New Marine unit will be a part of U.S. Special Operations Command

By Otto Kreisher

February 25, 2006

The Marine Corps formally entered the U.S. Special Operations Command yesterday, establishing a separate command devoted to small-unit tactics and stealthy reconnaissance.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld made the change official after arriving at Camp Lejeune, N.C., aboard an Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft.

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Rumsfeld said formation of the new unit “pairs two of history's most dedicated groups of warriors – the men and women of the U.S. Special Operations Command and the United States Marine Corps.”

“Today, in the global war on terror, we call on Marines again . . . to seek new and innovative ways to take the fight to the enemy,” Rumsfeld said. “Our country needs agile, highly mobile forces to track down terrorist cells that are dispersed across the globe.”

The Marines plan to establish their first special operations command in May and have it fully staffed with about 2,500 troops by 2010.

The force will mostly be based at Camp Lejeune. But one of the two Marine special operations battalions and half of the special missions training branch will be based at Camp Pendleton.

When Congress forced creation of the Special Operations Command in 1987, over the opposition of the services and Pentagon leadership, the Marine Corps refused to join, arguing that it did not have any combat forces to spare.

The command, headquartered in Tampa, Fla., has included the Army Special Forces, known as the Green Berets; the Army Rangers and the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment; the secretive Delta Force; Air Force Special Operations helicopter and fixed-wing squadrons; and the Navy SEALs and special warfare boat units.

Although not formally part of the command, numerous individual Marines have served with the elite force, including Brig. Gen. Dennis Hejlik, commanding general of the new Marine unit. And specially trained Marines, called Maritime Special Purpose Forces, have worked closely with SEAL teams assigned to Navy amphibious units or Expeditionary Strike Groups.

Gen. Michael Hagee, the Marine Corps commandant, said those “special purpose” Marines will join the new unit and, with other Marines, will give the Special Operations Command a new capability for strong raids from the sea.

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