Defense Media Network

Interview With MARSOC Col. Brett Bourne

Commander, Marine Special Operations School



To meet our obligation to create world-class SOF, we continually refine our already rigorous assessment and selection process to ensure we select the right Marines upfront at A&S. Additionally, we ensure our programs of instruction meet – or exceed – all USSOCOM and USMC standards, thus maintaining quality of production while increasing throughput for service as Raiders.

Prospective CSOs and SOOs must be physically fit, but even more importantly, must be mentally and psychologically suited for the rigors of challenging deployments in remote and austere locations.

What kind of Marine are you looking to select to qualify and train into a MARSOC Raider?

Initially, an aspiring CSO or SOO must meet a minimum general technical proficiency score, a minimum PFT [physical fitness test] score and be able to pass the MARSOC swim assessment. All candidates must meet the MARSOC medical screening criteria and be eligible to obtain and maintain a secret clearance.

Prospective CSOs and SOOs must be physically fit, but even more importantly, must be mentally and psychologically suited for the rigors of challenging deployments in remote and austere locations. In sum, we seek Marines with ten specific attributes compatible with special operations missions and the MARSOC way of life: Integrity, effective intelligence, physical ability, adaptability, initiative, determination, dependability, teamwork, interpersonal skills and stress tolerance.

Breacher Course

A MARSOC Critical Skills Operator uses a saw to cut through a metal door to gain entry on a building during Marine Special Operation School’s Master Breacher’s Course. The Master Breacher course instructs Critical Skills Operators on how to overcome obstacles such as walls, fences and doors via a range of breaching methods including mechanical, ballistic, thermal and explosive. U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Sgt. Scott A. Achtemeier

Aspiring SOCs must meet all MOS requirements and be prepared to complete the three part training pipeline required for certification as an 8071 Special Operations Capable Specialist within their specific field of expertise.

Can you please break down the Raider Selection, Qualification and Training Course for our readers? Things such as phases, duration, physical requirements, field/classroom training, etc?

MARSOF Assessment and Selection is conducted in two phases. Phase One is a three-week course executed aboard Camp Lejeune that prepares MARSOC candidates for the challenges of A&S. That phase focuses on physical training to include running, swimming and load-bearing hiking; classroom instruction and practical application of basic Marine Corps knowledge and MARSOC and special operations forces fundamentals.

Phase Two is approximately three weeks long and is a highly competitive, physically challenging evaluation in which Marines undergo a series of events uniquely designed to identify those who possess the ten specific attributes. Those assessed successfully are selected to attend the Individual Training Course.

The ITC consists of 2273.5 hours of instruction conducted over 180 training days, broken into the following five phases:

Phase Zero includes completion of the Full Spectrum SERE Level C training required for all deploying USSOCOM personnel, advanced medical training and initial training in communications and intelligence as a foundation for later, deeper skills acquisition in those disciplines.

Phase One focuses on small unit tactics, weapons employment and amphibious operations, including individual mobility techniques using swim fins in open water, helo-casting and small boat night and day navigation and insertion techniques.

Phase Two covers combat marksmanship and close quarters battle, with emphasis on urban operations.

Phase Three provides training in special reconnaissance skills.

Phase Four provides irregular warfare training and culminates with exercise “Derna Bridge,” which allows the students to demonstrate their skills in a realistic, off-base, free-play exercise.

ITC provides 24 hours of college ACE accreditation in the lower-division baccalaureate/associate degree category. Specifically, ITC graduates receive three semester hours apiece in weapons proficiency, weapons and tactics, physical fitness, radio operations, data analysis, land navigation, geographic intelligence and small group communications.

Potential special operations officers (SOO) attend the MARSOF Team Commanders Course. MTCC includes all ITC training, as well as specific classes related to the duties of the Marine Special Operations Team Commander. Some MTCC specific items include close air support, staff planning and capabilities integration.

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