After much discussion and planning, on October 28th the U.S. Secretary of Defense approved a recommendation by the Special Operations Command (SOCOM) and Marine Corps to create a Marine special operations command. The Marine Corps had long resisted such a step, largely because of its belief that Marines are inherently superior warriors, capable of highly specialized missions. This attitude began to change during Operation Enduring Freedom, when marines were assigned to support SOF forces in Afghanistan.
The experience gained in working with American SOF personnel, led the Corps to reconsider its position on special operations forces. Soon marines were attached to SOCOM for liaison and observation purposes. In 2004 a specially trained company-sized unit, dubbed "Detachment One", drawn from ForceRecon personnel, the most highly trained element of the Corps, was sent to Iraq. The lessons learned helped the Corps develop a niche within the SOF community.
The Marine Special Operations Command (MARSOC) is now being set up under Brig. Gen. Dennis J. Hejlik, who commanded in the Battle of Fallujah last year, was most recently Deputy Commander of the I Marine Expeditionary Force. MARSOC is initially to have some 2,600 marines, forming a headquarters, plus a "Special Operations Regiment" of two battalions, a "Foreign Military Training Unit," and a "Marine Special Operations Support Group."
MARSOC's missions include the "usual" mix of special operations, including direct action, combat support to other SOF forces, high risk reconnaissance, and "foreign internal defense," as well as training foreign military personnel, a mission it will share with the Army's Special Forces. While mission capable in all environments, MARSOC personnel will be particularly skilled at operating from the sea, using larger and more heavily armed landing parties than the Navy SEALs customarily employ.
Initially MARSOC will draw its personnel from the ForceRecon Marines, and then set up a recruiting system and career path similar to those developed by the SOF contingents. This has raised some concern among marine veterans, who fear that MARSOC threatens the unique character of the Corps and violates some of its most treasured traditions.