MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. --
The Marine Corps Special Operations Command Recruiting Team came to town knowing they had a tough job ahead of them. Mainly, how to convince a group of physically-fit, problem-solving, brilliant-at-the-basics warriors who’ve been there, done that, and have the T-shirt to prove it, there just may be one more challenge worth taking, one more title worth earning.
Gunnery Sgt. Joshua A. Chmielewski, the staff noncommissioned officer in charge of the West Coast recruiting team from Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif., was not subtle when addressing a group of nearly 500 Marines and sailors from all military occupational specialties during two orientation briefs in the 4th Tank Battalion classroom here Tuesday. With a heavy metal-laced video montage presentation of Marines training and operating in harsh environments, he seemed to ask, “Do you have what it takes?”
Capt. Thomas J. Burgett, the officer in charge of the West Coast MARSOC recruiting team, said his team travels to installations across the west coast screening and assessing applicants to help fill MARSOC’s ranks.
MARSOC operates as small, self-sustained, specialized 12 to 14-man units and take part in direct and indirect military actions focused on strategic or operational objectives. The force structure is composed of a headquarters element, a Marine Special Operations Regiment, a Marine Special Operations School and a Marine Special Operations Support Group. The regiment has three battalions, a training cell and a detachment and each battalion has four companies, each composed of four training teams.
The MSO School has a training battalion composed of an individual training course and advanced course and education, language, and Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape training components. The MSO Support Group is composed of a headquarters company, intelligence battalion and a support company, according to http://www.marsoc.usmc.mil.
Officially, MARSOC is the Corps’ first foray into the SOCOM community, but Chmielewski, an Allentown, Pa. native, notes Marines have conducted special ops throughout their history. Chmielewski points to 2nd Lt. Presley O’Bannon’s raid on Tripoli during the Barbary Pirates War in 1805. Another example is Edson’s Raiders, an elite, light infantry Marine Corps unit known to be the first United States Special Operations Forces, that conducted amphibious raids behind enemy lines during World War II.
Today, MARSOC is the newest and smallest kid on the block. The 2,618 Marines, sailors, and civilians make up just five percent of the total SOCOM force, which includes Army, Air Force and Navy special warfare forces. Despite this, MARSOC conducted 19 percent of the special ops combat missions around the world last year, Burgett said.
Modern MARSOC missions still include traditional ones, like kicking down doors and taking out bad guys in small-scale direct action missions, or conducting special reconnaissance and surveillance operations in hostile, denied, or politically-sensitive environments.
“We’re not a one-trick pony folks. We do more than cordon operations. We do more than seize and search, a lot more than that,” Chmielewski said during his brief. MARSOC prevents, deters, and responds to terrorism, and assists allied nations to defeat insurgencies and stabilize countries.
One of MARSOC’s most important missions is Foreign Internal Defense. “This is SOCOM’s bread and butter,” Chmielewski said. MARSOC helps organize, train, advise and assist partner nation forces to help free and protect their societies from subversion, lawlessness, and prevent insurgencies, he said. “Makes sense right? Prevent the fight from ever happening, right?”
Burgett, a Tucson, Ariz., native, said these specialized missions require not necessarily the best, but the “right” type of Marine. MARSOC needs applicants who not only possess many leadership traits, but also demonstrate effective intelligence and a mental agility to solve complex problems under stress. Since MARSOC often operates in austere and remote environments and comes in contact with people of different cultures; adaptability, determination, physical ability, interpersonal skills, and working well in a team, are also key.
Cpl. Joshua S. Mouridian, radio operator with Battery I, 3rd Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment, said he thinks he has what it takes to be a MARSOC Marine. Mouridian, a Black River Falls, Wis., native, said he loves his job and being a Marine. Being able to do his job in the high-speed pace of the special operation forces is what attracts and motivates him to join MARSOC.
Chmielewski and Burgett said their visits are providing Marines like Mouridian with more career opportunities, highlighting the benefits of MARSOC and dispelling false rumors and misperceptions. There is one in particular he makes a point in addressing. Chmielewski makes it very clear that individual leaders and units cannot disqualify a Marine from MARSOC. “Only MARSOC can disqualify a Marine.”
Marines asked if an assignment to MARSOC will negatively affect their promotion and retention in the Marine Corps. The clear answer is no. On the contrary, the training and experience Marines get in MARSOC will make them highly competitive for promotion and retention. Others have asked if MARSOC is open only to infantry or combat arms MOSs. Again, the answer is no. Assessment and selection to MARSOC is open to all MOSs, especially data Marines, he said. “You are coveted individuals right now,” he told a communications Marine.
The assessment and selection process is held every year in April, May and September. Although the selection process and follow-on training are tough to complete, they are not impossible, Chmielewski said. The first step is to contact a recruiter to learn the requirements and to start the process. Those who complete the training will join a unique group of people and become members of a tight-knit family few choose to leave.
Chmielewski said the team plans to visit the Combat Center every month to give their brief and help applicants complete their packages. To learn more about what it takes to be a MARSOC operator, contact the MSO School at 910-450-3349/3123 (DSN-750-3349/3123) or visit them online at http://www.marsoc.usmc.mil/recruiting.