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Here Come the Marines

The Marines join the Special Operations Command.

11:00 PM, Mar 19, 2006 • By CHRISTIAN LOWE
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But the incorporation of Marines into the spec ops world is not without an element of controversy. The first experimental Marine special operations unit--Marine Corps Special Operations Detachment One--proved extremely capable and valuable in its first and only deployment alongside a Navy SEAL squadron in the summer of 2004. But there were internal squabbles between SEALs and Marines over mission tasking and seniority. The detachment had only one deployment in its three-year existence and was unceremoniously disbanded on March 10.

Fleet Marines are also fearful that they will be losing some of their most experienced and highly-prized warriors and technicians for years. That's one reason why the Corps declined to join SOCom when it was established in 1986--the service wanted to keep its limited manpower for itself. Senior Marine officials (who are acting on direct orders from Rumsfeld to form the Marine spec ops units) argue that most of the Corps' commandos will deploy alongside regular Marine units, so fleet Marine forces will have some control over the commandos.

But others are skeptical. It's hard enough for the service to find and retain qualified applicants for its most specialized jobs in intelligence and reconnaissance units. It is uncertain how the Corps is going to be able to retain certain capabilities for itself and dole out those troops to SOCom.

Rumsfeld seems to like special operations because of their secrecy and economy of force. A huge expansion in all the services' commando units is underway. Special operations commanders and Pentagon leaders believe they can grow well beyond their current strength of 50,000 and still keep standards high. Adding the new Marine Corps component is another step in that direction.

Christian Lowe is a staff writer for Army Times Publishing Company and a contributing writer to The Daily Standard.