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MARSOC Year in Review 2012-2013

Still growing, but no longer new

Part of that will be growing the relationship between MARSOC and Navy Special Warfare (NSW).

“MARSOC and NSW are collaborating to produce complementary capabilities for SOF operations in the maritime/littoral domains,” Clark said. “The Employment Wargame in April 2013 will explore options for closer MAGTF/SOF interoperability and integration while we enable the global SOF network with forward-deployed forces.

“Having been chief of staff and then acting deputy commander, it was good to see how the SOCOM leadership was thinking. And relationships are very key, so that has been very helpful this past year. Working at different levels at SOCOM also helped me, coming here, interpret how SOCOM would look at things and craft how MARSOC should look at things. And if you get stuck in the sludge, it also helps knowing who to call for help.”

“As MARSOC expands our maritime employment ideas, we are participating in maritime-related exercises such as Dawn Blitz, Bold Alligator, and Expeditionary Warrior to better test those ideas and fully understand the implications. We’re also very mindful, in working with SOCOM and SOF-specific equipment we will need in the future, [to focus on] what is good enough when there is no open wallet, and what the Corps has that we may be able to use, or something we already have done T&E [test and evaluation] on that the Corps or Army can take on for the acquisition costs.”

Marine presence patrol Farah province

Marines with U.S. Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command and Afghan commandos conduct a two-day presence patrol in Farah province, Feb. 27, 2012. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Kyle McNally

As the first MARSOC commander with previous SOF experience, Clark is well positioned to understand how the various SOCOM components are unique, but also complementary. He was the first MH-53J Pave Low exchange pilot with the USAF 20th Special Operations Squadron (1992-95), an operations officer with the Combined Joint Special Operations Command in Afghanistan and Qatar (2001-02) and, in the three years before moving to MARSOC, director of operations, chief of staff, and acting deputy director at SOCOM.

“I had the opportunity to watch MARSOC from outside the fence in SOCOM and it was impressive to watch this organization grow and attain their reputation with the other components. They did that without reinventing the wheel, but while developing a MARSOC path, as well,” he said.

“Having been chief of staff and then acting deputy commander, it was good to see how the SOCOM leadership was thinking. And relationships are very key, so that has been very helpful this past year. Working at different levels at SOCOM also helped me, coming here, interpret how SOCOM would look at things and craft how MARSOC should look at things. And if you get stuck in the sludge, it also helps knowing who to call for help.”

Key to his command vision are tying the priorities of the Marine Corps to those of SOCOM, including the “Four Lines of Operation” set out by its commander, Adm. William H. McRaven:

  1. Winning the current fight;
  2. Strengthening the global SOF network;
  3. Preservation of the force and families; and
  4. Responsive resourcing.

The admiral’s expansion or “globalization” of the SOF network is designed to support the COCOMs with a responsible and capable special operations force, Clark noted. That includes addressing a lot of other needs the geographic COCOMs have as the United States moves forward with its withdrawal from Afghanistan. But that must be balanced with making sure the force is fully supported with whatever they need in the current fight.

“Of course, ‘need’ does not necessarily equate to what they want. We have other units with requirements, so we don’t want to put everything forward and leave nothing for the rest. We also want to make sure they get the training and predeployment time needed rather than just-in-time resourcing,” he said.

“We try to adhere to our unit training phases, where all people being deployed come together before the last few days. And making sure, while deployed, they have connectivity here, which has been important with the changing environment in Afghanistan, helping them adjust as the mission and force lay-down changes to make sure they have what they need to operate and minimize risk to the personnel.”

Those efforts do not end with deployment, but continue when units return home, from taking care of the Marines and their families to providing “third location decompression.”

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J.R. Wilson has been a full-time freelance writer, focusing primarily on aerospace, defense and high...