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thedrifter
05-16-06, 07:30 PM
May 22, 2006
A new beginning
Corps folds 2nd Force Recon; platoons head to spec ops unit

By Christian Lowe
Times staff writer

It’s sunrise for one unit and sunset for another.

After months of anticipation and planning since the Corps officially stood up its new special operations command, the service has established its first cadre of door-kickers that will contribute to U.S. Special Operations Command counterterrorism missions.

On May 15, the Camp Lejeune, N.C.-based Marine Forces Special Operations Command was to formally create its first company made up of some of the Corps’ most elite operators. The unit will train to standards that meet or exceed those used to certify Navy SEAL units and Army Special Forces teams for deployment, officials said.


Establishment of the new unit — Fox Company, 2nd Marine Special Operations Battalion — did not come without cost, however. Manpower pressures forced the Corps to pull some of its most seasoned operators from 2nd Force Reconnaissance Company to provide the foundation for the battalion’s direct-action teams — a move that has meant the end of 2nd Force.

“There is a strong lineage and a strong sense of history within this organization. In that respect ... it is a little sad,” said Lt. Col. Paul Montanus, former 2nd Force Reconnaissance Company commander who now heads 2nd MSOB.

“But it’s exciting, too,” he added. “If [SOCom] has the lead on the global war on terrorism, then why should we deprive SOCom of a whole pool of talent to be able to fight that?”

About five platoons and the headquarters section from the now-defunct 2nd Force will head into the new spec ops battalion, while two of the former 2nd Force platoons will be shifted to 2nd Reconnaissance Battalion.

These two former force recon platoons — which will form Delta Company, 2nd Reconnaissance Battalion — will bring a forcelike capability for Marine expeditionary force commanders who need to execute “direct-action and special reconnaissance” missions above and beyond those normally executed by battalion-level recon Marines, according to May 2 Marine Corps documents outlining the reorganization.

The same sort of reorganization is due to take place on the West Coast, when the Camp Pendleton, Calif.-based 1st Marine Special Operations Battalion stands up Oct. 5.

Though the demise of 2nd Force as a cohesive unit puts an end to a long tradition of difficult and dangerous missions that gained recognition from some of the Corps’ most beloved leaders — including accolades from Lt. Gen. Lewis B. “Chesty” Puller — operators with the company aren’t shedding many tears.

“It’s really just a name,” said Staff Sgt. John Mosser, a team leader with 2nd Force who said the added money, missions and equipment that will come with SOCom leadership is popular among his fellow operators.

“It seems like it’s a natural evolution for us,” he said.

The 2nd MSOB will establish five spec ops companies to stand up one every six months — a schedule planners hope will sync with Marine expeditionary unit workups and deployments.

But elite operators won’t be the only ones making up these 115-man companies, Montanus said. The spec ops battalion will draw infantrymen, intelligence specialists and vehicle drivers from the fleet to fill out the companies as they are brought on line.

“It’ll be a task-organized force to be able to conduct missions across the spectrum of what our core tasks are. It’s like nothing we’ve ever done before,” Montanus said. “It looks somewhat like the old maritime special purpose force but it’s bigger and more capable.”

About 30 percent of each company — which will be commanded by a major — will be door-kickers, 30 percent intel and support, with the rest infantrymen.

Fox Company — the Corps’ first spec ops direct-action unit — is due to deploy in January with the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit.

Although the formal standards aren’t in place for selecting and training the new spec ops unit, Montanus and his staff are pulling together as much of the rigorous training standards that are already a part of force preparations to get their new commandos up to speed.

His aim is to “screen, assess and select” Marines for the MSOCs based on the jobs they’ll fill and what SOCom would expect.

“Once we get the organization formed … then we can start to focus on what’s the bench mark we need to get to,” Montanus said. “Right now, I’m conducting training as I did for the force reconnaissance Marines in the past, which has made them very successful on the battlefield.”

Officials with the MSOB are canvassing the special operations community to put together their own training and selection standards. Marines will train and certify their special operations troops to a standard that “meets or exceeds” current SOCom criteria, Montanus said.

“For what the MSOB and MSOCs as they deploy are going to do, the Marines in this command are pretty well versed in doing that,” Montanus added.

“I looked at who I had on deck, and I said, ‘Here’s how we’re going to form this thing up,’” he said.

“We filled it with the best available personnel while trying to keep unit integrity.”