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Marine RECON and MARSOC - Changes in Structure / Operations

In the past few years, as the United States has ramped up its battle against terrorists worldwide, the special operations community has grown and changed to better prepare our special operators to do their mission. The Marine Corps has also changed the way they do business on the special ops side of the house. With the development of U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Special Operations Command (MARSOC), the Marine Corps joined forces with U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) to perform a variety of special operations missions around the world, including foreign internal defense, special reconnaissance, direct action and other missions.

Here is the breakdown to clear up any confusion with the changes in Marine Reconnaissance and the structure of MARSOC.

Marine Recon Battalions still exist and their missions are largely unchanged. See the details at Camp Pendleton's Basic Recon Course. But in a nutshell, all future Recon students must attend the Basic Reconnaissance Course (BRC). You can still do this as a new Marine, but you must first qualify after boot camp and School of Infantry (SOI). The link above will describe the standards that a Recon applicant must adhere to before joining the 0321 Military Occupational Specialty (Recon Marine). Recon Battalions remain an element of the Marine Divisions and continue performing missions for the deployed Marine commander. BRC is open to Marines and Navy Hospital Corpsman.

Find Available Special Operations Opportunities

The Marine Corps took both Force Recon Companies and made them into the foundations for the two MSOBs (Marine Special Operations Battalions) within MARSOC. The 1st MSOB is located at Camp Pendleton, CA., and 2d MSOB is at Camp Lejeune, N.C.

From the MARSOC Website; "(The) MSOB is organized, trained and equipped to deploy for worldwide missions as directed by MARSOC. It will consist of four Marine Special Operations Companies (MSOCs) and can be 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 to conduct special reconnaissance and direct action and missions in support of the geographic combatant commanders."

The selection process for MARSOC has changed significantly compared to the previous Force Recon indoctrination. Before, each Force Recon company did their own Indoctrination. Now, all O-4 and below operational positions at MARSOC units must go through a 3-week central screening overseen by the Marine Special Operations School (MSOS). It is pretty standard physical and tactical testing for the special operations community under USSOCOM operational control.

Here is a quote from a Marine lieutenant who is considering attending MARSOC in the near future:

"MARSOC likes for you to be (at least a noncommissioned officer) before you can tryout, which means that you have to do about three years or two deployments before you can tryout. The tryout consists of a pool portion to see if you know what you are doing in the water. Then, you take a (physical fitness test) and see between the two of those if you can go to the three-week screener. They give you a packing list and do not tell you much more than that - you just go and have fun for three weeks. Similar to the Army's SFAS and BUD/S Indoc, which screens you prior to entering, the MARSOC training school is the goal of the screener. I think that it is more intimidating than anything else, as I hear that it is physical, but if you can run a 300 PFT you will do well physically, but you still need to be able to learn new operations and tactics."

MARSOC is quickly becoming more than Force Recon. There is a Marine Special Operations Advisor Group (MSOAG) that has two battalions of advisor teams like the Army Special Forces ODAs (Operational Detachment Alpha). Their main mission is foreign internal defense. The MARSOC component staff has a broad range of officers with Recon or SOF experience.

About the MSOAG, the MARSOC website states, "The Marine Special Operations Advisor Group provides tailored military combat-skills training and advisor support for identified foreign forces in order to enhance their tactical capabilities and to prepare the environment as directed by USSOCOM. Marines and Sailors of the MSOAG 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. MSOAG deployments are coordinated by MARSOC, through SOCOM, in accordance with engagement priorities within the Global War on Terrorism."

Learn More About Marine Corps Force RECON

A forward deployed Marine officer said it best when commenting about the MARSOC-trained Marine, "The product going in is far more advanced. It is still growing, but you cannot argue with results. They have done well while deployed to Africa doing FID, and equally well in Afghanistan doing DA/SR."

For more information see the USMC MARSOC and Recon websites listed in this article.

More Marine Corps Special Forces Articles:

- The Combat Swimmer Stroke
- Special Operations Fitness Prep
- SpecOps: Who's Toughest?
- Weights, PT, and Pull-ups
- All Marine Corps Special Forces Articles

PT programs used to train for the Marine Corps PFT can be found in the following links:

- Pullups / Flexed Arm Hang
- Pushups and Sit-ups
- Running
- Prepare for Ruck Marches

Other Marine Corps Fitness Related Links:

- The USMC Recruit Training PFT Standards
- The Marine Corps Body Composition Program
- The Marine Corps Fitness Score Charts
- The Marine Corps Weight Charts
- The Marine Corps PFT

Stew Smith is a former Navy SEAL and fitness author certified as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength and Conditioning Association. If you are interested in starting a workout program to create a healthy lifestyle - check out the Fitness eBook store and the Stew Smith article archive at To contact Stew with your comments and questions, e-mail him at

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Marine Corps Special Operations Marine Corps Fitness Special Operations Fitness Stew Smith
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