Col. Jon Darren Duke graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy and was commissioned in the Marine Corps in May of 1991, after which he attended the Basic School, graduating in February 1992. He next attended the Marine Air-Ground Task Force (MAGTF) Intelligence Officer Course and, following graduation in 1992, was assigned to the 3d Marine Division in Okinawa, Japan. He served as the intelligence officer for 2nd Battalion, 12th Marines; assistant intelligence officer for 4th Marines and as a platoon commander, executive officer and diving officer for 3d Reconnaissance Company.
In 1996, Duke was assigned to the Marine Corps Intelligence Activity as a liaison officer to the U.S. Army National Ground Intelligence Center in Charlottesville, Virginia, serving in the Forces Directorate as a Middle East ground combat analyst. Following his 1998 attendance at the Naval Postgraduate School and the Defense Language Institute, he was assigned to the U.S. Consulate in Jerusalem.
From 2002 to 2005, Duke served as assistant chief of staff for intelligence for the 4th Marine Expeditionary Brigade (Anti-Terrorism) at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. During his tenure, he deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom as the intelligence operations officer for the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa and in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom as the intelligence fusion officer for First Marine Expeditionary Force in al-Anbar Province.
Duke joined MARSOC in April 2009 as operations officer for the Marine Special Operations Regiment, now the Marine Raider Regiment. In November 2010, he assumed command of 3rd Marine Special Operations Battalion. In June 2012, he was a National Intelligence Fellow with the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, then returned to MARSOC in June 2013 as the assistant chief of staff for intelligence.
On the eve of MARSOC’s 10th anniversary, Col. Duke responded to questions from The Year in Special Operations Consulting Editor John Gresham about the history, status and future of his new command, the Marine Raider Support Group.
The Year in Special Operations: In the context of the current MARSOC force structure, where does MRSG fit?
Col. Jon D. Duke: The Marine Raider Support Group is one of three subordinate commands to MARSOC. We provide tailored intelligence, communications, logistics, canine and fires capabilities to reinforce the Marine Special Operations Company (MSOC).
Marines and gear are at a premium and the earlier our operators are exposed to them and their capabilities, the better they will all perform together as a team. Our goal is to do as much as possible with the time we have with these Marines, both forward and in training.
What are the roles and responsibilities assigned to MRSG – and do you have any particular metrics you work toward for MARSOC?
Our mission is to provide trained and equipped special operations capability specialists and combat service support to deploying MARSOC units. We also perform general support maintenance and garrison functions in support of the MARSOC staff.
What kind of Marine are you looking for to qualify and train into special operations capabilities specialists and special operations combat service specialists?
We are looking for high-performing Marines who demonstrate mastery of their MOS and have the intrinsic motivation to continue to improve and hone their skills. We are looking for team players who can work with small teams in hostile, denied and politically sensitive locations and who have the maturity, mental and physical fitness and courage to perform under these conditions.
Can you please break down, in general terms, the selection, qualification and training your SOCS receive in order to receive their designation – such as specialized training, duration, physical requirements, field/classroom training, etc.?
Marines desiring an assignment to MARSOC as SOCS must be eligible for a security clearance, meet the requirements of their MOS training and have a 1st class PFT [physical fitness test] score of 225 or better. Upon assignment to MARSOC, SOCS candidates attend MARSOC SERE [Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape], Special Operations Training Course (STC) and SOF-specific training for their MOS. For example, MARSOC communicators attend the MARSOC Network Operators Course (MNOC) to learn how to employ and maintain the SOF communications suites used by deploying MARSOC units.
Each MARSOC training course has a combination of field and classroom training. Upon completion of these three elements, the Marine is awarded the SOCS 8071 MOS. More mission-specific training will be received when their support team forms up with the Marine Special Operations Company for deployment. SOCS may serve in MARSOC for up to five years, with a goal of completing two deployments. CSS Marines may serve up to three years with a goal of completing one deployment.
What makes your SOCS unique? What exactly do they do for MARSOC?
SOCS receive advanced MOS training in SOF-specific skills and equipment that prepare them to integrate with SOF teams and units forward. These resources in training and equipment enable SOF operators, whose intentionally small footprint leaves them frequently at a numerical disadvantage, to magnify operational results to achieve U.S. objectives. For example, our intelligence personnel provide intelligence and intelligence products that are tailored specially for use by small teams in austere and hostile environments to give them a tactical edge against adversaries.
What has been the MRSG’s greatest accomplishments in the past 12 months?
In the last year, we have refined our personnel and equipment sourcing processes to maximize the availability of our SOCS and CSS Marines and their kit to both deployed forces and those training to deploy. Marines and gear are at a premium and the earlier our operators are exposed to them and their capabilities, the better they will all perform together as a team. Our goal is to do as much as possible with the time we have with these Marines, both forward and in training.
How do you see your unit and its capabilities growing and improving over the next five years?
As the operating environment changes and our adversaries adapt, we must adapt to meet those challenges. So we are planning for the addition of capabilities and specialties required to prevail in an information-saturated environment with an ever-shortening media cycle and the continued proliferation and miniaturization of personal electronic devices and social media.
We are increasingly educating and training our Marines to think in terms of and to work with interagency, joint and coalition partners for effective operational outcomes. Very little that the country achieves overseas, now or in the future, will be accomplished by military forces alone. We want to be on the leading edge of collaborative operations. That means training Marines and their leaders to think and act broadly.
This interview was first published in The Year in Special Operations: 2016-2017 Edition.