Maritime Special Purpose Force: What Force For What Purpose?
SUBJECT AREA - Warfighting
MARITIME SPECIAL PURPOSE FORCE:
WHAT FORCE FOR WHAT PURPOSE?
LtCol. Jeffrey A. Powers USMC
Major Mark D. McMannis USMC
Research Paper Submitted to the Faculty
of the Command and Staff College
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
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,
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
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
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
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)
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:
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)
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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