Security Studies Program Seminar

U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Special Operations Command (MARSOC)

Command Brief

Major General Dennis Hejlik, USMC
Commander, MARSOC

21 February 2007

MARSOC (Marine Special Operations Command) is a new organization and just stood up a year ago.

Grenada (Urgent Fury) of 1983 really spurred US military interest in developing Special Ops. Forces (SOFs).

After 9/11, Marine Corps Commandant J. Jones establishes USMC Detachment 1 as a “Proof of Concept” to recruit best and brightest to test entry into the SOCOM world.

Then, between March and October of 2005, SecDef requests Marine Corps to establish a SOCOM group in order to aid in COIN, training of foreign forces, and all else the SOCOM world does. Problem is, the (approx) 20,000 MARSOC strength is taken out of the statutory strength of Marine Corps (175,000 per Congress).

When MARSOC is designated as a SOF force, budgetary constraints are eased for the Marine Corps as funding begins to flow in part from SOCOM.

Organizationally, MARSOC works for SOCOM and not the Commandant of the Marine Corps. At the same time, since the Marine Corps still provides funding and personnel, there is still an incentive to coordinate and cooperate with Commandant.

SOF tasks include WMD control, counter-terrorism, special reconnaissance, direct action, unconventional warfare, foreign internal defense, civil affairs, information/psychological operations, and synchronizing DoD efforts in the Global War on Terror (GWOT). The latter means working with combatant commanders to prepare GWOT plans.

All funding comes from supplemental appropriations stemming from the GWOT. Thus, there is no consistent year-to-year budget.

Mission statement includes directive to work with “other agencies,” meaning State Department, intelligence community, and other organizations dealing with GWOT issues.

Units are deployed to Afghanistan, Europe, Africa, and South America despite MARSOC being at only 58% strength.

Members of Foreign Military Training Teams – amongst the most important missions to date – have approximately 6 years of experience and several combat tours under their belt. Such gives them the ability to work in “austere environments” for long periods with minimal guidance. This enables one to develop both formal and informal links with foreign military organizations.

MARSOC has its own school (MSOS) that maintains ties to both Marine Professional Military Education and SOF schools, preventing loss of career momentum and satisfying requirements for both groups.


Rapporteur: Josh Shifrinson

back to Wednesday Seminar Series, Spring 2007