Last year, operators with Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command got their own name: Raiders. Now, just like the Navy's elite SEALs, they'll have their own insignia.
Effective immediately, MARSOC critical skills operators and special operations officers are authorized to wear a new gold breast insignia, the Marine Corps announced Monday night.
The insignia, the first Marine Corps-only uniform device to be authorized, features an eagle, wings outspread, clutching an upward-pointing stiletto dagger featuring the Southern Cross constellation that appears on other MARSOC and Raider insignia. Above the eagle's head flies a banner carrying the MARSOC motto: "Spiritus Invictus," or unconquerable spirit.
The insignia badge will be 2 inches by 2.75 inches and will be awarded to critical skills operators and special operations officers upon completion of MARSOC's grueling nine-month individual training course. By the time MARSOC Raiders reach the end of ITC, they have completed at least 268 days of training, according to Marine Corps officials.
The announcement comes just a month after Maj. Gen. Carl E. Mundy III took command of MARSOC, succeeding previous commander Maj. Gen. Joseph Osterman. In a statement, Mundy said the creation of the badge granted Raiders a visual certification of the training they had completed for their role in MARSOC.
"The individual MARSOC operator must be trained and educated to think critically and function in an increasingly complex operating environment -- to understand and interact in dynamic, dangerous and politically-sensitive battlefields," Mundy said. "Our rigorous training pipeline ensures that a newly minted critical skills operator has developed the skills required for full spectrum special operations."
An unidentified MARSOC critical skills operator said in the announcement that the badge was a further tie-in to the command's celebrated ancestry.
"It's a representation of the pride and legacy that dates back to the Marine Raiders of World War II. This badge will distinguish a [special operations forces-qualified Marine, just as the combat crew wings distinguish an aviation crew chief or the jump wings and dive bubble distinguish a Recon Marine," he said.
MARSOC, which was created in early 2006, has marked a number of hard-fought milestones in developing its identity among the other service special operations elements. Its tenant commands were redesignated in honor of the Marine Raiders last July in a reversal by Marine Corps leadership; then-commandant Gen. James Amos had rejected a plan to change MARSOC's name in 2011, citing concern that MARSOC troops retain their identity as Marines first.
Specialized career paths for critical skills operators and special operations officers are also a relatively new development for MARSOC. The command received approval for the creation of an enlisted CSO military occupational specialty, 0372, in 2011, and a parallel MOS for officers, 0370, in 2014.
MARSOC officials said in an announcement on Facebook that the new device will be issued to the next class to graduate from the Individual Training Course, and then rolled out to critical skills operators and officers already within the command.
Notably, a woman could be among the first Marines to receive the new device. While the CSO and SOO jobs have been reserved for men for most of MARSOC's existence, a mandate from Defense Secretary Ash Carter late last year paved the way for women to apply for the elite positions.
MARSOC officials said last week that two female enlisted Marines had entered assessment and selection in July. As of then, one of the Marines, a corporal, remained in the course.