 2003 article for National Review Online, "Special operations units in the Marines are not accorded the same respect [by the Marine leadership] as they are in other branches. The Marines view special operations as simply another realm of warfighting. Marines are Marines, and no individual Marine or Marine unit is considered more elite than the other." That's long been the Corps' approach to special operations, and one of the reasons the Marine Corps successfully resisted becoming a component part the U.S. Defense Department's Special Operations Command (SOCOM) when it was formed back in 1986.

Many within the special operations circles of the Army, Navy, and Air Force had no qualms about that: After all, a Special Operations Command without Marine participation only meant that Army, Navy, and Air Force turf was protected. Or was it?

The Marines have always had a hand in special operations, and have in many ways been innovators of the same. But until recently, they've not been part of SOCOM. As a result of the recent upsurge of special operations requirements in the war on terror, that may change: There may soon be a permanent force of Marine commandos attached to SOCOM.

It's still a bit hush-hush.

According to an interview in Marine Corps Times (July 27), Marine Lt. Gen. John F. Sattler, commander of the I Marine Expeditionary Force and Marine Forces Central Command, said that he was skating "on one skate" for even discussing the Marine SOCOM Detachment. The sentiments of other senior officers are similar. Navy Commander Mark Divine, who has been directly involved in the development and observation of the new Marine team, is much more forthcoming.

A reserve SEAL officer with an extensive background in special operations, Divine was sent to Iraq last summer to observe and write a report MCSOCOM Proof of Concept Evaluation on the Marine unit's development and capabilities for SOCOM. Secretary Rumsfeld had previously directed that two independent studies be conducted: One by SOCOM (which became Commander Divine's report) and one from the Marine Corps (conducted by the Center for Naval Analysis). Both have been completed.

In his first interview since completing the report, Divine sat down with World Defense Review. He shared his observations and what he believes to be the future of the Marine Corps' involvement with SOCOM.

SMITH: When you were in Iraq, what were some of the joint-effort kinds of things going on that you observed between the Marines and the SEALs?

DIVINE: First off, there was significant integration, and the Marines did not like this. They were assigned to Naval Special Warfare Squadron One, and the commander of that squadron had some shortfalls. His job was to fight the war the best he could with the resources he had. The Marine Corps detachment was one of those resources. So, he used the Marine intelligence assets in his task group. Then he allowed the unit to operate as a subordinate task unit along the lines of the other SEAL task units [two SEAL platoons and a SEAL headquarters] that worked for him.

SMITH: Why did the Marines have a problem with that?

DIVINE: The Marine unit was a little over 100 people. This included 30 Reconnaissance Marines who were the main direct-action force. Then there was a 25- to 30-man logistical support unit. Then there was this huge intelligence group within the Marine detachment, and that was very valuable to the SEALs because we don't have that inherent capability. Also, Marine intelligence people understand ground combat. Contrast that with the Navy intelligence community, which was trained throughout the Cold War to identify Soviet ships, submarines, and aircraft. They really don't know how to hunt people, and we're just now really learning how to do that.

So the Marine intelligence people were parceled out to the other task units, and they did a great job. But the Marines wanted their 100-man detachment to operate as a stand-alone unit. We didn't allow that to happen. It truly was a joint Navy-Marine team. There were also several joint direct-action operations where the Marines supported the SEALs and vice versa.

SMITH: Where those direct-action operations raids against Al Queda forces?

DIVINE: Yes, raids against anti-coalition forces, really targeting some of the higher-level folks who had been identified in the insurgency.


08-16-05, 03:26 PM
SMITH: Were the raids effective? <br />
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DIVINE: There was certainly some good success. It took them a while to learn how to do business. For instance, their planning cycle was much longer than a typical...

Joseph P Carey
08-16-05, 06:11 PM
That is a Hell of a lot of respect for the Marines, but still, I would not like to have the Marines become part of SOCOM. It seems that the Marines are already capable of performing better and more so uniquely as a Special Opts Units than that of SOCOM.

This (SOCOM) is still an Army Air Force Operation, with the Navy in tow, and like the enemies that have run across the Marines in their path, they feel that they will lose control of SOCOM to the Marines. This is a danger to our Marines!

My fear is that the established command of SOCOM will not be able to understand the Marines and their way of fighting, and will try to make the Marines under their control into Army Special Forces, a downgrade in their Marine quality.

Added to that, the Navy has now lost control of the SEAL to SOCOM, and is planning to form other Special Units to replace the SEAL, although they still support financially and with Manpower and Logistics of the SEAL, but gain nothing for their training and support of the SEAL. I can not see the Marines paying for anything that they do not control in total!

The fact remains, from 1899, a History of the First Marine Regiment will show that the Marines have always had special Cross training in their units, from having the regiment built of Engineers for Road building, Wire laying, Forward Defense Force Training, and the Marine Assault Training, all of these functions were conducted by the Average Marine, and is the base of the Corps' adaptability.

From 1899 to 1936, the Marines of the First Regiment were in constant flux, and they were taken from one task to another from the Philippine Islands, to China, to Panama, to Nicaragua, to Cuba, to Puerto Rico, to Haiti, to the Dominican Republic, to Europe, and many times crossing back over paths they had already blazed before in many different countries, and performing so many different tasks including Civil administration and the preparing of civil administrations for the eventual take over by the local populous.

The problem with SOCOM is that they will eventually out live their usefulness as a military force as times change, and they will eventually become no more than the hit men for the CIA for their petty meaningless tasks of a political nature. I do not wish to see the Marines involved in this without the full backing of other Marines.