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MARSOC bridging divide between special ops and the Marine Corps, says outgoing commander

Aug. 10, 2014 - 03:43PM   |  
Maj. Gen. Mark Clark
Maj. Gen. Mark Clark (Marine Corps)
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A unit newly matured in regional operations around the globe and focused on a post-Afghanistan mission greets incoming MARSOC commander, Maj. Gen. Joseph Osterman.

The command’s outgoing chief, Maj. Gen. Mark Clark, said the most recent months of his tenure have seen a second MARSOC rotation to Guam and several historical changes. Clark, who took command of MARSOC in August 2012, will retire after a 34-year career later this year.

Clark said a primary challenge for MARSOC during his time in command had been the regional focus that saw MARSOC’s three battalions aligned with special operations commands in the Pacific, the Middle East, and Africa. That realignment was first announced last year as the war in Afghanistan drew to a close.

“The command did a really good job of that; how do we man, train, and equip this organization to go to three different regions throughout the globe and go into sort of a maritime, littoral environment,” Clark said.

With MARSOC’s Marine Corps ethos and highly agile Marine Air Ground Task Force construct, Clark said the battalions served as a “bridging mechanism” between Special Operations forces and Marine Corps expeditionary forces.

The “proof of concept” for MARSOC’s 1st Raider Battalion in the Pacific theater was a new company-sized rotational deployment to Guam that began earlier this year, Clark said.

“We’ve got our second company there in Guam,” he said. “They’re doing great things for [Special Operations Command Pacific].”

The MARSOC company is with Navy SEALs in Guam’s Apra Harbor, where troops participate in joint exercises including the recent Rim of the Pacific, off the Hawaii coast. According to reports and military releases, MARSOC Raiders conducted, among other training, a visit-board-search-seizure mission with SEALs aboard the new littoral combat ship Independence.

MARSOC’s regional work in Africa and the Middle East has been more secretive, and Clark did not divulge any details of what the alignment looked like for the 2nd and 3rd Raider battalions. But MARSOC has posted numerous contract solicitations for training involving highly skilled African role players and scenarios ranging from counterinsurgency to human intelligence.

MARSOC’s postwar focus on maritime missions has also received special attention, Clark said. One focus of efforts has been providing small MARSOC “special operations force liaison elements” to Marine Expeditionary Units for shipboard deployments. Marine officials said the first team was set to deploy with the 11th MEU, which departed port in San Diego in late July.

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