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Interview With Col. Peter Huntley, MARSOC

Commander, Marine Raider Regiment

 

 

Col. Peter Huntley enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1984 and served three years with the 1st Ranger Battalion before receiving an honorable discharge in 1987. In December 1991, he returned to military service with a commission in the U.S. Marine Corps through the Platoon Leader’s Course.

Huntley served as operations officer for 45 Commando Group (Royal Marines) during peacekeeping operations in the Balkans in 2000 and during the early phases of the United Kingdom’s participation in Afghanistan (2001-2002). He then took command of Task Force Kabul under 3rd Battalion, 6th Marines in support of the U.S. Embassy in Afghanistan and served as the battalion executive officer during deployment for operations in eastern Afghanistan in 2004.

He held a series of command assignments in Afghanistan and Iraq through 2011, then returned to the U.S. to attend the National War College. Following graduation, he served as deputy, then director, for CT operations within the Office of the Secretary of Defense (2012-2014). Prior to taking command of the Marine Raider Regiment, Huntley was director of operations and plans for the Combined Joint Interagency Task Force-Syria.

On MARSOC’s 10th anniversary, Col. Huntley responded to questions from The Year in Special Operations Consulting Editor John Gresham about his command’s history, status and future.

The Year in Special Operations: How did you first become involved with MARSOC?

Col. Peter Huntley: I first came to MARSOC in 2009 when I assumed command of then 2nd Marine Special Operations Battalion, now 2nd Marine Raider Battalion, from 2009-2011. In this capacity, I had the opportunity to deploy and command the battalion HQ as a Special Operations Task Force (SOTF-W) to western Afghanistan in 2010-2011.

What are the roles and missions assigned to the Marine Raider Regiment and your subordinate components?

The Marine Raider Regiment (MRR) consists of a headquarters company and three Marine Raider Battalions (1st, 2nd and 3rd). The regiment provides tailored military combat skills training and advisor support for identified foreign forces in order to enhance their tactical capabilities, as well as the capability to form the nucleus of a Joint Special Operations Task Force.

Marine Raider Regiment

Critical Skills Operators with 2nd Marine Raider Battalion, U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Special Operations Command, wait for a helicopter extract during training at Atlantic Airfield, N.C., Dec. 16, 2015. MARSOC photo by Sgt. Donovan Lee

Marines and sailors of the MRR train, advise and assist friendly host nation forces – including naval and maritime military and paramilitary forces – to enable them to support their governments’ internal security and stability, to counter subversion and to reduce the risk of violence from internal and external threats. Regiment deployments are coordinated by MARSOC, through USSOCOM, in accordance with engagement priorities for Overseas Contingency Operations.

Since the drawdown in Afghanistan, we have regionalized our operational forces in order to provide better support to the Theater Special Operations Commands (TSOCs) across three Geographic Combatant Commands (GCCs): U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) and U.S. Pacific Command (PACOM).

Each Marine Raider Battalion is organized, trained and equipped to deploy for worldwide missions as directed by MARSOC. Each battalion consists of four Marine Special Operations Companies (MSOCs) and is task-organized with personnel uniquely skilled in special equipment support, intelligence and fire support. Each MSOC is commanded by a Marine major and capable of deploying task-organized expeditionary special operations forces for the conduct of full-spectrum special operations in support of the Geographic Combatant Commanders.

What kind of deployments has your unit made over the past few years? And can you give us a sense of the size of the personnel/units normally deployed and what they are tasked to do?

Although I will not comment on any specific operational actions we have taken or are planning to take, I can describe what we are doing globally in a general way.

Marine Raiders mortar

Marine Raiders from Company F, 2nd Marine Raider Battalion, hone their skills shooting 60 mm mortars during a Company Collective Exercise in Fort Jackson, South Carolina, Feb. 25, 2016. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Donovan Lee

Since the drawdown in Afghanistan, we have regionalized our operational forces in order to provide better support to the Theater Special Operations Commands (TSOCs) across three Geographic Combatant Commands (GCCs): U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) and U.S. Pacific Command (PACOM). This establishes a supportive relationship where we maintain a persistently forward-deployed MSOC in each of these three regions and allows us to develop regional expertise. These MSOCs can execute the full spectrum of special operations and the MRR will maintain our forward capability persistently in each region through rotational deployments.

By being forward-deployed, the MSOC is more agile in response to emerging theater requirements and more able to conduct sustained, meaningful partner nation engagements in accordance with the objectives of the TSOC, in concert with the Combatant Commander’s Theater Campaign Plan.

While each deployed MSOC is task-organized according to theater requirements, they share common characteristics. Each MSOC combines a comprehensive mix of combat, combat support and combat service Marines and sailors into a cohesive team. The MSOC’s design allows for flexibility in its employment, as it provides multiple intangibles to a TSOC commander – an enhanced operations and intelligence fusion cycle that leads to a faster decision-making process, data network and Information Technology (IT) expertise that facilitates greater command and control capability, and a logistical support cycle that gives the company reinforced maneuverability and lethality. All of these factors have allowed MARSOC to stand out in their deployed regions by giving forward commanders a greater latitude of employment options.

By being forward-deployed, the MSOC is more agile in response to emerging theater requirements and more able to conduct sustained, meaningful partner nation engagements in accordance with the objectives of the TSOC, in concert with the Combatant Commander’s Theater Campaign Plan.

In the context of current/overall SOCOM/MARSOC force structure, where do your units fit – and how?

The Marine Raider Regiment provides the deployed forces for MARSOC through our primary unit of employment, the MSOC. The MRR mans, trains, equips and deploys the MSOC forward to the TSOCs through our Title 10 responsibilities. Our MSOCs are structured to provide a unique capability not inherent within the TSOCs. The MSOC demonstrates this capability through impacts to long-term U.S. objectives throughout the supported TSOCs’ areas of operational responsibility (AORs) by its holistic application of cross-functional SOF activities and enabler support.

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John D. Gresham lives in Fairfax, Va. He is an author, researcher, game designer, photographer,...