CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. --
For the first time in history, members from another service spent three months in Marine Special Operations Command’s Individual Training Course, with one goal in mind: learn how to lead a joint ground force.
Alongside nearly 100 Marines, two U.S. Air Force Special Tactics Officers assigned to the Special Tactics Training Squadron at Hurlburt Field, Fla., completed the first phase of the Marine Raider’s rigorous training pipeline, which produces the U.S. Marine Corps’ elite special operations force.
This was the first time another service took part in any of the Marine Raider training pipeline, and represents efforts to build joint mindsets across special operations forces.
MARSOC’s ITC is a seven-month, physically and mentally challenging course designed to produce Critical Skills Operators who can operate across the spectrum of special operations in small teams under Spartan conditions. Phase One focuses on the basic skills including physical fitness, swimming, land navigation and mission planning.
“Special operations forces rely on trust to produce strategic effects,” said U.S. Marine Corps Col. Brett Bourne, commander of the Marine Special Operations School. “Trust between maneuver forces and fires, trust between find-fix functions and those closing with the enemy -- the only way to establish trust inside Special Operations Command is to train and operate together.”
The two STOs who integrated into the training were only recently selected by Special Tactics to go through the two-year training program and become part of the Air Force’s ground special operations force. With little previous experience, the Airmen had never been involved in this level of training before.
While there were expected challenges in terminology and baseline training, the two Airmen performed well in most every area – commensurate to the performance of their officer peers within the course, according to the Staff NCO in Charge of Special Operations Training Cell-1.
“At the tactical level, the not-so-distant future may find one of these young Special Tactics Officers controlling the battlespace for Marine Raiders deployed,” said Bourne. “At the enterprise level, one of these Special Tactics Officers may be the Aide de Camp to a Theater Special Operations Command or the Executive Officer to the SOCOM Commander-- I predict that the operators from this course will serve together many times over in the future -- Air Force and Marine Corps alike.”
Over the course of three months, both STOs completed several special operations core tasks, from vessel navigation and scout swimming to small unit tactics and weapons marksmanship.
"Joint training like this is imperative to real-world mission success-- this may be the first time we sent Special Tactics Officers to MARSOC's initial training course, but we hope it won't be the last,” said U.S. Air Force Maj. Joseph Gross, commander of the STTS, the school house that builds Special Tactics operators for operational units. “This sort of integration is part of our efforts within the Special Tactics training pipeline to develop Air Force ground force commanders, before these young officers become operational."
Special Tactics is a ground special operations force that solves air and ground problems across the spectrum of conflict and crisis, specifically personnel recovery, global access and precision strike missions -- Special Tactics operators can either conduct operations as Special Tactics teams, or embed as a single operator into joint Navy SEAL, Army Special Forces, or Marine Raider teams.
“The most enjoyable aspect of this training exchange was that the Air Force officers were indistinguishable from their Marine counterparts after the first day,” said Bourne. “They quickly established reputations for physical prowess and initiative and they left a very strong marker for the superb assessment and selection program of the 24 SOW.”
At the end of Phase One is a culmination exercise called Raider Spirit where students’ application of learned tactics, techniques and procedures is challenged -- from mission planning to patrolling to tactical combat casualty care, all done with little sleep and little time. After finishing, the STOs returned to their service's two-year training pipeline with new skills, perspective and joint knowledge.
"Training like this isn't just about making a better operator and leader on the battlefield; this cross training and integration is a part of a deliberate approach to develop our Special Tactics Officer corps," said U.S. Air Force Col. Michael Martin, commander of the 24th Special Operations Wing, the Air Force’s sole wing dedicated to Special Tactics forces. "Trust, shared understanding and solidarity between sister services will pay dividends across the spectrum of conflict and crisis."