Maj. Gen. Joseph L. Osterman was commissioned through the Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps at the University of Colorado, where he earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in biology. His subsequent assignments included rifle and 81 mm mortar platoons commander with 1st Battalion, 7th Marines; executive officer of the Marine Detachment aboard the USS Kennedy; commanding officer of the Marine Detachment aboard the USS Forrestal, and 1st Battalion operations officer 2nd Marines.
He deployed to Okinawa in 2000 as commander of 1st Battalion, 3rd Marines, and participated in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. This was followed by a joint tour as an instructor and as the chief of staff, NATO School, Oberammergau, Germany, where he was responsible for training support to some 54 nations.
Following his promotion to colonel, Osterman assumed command of 25th Marine Regiment and deployed to Iraq as an adviser to the Iraqi army. He returned to Quantico, Virginia, in June 2006 as director of the Expeditionary Warfare School and two years later was assigned assistant division commander, 2nd Marine Division. In March 2010, he deployed to Afghanistan as commanding general, 1st Marine Division (Forward). He returned to Quantico in 2011 as commanding general, Marine Corps Recruiting Command.
In December 2012, he reported to ISAF Joint Command in Afghanistan as deputy chief of staff, joint operations. Afterward, he served as deputy commanding general, Marine Corps Combat Development Command, before assuming command of Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command (MARSOC) in August 2014.
On MARSOC’s 10th anniversary, Osterman spoke with The Year in Special Operations senior writer J.R. Wilson about his command’s history, status, and future.
The Year in Special Operations: When MARSOC was first proposed, many people said the Marine Corps did not need a special operations command because the Corps was a special operations command. One decade on, how does MARSOC differ from the big Corps in answering that contention?
Maj. Gen. Joseph L. Osterman: I don’t think there’s any difference between us. The Marine Corps recognized the value of U.S. Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command early on and codified that when then-Commandant Gen. James F. Amos directed the Corps to “embrace MARSOC.” MARSOC has been able to play a strong role in the continuing evolution of special operations forces-Marine Air Ground Task Force (MAGTF) interoperability and I’m proud of the value MARSOC brings to both the larger Marine Corps and to U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM).
As commander, I can certainly say MARSOC has grown into a mature special operations forces (SOF) organization over the last 10 years and we are on a sustainable operational path.
After a year and a half as MARSOC’s commanding general, how do you view the command’s growth and evolution since its founding in 2006?
As commander, I can certainly say MARSOC has grown into a mature special operations forces (SOF) organization over the last 10 years and we are on a sustainable operational path. MARSOC continues to innovate and dynamically contribute to the Theater Special Operations Commander’s (TSOC’s) requirement. For example, MARSOC is currently leading the mission command for the Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force (CJSOTF) in Iraq.