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thedrifter
08-23-06, 06:35 AM
August 22, 2006

First Marine spec ops teams deploy

By Christian Lowe
Staff writer

CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. — In the first deployment of special operations forces in the service’s history, the Marine Corps sent three teams in early August on missions to help train foreign military forces in Africa and South America.

The 11-man Foreign Military Training Unit teams were sent to two African countries — one in the U.S. Central Command region, one in the U.S. European Command region — and one to South America, though officials with Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command based here declined to be more specific.


The teams will work for about four to six weeks with the foreign forces, training them in focused “light infantry tactics,” the unit’s commander said.

“This is uncharted territory for the Marine Corps in the recent past,” said Col. Mike Peznola, commander of the Foreign Military Training Unit, in an Aug. 22 interview at his headquarters here. “This is a new business. … It’s very exciting.”

The Corps formally activated its special operations forces in February after years of holding the community at arm’s length. In November 2001, then-commandant Gen. James Jones took the first step in joining the spec ops world, signing an agreement with U.S. Special Operations Command that brought the two communities closer than ever before.

With the war on terrorism in full swing and the need for special ops troops increasing worldwide, the Corps finally agreed last year to contribute about 2,500 leathernecks, including the 24 FMTU teams, 10 direct-action companies that will deploy with Marine Expeditionary Units and specialized support troops.

The first Marine Special Operations Company of direct-action troops will deploy with the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit in January.

Peznola said the three teams that deployed in August will be the only ones tabbed for missions this fiscal year, which ends in September, while 22 more are scheduled to deploy world-wide in 2007.

“This is all part of the engagement strategy in the global war on terrorism,” Peznola said. “We’re out there helping these nations fight the global fight against terrorism — giving them the skills to carry the fight if needed.”

Ellie