View Full Version : Marines join special forces branch

02-26-06, 06:59 AM
Posted on Sun, Feb. 26, 2006
Marines join special forces branch
By Estes Thompson
The Associated Press

CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. - The Marine Corps formally entered the world of military special operations Friday by establishing a separate command devoted to small unit tactics and stealthy reconnaissance.

It's work they've done as far back as World War II but never before as a part of the U.S. Special Operations Command.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who arrived at Camp Lejeune aboard an Osprey tiltrotor aircraft to make the change official, said special operations Marines will help "seek new and innovative ways to take the fight to the enemy.

"We face a ruthless enemy that lurks in shadows," Rumsfeld said. "It has become vital the Department of Defense and armed forces arrange ourselves in new and unconventional ways to succeed in meeting the peril of our age."

Special operations forces - the Army's Green Berets and Rangers and the Navy SEAL teams - have become symbols of the military at its best. Demand for highly trained soldiers such as them has increased as the U.S. war against terrorists continues.

Earlier this week, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Peter Schoomaker said during a visit to Fayetteville - nearby Fort Bragg houses the Army's Special Operations Command headquarters - that the number of battalions of Green Berets and Rangers already is growing.

The Marines plan to establish their first special operations command in May and have it fully staffed with about 2,500 troops by 2010. The command will recruit corporals, sergeants and officers with reconnaissance experience and language training.

As part of the change, the Marine anti-terrorism brigade with headquarters at Lejeune will go out of business and shift some troops to the special operations command.

Units to train foreign military officers will deploy within months, Marine Commandant Gen. Michael Hagee said. A special operations company will deploy with an expeditionary unit aboard ships by the end of the year, military officials said.

The Tampa, Fla.-based U.S. Special Operations Command will control the Marines' forces.

Such forces from other branches have fought much of the war in Afghanistan and Iraq, but the Marines resisted and focused on their traditional ocean-based operations, said military analyst John Pike of Washington-based Global security.org.

"The struggle against evil doers is a growth industry and the Marines want a piece of that," Pike said. "The special operations community is getting a lot larger and they need more people."

Special operations will give "them a role they otherwise would not be able to get, to do counterterrorism. It's always more than enough to be a Marine."

Retired Marine Col. Bill Hughes, whose last job in the corps was in the defense secretary's readiness office, said Marines have always considered themselves capable of handling any task, without having to turn to special forces.

"Emotionally, we always thought we were a general-purpose type force where you could give us a mission and we would train to it," said Hughes, a spokesman for the Marine Corps Association at Quantico, Va. "We think we're special that given a mission, we can do anything."