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Maritime Special Purpose Force: What Force For What Purpose

Maritime Special Purpose Force: What Force For What Purpose?


CSC 1995


SUBJECT AREA - Warfighting










LtCol. Jeffrey A. Powers USMC

Major Mark D. McMannis USMC






Research Paper Submitted to the Faculty

of the Command and Staff College


April 1995





The views expressed in this paper are those of authors and

do not reflect the official policy or position of the

Department of Defense or the US Government







Title: Maritime Special Purpose Force. What force for what purpose?

Author: Lt. Colonel J.A. Powers and Major M.D. McMannis, USMC.


Thesis: The Maritime Special Purpose Force (MSPF) of the Special Operations Capable

Marine Expeditionary Unit is inadequately configured and staffed to meet future

operational requirements.


Background: The New World Order fragmented across political, ethnic, religious and

economic lines is producing global instability characterized by a wide diversity and

dispersion of potential threats to U.S. interests. The Marine Corps Mid-range Threat

Estimate 1995-2000 defines a security environment where "chaos is normal" throughout

littoral regions accessible to the US Marine Corps. Since the inception of the Marine

Expeditionary Unit Special Operations Capable (MEU/SOC), the likelihood of executing

precision direct action missions has increased dramatically, yet the MSPF, originally

designed to give MEU commanders low profile surgical capability, has failed to keep pace.

Forward deployed self-sustainable MEU(SOC)s will now, more than ever before, be called

upon to respond to crises deemed to be in the national interests of this country. Upgrades

in organization and equipment of the MSPF are essential if the Marine Corps is to remain

a credible national force capable of protecting national interests in highly restrictive,

time-sensitive environments.


Recommendation: Structure the MSPF to provide a two platoon direct action capability

to ensure target coverage. Formalize the MSPF command structure to optimize planning

and execution capabilities and reduce the inherent inefficiencies in an adhoc command

structure. Identity and train rifle company size covering force elements to security mission

standards in order to provide a viable target isolation capability. Augment or replace the

force reconnaissance platoon currently providing the direct action capability thereby

allowing it to concentrate on its' primary mission of performing reconnaissance for the

MEU commmander.


The Marine Corps and Special Operations


Since its inception in 1775, the Marine Corps has conducted special operations


throughout the globe.1 These operations range from small scale amphibious raids, the


running of local governments in Latin America, behind the lines economy of force


operations on Guadalcanal, Civic Action Platoons in Vietnam, to the worldwide forward


presence of Marine Expeditionary Units Special Operations Capable [MEU(SOC)].


During the 1994 Special Forces Conference at Ft. Bragg, N.C., Dr. Larry Cable from the


University of North Caroline at Wilmington, said that the Marine Corps is the world's


premier multipurpose special operations force.2 Since special operations are frequently


time sensitive, it would seem that the most logical and cost effective means of employing


special operations would be from forward deployed units. Forward presence reduces


reaction time, facilities mission planning, and enhances execution. The MEU(SOC)


provides this capability to the combatant CINCs on a continuous basis.


The SOC designation is achieved through enhanced training, additional equipment, and


augmentation. This is not without a cost. The complex and sensitive nature of special


operations requires elements of both the Marine Expeditionary Force (MEF) and the MEU


to focus on these unique mission profiles, which some may argue is at the expense of their


primary mission.3 It is also arguable that the focus on special operations has elevated the


proficiency of the Marine Air Ground Task Force (MAGTF) to a level that it would


otherwise not have achieved.4 The element of the MEU that is most effected is the


Maritime Special Purpose Force (MSPF). This task organized force is the element of the


MEU(SOC) trained to conduct direct action missions. It is essentially a raiding force that is


capable of conducting precision strikes. The Marine Corps Mid-Range Threat Estimate


predicts an increase in terrorism and worldwide chaos due to "nationalism, ideology,


competition, demographics, ungovernability, and technological acceleration."5 The majority


of conflicts that the MEU(SOC) will be involved in will be low-intensity and operations


other than war (OOTW). "The distinctions between combatant and noncombatant; soldier


and peacekeeper; and military target and civilian target become increasingly blurred."6


Ever increasing media coverage of military operations increases the global visibility of


actions taken by forces in contact. The necessity for surgical precision is greater now than


ever before. The new world order and global communications has produced an


environment requiring extremely restrictive measures be taken to ensure the maintenance of


national strategy. The debate should not be whether or not the MSPF should exist but


rather how to improve our current capabilities.


The question is, " if you talk the talk, can you walk the walk?" It is our belief that the


Marine Corps can do both if the it is willing to make some basic fundamental changes in


our organization for combat. The focus of this paper is the composition and capability of


the Maritime Special Purpose Force (MSPF).





The composition and mission profile of the MSPF is a subject of debate throughout


the Marine Corps.7 The debate over the necessity of a specially trained raiding force is not


without historical precedence.


In 1940 the Marine Corps published the Small Wars Manual to provide a reference


on how to effectively operate in an environment that we describe today as Operations


Other Than War (OOTW). Although this manual was based on experience gained in the


1920's and 30's in Haiti, Nicaragua, and Honduras during the Banana Wars, much of it still


applies. It provides an indepth study of special operational techniques ranging from foreign


internal defense (FID) to direct action (DA) in the form of small raids and ambushes.


Section IX describes the necessity to "seize individuals or attack hostile groups known to be


at a certain house."8 The same section also describes the restrictions that the attacking


element may encounter due the strict rules of engagement (ROE). "The patrol is sometimes


unable to open fire due to the presence of women, children, or unidentified persons, or


because of instructions received from higher authority."9 It is precisely this situation that


requires surgical shooting techniques.


World War II provided further evidence of Marine Corps involvement in special


operations. In 1942 President Franklin D. Roosevelt directed the Marine Corps to form


battalion size units capable of conducting operations similar to those conducted by British


Commandos earlier in the war. This requirement resulted in the formation of Marine


raider and parachute battalions. President Roosevelt proposed the appointment of Colonel


William J. Donovan, USA, to lead that effort. The purpose of the raider and parachute


battalions was to conduct operations behind enemy lines. There was an institutional


resistance,... to the concept of creating a specialized for or "commando" within the


Marine Corps. General Holland M. Smith, Commanding General Amphibious Force


Atlantic, was one among many senior Marine officers who believed "there was no task that


the 'elite' raider units could perform any more effectively than regular line units."10 The


Marine Corps determined that the raider units would require direct recruiting to avoid


draining the already thin resources of the Corps. Aversion to elitism and structure problems


would again surface during the following fifty years. Although political pressures


ultimately lead to the formation of the raider and parachute battalions, Major General


Thomas Holcomb, then Commandant of the Marine Corps, was successful in preventing


the appointment of Colonel Donovan to Brigadier General USMCR as commander of this


project. The Marine Corps opted instead to draw upon its' own ranks for leaders.


Donovan was subsequently appointed Chief of the Office of Stratigic Services (OSS).11.


The successes and failures of both the 1st Parachute Battalion and the 1st and 2nd


Raider Battalions reflected their method of employment and the nature of the Japanese


threat during the early years of the war. The basic missions of the raider and parachute


battalions differed only in their means of infiltration [amphibious vs. vertical




The missions of the raiders were the following:


1. To be the spearhead of amphibious landings by larger forces on beaches

generally thought to be inaccessible.

2. To conduct raiding expeditions requiring great elements of surprise and

high speed.

3. To conduct guerilla type operations for protracted periods behind enemy



The missions of the parachute battalions were the following:

1. As a reconnoitering and raiding force with a limited ability to return to its

parent organization. This assumed that the objective was sufficiently

important to warrant sacrifice of the force.

2. As a spearhead or advance guard, to seize and hold strategic installations

or terrain features until arrival of larger forces.

2. As an independent force operating for extended periods, presumably in a

guerilla role in hostile territory.13


By today's definition these missions would be categorized as special operations


because of the specialized nature of training and equipment and the unconventional nature


of the operations. Although the parachute battalions were never infiltrated by parachute,


their intense selection, training, and diversity provided employment options similar to their


raider counterparts.


The 2nd Raider Battalion's submarine launched amphibious raid on Makin Island, although


inconclusive in itself, was both a prototype for future operations and a prime example of


the necessity of specially trained units for submarine launched operations. The 2nd Raiders


further added to the concept with their successful long range destruction raid on




The necessity of both raiders and paramarines diminished when the nature of the war


changed to large scale amphibious assaults on heavily fortified Japanese held islands.


Upon their deactivation, the leadership and experience of these specially trained units were


valuable assets as they were absorbed into those Marine divisions preparing to assault


Tarawa, Saipan, Tinian, and Iwo Jima.


Other additional specially trained reconnaissance units were developed during the early


stages of World War II in order to provide for specific amphibious intelligence


requirements. The Marine Corps first employed amphibious reconnaissance units on 20


November 1943 in support of landing operations on Apamama Atoll in the Gilbert


Islands.15 These units enabled the Navy/Marine Corps team to conduct advance force


operations for the remainder of the war. The original Marine reconnaissanse (recon) units


were subsequently used in operations other than amphibious reconnaissance to include


"...diversions, minor night raids, and disruption of enemy communications."16 Marine


recon evolved to a degree that required specialized training such as scuba and parachute


entry techniques. This enabled the Marine Corps to covertly insert recon elements onto a


hostile shore or deep into enemy territory. The depth of the mission and the mission


profile determined the type of recon until to be utilized. For example, operational level


(deep) recon, which was usually deeper than tactical (distant) recon, was tasked to force


recon companies. Recon battalions at the division level, on the other hand, conducted


distant recon in support of the division's tactical mission. Because of the deep recon


mission, force recon companies traditionally possessed the more experienced recon Marine.


Force recon currently sources the direct action platoon of the MSPF.


Additional examples of Marine special operations can be found during the Vietnam


War. The Civic Action Platoon (CAP) program is an example of successful


counterinsurgency operations.17 This program was initially utilized in Phu Bai, Republic of


Vietnam in 1965 and eventually spread to the Danang area of operation. CAP consisted


of specially trained Marine rifle squads working in conjunction with Popular Forces (PF) to


provide security to rural South Vietnamese villages. Marines lived and worked side by side


with the villagers and attempted to motivate the PF to conduct security/ambush patrols in


the local vicinity. The programs purpose was to eventually turn over all the duties to the


PF. Although initially successful, Military Assistance Command Vietnam (MACV)


terminated the program because it believed that the process was too slow and that the PF


were not effectively consolidating Marine gains.18


In addition to the CAP program, Marines were extensively involved in direct action


missions against key targets. Gunnery Sergeant Carlos Hathcock, the most acclaimed


sniper in American history (93 confirmed kills), was tasked with the mission of killing high


ranking Vietnamese commanders to include a general officer.19 The Marine Sniper School


at Quqntico, Va. was created as a direct result of the effectiveness of Marine Snipers in


Vietnam.20 The Marine Corps is currently the proponency for Sniper training in the


Department of Defense (DOD). Marine snipers are now an integral part of the


reconnaissance and surveillance (R&S) element of the MSPF.



Special Operations Integration of Marine Corps Assets


As a result of the failed hostage rescue mission in Iran in 1979 and uncoordinated


special operations activity in Grenada in 1983, Secretary of Defense Casper Weinberger


directed each military service to develop its special operations capabilities and a time


phased implementation plan by March 1988.21 The MEU(SOC) was developed in


response to this requirement.


The MEU(SOC) was established on the already existing MEU structure consisting of a


MEU command element (CE), a ground combat element (GCE), an aviation combat


element (ACE), and a MEU service support group (MSSG)(fig.1). The GCE normally


consisting of a battalion landing team (BLT) was augmented by a reinforced helicopter


squadron and a tailored service support group for logistics support.22


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The single factor which most clearly distinguished the MEU(SOC) from its earlier counterpart


was not structure, but mission capabilities and the structuring of existing forces to provide


these cababilities. The MEU(SOC) handbook establishes 18 specific mission profiles listed


by task, condition, and standard.23 SOC qualification requires demonstrated proficiency in


those missions. As previously mentioned, development of the MSPF was in response to


specific missions requiring highly developed surgical capabilities. The MSPF provided an


in-extremis (emergency situation requiring immediate action), direct action capability which


augmented national assets Joints Special Operations Command (JSOC) forces.


In determining whether the MEU(SOC) is capable of conducting special operations we


must first define special operations. According to the Doctrine for Army Special Operations


Forces FM 100-25:


Special Operations are actions conducted by specially organized, trained, and

equipped military and paramilitary forces to achieve military, political, economic,

or psychological objectives by nonconventional means in hostile, denied, or

politically sensitive areas. They are conducted in peacetime competition, conflict,

and war, independently or in coordination with operations of GP forces.

Politico-military considerations frequently shape SO, requiring clandestine,

covert, or low-visibility techniques and oversight at the national level. So usually

differ from conventional operations in their degree of risk, operational techniques,

mode of employment, independence from friendly support, and dependence upon

operational intelligence and indigenous assets.24


The key word in the above definition is "nonconventional." Most special operations


missions are nothing more than basic conventional missions conducted by forces that come


under the "Special Operations" umbrella. This is a rather large umbrella with a budget that


rivals the Marine Corps budget ie. United States Special Operations Command


(USSOCOM).25 public Law 10 (USC 167) states that special operations include the


following as far as they related to special operations (SO):


Direct action (DA)

Strategic reconnaissance (SR), which Joint Pub 3-05 incorperates into a

broader activity called special reconnaissance

Unconventional warfare (UW)

Foriegn internal defense (FID)

Civil affairs (CA)

Psychological operations (PSYOPS)

Counterterrorism (CT)

Humanitarian assistance (HA)

Theater search and rescue (SAR)

Such other activities as may be specified by the National Command



The MEU(SOC) is capable of conducting all these missions except unconventional


warfare. UW, in its purest form, requires foriegn language proficiency, cross cultural


training, and the ability to operate in extremely austere environments with minimal external


support. Certain aspects of counterterrorism such as hostage rescue (HR), require


dedicated forces because of the high degree of precision and specialized training needed to


avoid collateral damage. The MEU(SOC) trains and is capable of conducting HR


in-extremis situations when dedicated forces are not available. They are also capable of


providing direct support once national assets arrive.


There is a fine line, in most cases, between special operations and conventional


operations. An airfield seizure conducted by US Army Rangers, for example, is


considered a special operation. Seizure of the same airfield by a Marine infantry battalion


would be considered a conventional operation. The difference often lies in whether or not


the operation is in support of SOF.


The forward sea-based positioning of the MEU(SOC) enables it to conduct a variety of


both special and conventional operations rapidly.27 There are tradeoffs in sea-basing that


limit the size of complexity of operations. The MEU(SOC) must be a multipurpose force,


flexible enough to conduct a large array of contingencies. Elements of the MEU(SOC)


must therefore train to a multiplicity of missions. Over-specializing in any one mission may


significantly degrade a unit's ability to conduct another contingency. The necessity for


surgical precision, on the other hand, mandates the focus of certain MEU(SOC) elements


on the difficult missions. This creates a dilemma in force structure and focus that is further


complicated by space limitations on available amphibious shipping. The most difficult


MEU(SOC) mission, in-extremis hostage rescue (IHR), is also the most unlikely. Since


this direct action mission elevates the overall quality of training, therefore enhancing our


ability to conduct less complicated missions. Training to a higher task, condition, and


standard normally produces skills and capabilities readily carried over to lesser




Direct action is not limited to HR or in-extremis hostage rescue (IHR). The purpose


of DA is to "inflict damage on, seize, or destroy a specialized target or to destroy, capture,


or recover designated personnel or material." This includes:




Mine emplacement

Standoff attacks by fire from air, ground, or maritime platforms

Terminal guidance for precision-guided-munitions

Gas oil platform (GOPLAT) strikes/seizures

Specialized Demolitions Operations (includes breaching)

Harassing operations

Recovery operations29


FM100-25 further describes Special Operation Forces(SOF) as the following:


As designated by the SECDEF, SOF are those forces specifically organized,

trained, and equipped to conduct SO or provide direct support (DS) to other

SOF. The provide a versitile military capability to defend US national interests.

They are an integral part of the total US defense posture and a strategic

instrument of national policy. SOF can provide the NCA military options to

respond to an international situation at a reasonable cost and risk to US



The MEU(SOC) clearly fits into this definition without being in competition with


designated SOF and USSOCOM. Additionally, the forward deployed natures of the


MEU(SOC) makes it the force of choice because of its ability to respond quickly either


independently of in DS of SOF.


The Marine Corps Mid-Range Threat Estimate 1995-2005 defines a new world


security environment where "chaos is normal." This condition predicates more than ever


before the necessity for a Marine Corps surgical direct action capability. The MSPF was


designed to meet this requirement, however, current structure and training limitations fail


to take full advantage of potential capabilities.



MSPF Strengths and Weaknesses


The MSPF possesses strengths unique to naval expeditionary forces. Forward


deployment and seaborne maneuverability provide the capability to establish highly mobile,


self-sustainable, clandestine, forward and intermediate support bases. The shipboard


platform reduces ground based signature and supports immediate power projection in


littoral regions.


Another advantage to forward deployment besides close proximity is the reduction


of execution and planning requirements. On site availability provides the national


command authority with prepackaged forces capable of executing a wide variety of




Although somewhat controversial and relatively subjective, there is general


agreement that MEU(SOC) MSPF skill levels are comparable to the national assets in


selective areas. Shooting skills as well as reconnaissance and surveillance capabilities are in


line with National Assets Standards.


Advantages enjoyed by the MSPF are significant but not obtained without loss to


other elements of the MEU(SOC). There are numerous tradeoffs: as money, men,


training, and time are dedicated to refinement of special capabilities, fewer assets are


available to conventional forces. Despite significant assets and efforts, many problems still


exist. The current weaknesses of the special purpose force are primarily the result of asset


allocation. A combination of force redistribution, realignment of funds and additional


mission tasking would significantly contribute toward the alignment of the MSPF with


national assets. In order to come on line with current capabilities, the following weaknesses


must be addressed.


First, the current number of shooters available to the MSPF commander restricts his


tactics and seriously reduces the number and types of targets he can engage.


Although the sizes of direct action platoons vary, they are generally restricted to single


entrance limited targets


Second, the current organization of the MSPF assigns the force reconnaisance


platoon of the MEU as the strike element. Given the current composition of MEU's, this is


appropriate, but significantly reduces conventional reconnaissance capability. Limited time,


high skill level, and the singular focus of the direct action mission degrade the force


platoon's ability to accomplish its primary mission of deep reconnaisance.


Third, equipment limitations are the result of limited funding and the force's naval


character. Additional funding could provide for an upgrade in communications and


reconnaissance equipment. Howerever, the naval expeditionary nature of the force would


continue to limit the upgrade of aviation support due to constraints of deck spots and the


requirement for corrossion control of ship board aircraft.


Fourth, the number of officers available for commanding and planning MSPF


operations is limited. The command structure for the MSPF is composed of an adhoc


combination of available officers. Some MEUs use their force reconnaissance platoon


commander as the MSPF commander while other MEUs use officers ranging from the


BLT's H&S Company commanding officer to the executive officer of the MEU.31 No


provisions have been made for permanent billets. This informal command structure fails to


provide any continuity for rank or MOS. The current lack of structure forces


commanders to realign leadership dependent upon the MEU commander's degree of


support for the direct action mission.


As discussed earlier, the force reconnaissance platoon is the force of choice to train


to the standards of the strike element. Under our current organization, only the force


platoon possesses the individual insert capabilities and the maturity and experience levels


required to achieve proficiency. Although workable, USMC forces fall far behind the


rank, maturity and expertise of the national assets. These factors, possibly more than any


others, restricts the level of MSPF capability.


Fifth, unlike the national assets tasked with performing the direct action mission,


Marine forces possess little continuity, require continuous retraining, and have only limited


ability to recall essential knowledge and skills. The current system is very effective at


providing a general skill base across the Marine Corps but fails to provide highly skilled


cohesive units capable of building and developing on past experience.


Finally, the draw on BLT assets to support the strike element remains an area of


concern. Under the current organizational structure, the reconnaissance and surveillance


element and the landing force is drawn from the BLT. This support requirement has


historically either degraded the BLT capability in accomplishing its assigned missions by


reducing its organic reconnaissance capability or reduced MSPF capabilities as a result of


superficial support.



Enhancement of the Maritime Special Purpose Force


The following courses of action provide solutions to areas of concern and support the


strengths currently present in the MSPF. We will present each course of action (COA) as


the proposed organizational structure for the MSPF augmented by suggestions for its


staffing. Finally, we will conclude each COA with a list of advantages and disadvantages.


The current MSPF consists of a DA platoon sourced from the MEU's force recon platoon.


The reconnaissance and surveillance (R&S) element of the MSPF is normally sourced


from the MEU's BLT surveillance and target acquisition (STA) platoon. The covering


force or security element of the MSPF is normally a platoon sourced from the BLT but


may on occassion be filled by the amphibious ready group's (ARG) SEAL platoon. The


ACE of the MSPF is a task organized portion of the MEU's ACE. The command element


(CE) is sourced by the MEU CE, the BLT, or both (Fig 2).


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The following COAs maintain the basic organizational structure of the MSPF and seek to


optimize capabilities through a redistribution of assets:


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COA I would require an upgrade of the force reconnaissance company to twelve


platoons.32 This recommendation would require structure for approximately three hundred


more organizational billets to support operations on the east and west coasts. In addition to


two DA platoons, we would also propose a covering force of a composite rifle company


size unit to be trained to standard.




1. Two D.A. Plts. provide the MSPF commander with additional tactical options


and increases the number and size of targets available to the mission




2. An increase in the size and capability of the covering force provides for


additional security and also increases potential target coverage.


3. Twelve platoons available at the force reconnaissance company could allow for


a concentrated effort on the DA. mission. The net result being increased focus


of effort and concentration of expertise. The additional platoon available to the


MEU commander would also provide a more effective deep reconnaissance






1. Requires reapportionment of structure.


2. Concentration on the DA mission by specified forces would be identified as




3. BLT surveillance and target acquisition (STA) assets could not be assumed


available to support the BLT.


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COA II proposes the deployment of Special Operation Command assets with the


MEU(SOC). This may require some restructuring of Spec Ops Forces to maintain


CONUS Base readiness requirements. This COA also moves the force recon platoon into


a more traditional role of reconnaissance and surveillance.33



1. Increases chances of mission success with the addition of a national asset direct


action platoon.


2. Supports the current philosophy of joint operations.


3. Allows the mission commander the opportunity to engage a wider size and


range of targets.


4. Reduces target turnover complications.


5. Maintains reconnaissance capability within the force reconnaissance platoon.


6. Reduces the BLT STA augmentation requirements freeing a larger portion of


surveillance target acquisition marines for BLT missions.


7. Increase in covering force capability provides additional security and target






1. Command and tasking of the MSPF may be restricted due to the addition of the


national asset.


2. May be perceived as the Marine Corps' inability to accomplish the mission vice


an attempt at enhancing capabilities.


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COA III utilizes only forces currently present in the Marine Amphibious Ready Group






1. All forces are currently present in the MARG.


2. Maintains reconnaissance capability within the force reconnaissance plt.


3. Provides limited support for greater number and size of targets.


4. Increases the number of STA assets available to support the BLT.


5. Increase in covering force capability provides additional security and target






1. SEAL Plt must train to current standard.


2. Second DA plt from the BLT provides trailer capability only. There is not a two


DA platoon capability.






We recommend courses of action III, II, and I, in order of feasibility. Any of the


COAs, would upgrade the MEU(SOC) and MSPF capabilities, however, not all COAs are


as easily instituted.


COA III is the most feasible from the perspective of available structure, training


compatibility of units, and implementation but falls short of restoring the MEU's organic


reconnaissance capability.


COA I best supports the enhancing of both direct action and recon capabilities but


requires significant redistribution of force structure which would be difficult to implement


under current force restrictions.


COA II may be the best overall solution but becomes extremely difficult to implement


due to limited special operations assets and forward deployment requirements.





The Marine Corps involvement in special operations throughout this century was


reflective of its diversification and ability to adapt a changing world. The expeditionary


nature of the Corps provides out nation with a multipurpose force that can react quickly


with a credible force. The MEU(SOC) concept is based on historical precedence which


were adapted to meet todays requirements.


The MSPF, an integral part of the MEU(SOC), must grow with evolving global


requirements. It must gain and maintain a capability worthy of national tasking and support


the MEU commander under the most stringent conditions imaginable. Although Marine


forces in general, and the MSPF in particular, may not be the first force of choice for


many of the highly sensitive missions projected for the next decade, it is highly feasible that


forward deployment, immediate response capability, and the inability of more capable


forces to react, make it the force of consolation. In todays world, the most capable forces


often do not receive tasking due to political considerations, timing, or the in-extremis nature


of the event. Recent history has shown expectations of the MEU(SOC) to be inconsistent


with its capabilities. The 1993 tactical recovery of aircraft and personnel (TRAP)


executed by the 24th MEU (SOC) in Bosnia Hercegovina and humanitarian relief


operation conducted by the 15th MEU (SOC) in Somalia 1993, are classic examples of


missions exceeding capabilities.34 There is no reason to believe that this trend will not




The United States Marine Corps must possess the capability of responding to


in-extremis requirements if it is to remain a viable forward deployed deterrent. The MSPF,


although numerically only a small part of this capability, is now more than ever before


likely to be called upon to execute missions it is not fully prepared to conduct. In the era of


downsizing, mission failure of one of our Maritime Special Purpose Forces could inflict


irreparable damage to the Marine Corps.





1 Agostino Von Hassel, Strike Force; US Marine Corps Special Operations (Howell

Press, 1991), 8, 10, 16, 18.

2 During the 1994 Special Forces Conference at the JFK Center, Ft. Bragg,N.C., Dr.

Larry Cable from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington referred several

times to the Marine Corps sucesses during the Banana Wars and Vietnam in

special operations. Dr. Cable is a renowned expert on terrorism and lectures at the

Marine Command and Staff College and the annually held Special Forces

Conference at Ft. Bragg, N.C.

3 Lt. Colonel M. Spiese, USMC, Commanding Officer Second Force

Reconnaissance Company, Interviewed by authors 8 January 1995.

4 Strike Force, 30.

5 Threats in Transition, Marine Corps Mid-Range Threat Estimate, 1995-2005,

Marine Corps Intelligence Activity, 2033 Barnett Avenue, Quantico, Va. 22134, 1

6 Strike Force, 30.

7 Colonel Andrew N. Pratt and Major Steven J. Cash, Marine Corps Gazette: Do

We Still Need In-Extremis Hostage Rescue?, 34-36.

8 Small Wars Manual (Reprint of 1940 Edition); United States Marine Corps;

United States Government Printing Office, Washington, DC, 51

9 Ibid., 51

10 Special Marine Corps Units of World War II; Historical Division, Headquarters,

United States Marine Corps, Washington, DC, 51

11 Ibid., 1-2

12 Ibid., 3-4

13 Ibid., 36-37

14 Special Marine Corps Units of World War II, 10-14

15 Michael Lee Lanning and Ray William Stubbe, Inside Force Recon, (New York;

Ivy Books 1989), 17-18.

16 Ibid., 14.

17 Dr. Larry Cable emphasized this example as a special operations success by the

Marine Corps during the 1994 Special Forces conference.

Strike Force; US Marine Corps Special Operations, 21

18 Allen R. Millett, Semper Fidelis, The History of the United States Marine Corps,


Charles Henderson, Marine Sniper (New York: Berkley Books, 1988), xiv.

19 Ibid., xii.

20 Charles Henderson, Marine Sniper, (New York: Berkley Books, 1988), xiv.

21 Strike Force, 28.

22 Ibid., 34.

23 Ibid., appendix A see also: Standardized MEU(SOC) Training Handbook I, (Fleet

Marine Force Atlantic, Fleet Marine Force Pacific: United States Marine Corps,

March 1989), I-1, I-2, I-3.

24 Doctrine for Army Special Operations Forces, FM 100-25; Headquarters,

Department of the Army, Washington, D.C., December 1991,3-1

25 United States Special Operations Forces: Posture Statement.

26 FM 100-25, 3-1

27 Strike Force, 32.

28 Strike Force, 47.

29 Joint Special Operations Awareness Program (JSOAP), Reference Manual,

USSOCOM, Third Revision 1993, D-18-19

30 FM 100-25, 2-1

31 Colonel J. Huley, USMC, Commanding Officer 22 ME(SOC); during an

interview with Col. Huley, he stated that numerous command structures exist.

Col. Huley believed that the billet of MSPF commander be filled by a company

grade officer. Muth, Lt. Colonel., USMC, Operations Officer II MEF, Special

Operations Training Group stated the billet requires a field grade officer.

32 Lt. Colonel M. Spiese, USMC, Commanding Officer 2nd Force Reconnaissance

Company, stated that the current operational tempo requires an upgrade in force

structure in order to maintain a deep reconnaissance capability.

33 Colonel A. Pratt, USMC, Director, Marine Corps Command and Staff College,

stated that an alternative to sourcing the direct action platoon from Marine Corps

assets would be utilization of JSOC elements.

34 Newbold, Colonel G.S., USMC, Commanding Officer 15th MEU(SOC), stated at

Marine Corps Command and Staff College that the assigned Somalian

humanitarian relief mission executed by the 15th MEU (SOC) was outside his

stated mission parameters.





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World War II. Washington DC: PCN 190 002596 00. 1972.


Holmes, Allen H. "Special Operations" Defense 95, Issue 1 (1995).


Huley, Colonel J., USMC II MEF Chief of Staff. Former MEU(SOC) Commander.

Interview by authors, 8 January 1995.


Jones, Captain R., USMC. Officer in Charge II MEF Special Operations Training

Group/ Special Missions Branch. Interview by authors, 7 January 1995.


Lanning, Michael L. and Ray W. Stubbe, Inside Force Recon. New York.. Ivy

Books. 1989.


Marine Corps Intelligence Activity. Marine Corps Mid-Range Treat Estimate

1995-2005. Study. MCIA 1570-001-95, November 1994


Millett, Allan R., Semper Fidelis, The History of the United States Marine Corps.

New York: Macmillan Publishing Co., Inc. London: Collier Macmillan Publishers.



Muth, Lt. Colonel J. USMC. Operations Officer, Special Operations Training Group,

II MEF. Interview by authors 8 January 1995.


Owens, Gunnery Sergeant J., USMC. Noncommissioned Officer in Charge, USMC

Scout Sniper School. Quantico, Va.


Pratt, Andrew N., Col, USMC and Steven J. Cash, Maj, USMC. "Do We Still Need

In-Extremis Hostage Rescue?" Marine Corps Gazette Volume 77, no.7 (July 1993).


Pratt, Colonel A., USMC. Director, USMC Command and Staff College. Former

MEU(SOC) Battalion Landing Team Commander. Interview by authors, 4 January



Preston, lt. Colonel B., USMC. Executive Officer, Special Operations Training

Group, II MEF. Former Maritime Special Purpose Force Commander. Interview

by authors, 8 January 1995.


Henderson, Charles. Marine Sniper. New York: Berkley Books, 1988.


Spiese, Lt. Colonel M., USMC. Commanding Officer 2nd Force Reconnaissance

Company. Interview by authors, 8 January 1995.


Standardized MEU(SOC) Training Handbook, Handbook 1. Headquarters Fleet

Marine Force Atlantic, 30 March 1989.


United States Marine Corps, Small Wars Manual. US Government Printing Office

1940, Reprinted 1987.


United States Special Operations Command. Joint Special Operations Awareness

Program (JSOAP) Reference Manual. Prepared for USSOCOM SOJ-5C by Kapos

Associates Inc. Third Revision, 8 October 1993.


United States Special Operations Command. United States Special Operations

Forces, 1994: Posture Statement.


Von Hassel, Agostino. Strike Force; US Marine Corps Special Operations. Howell

Press. Singapore. 1991.


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