Marine Raiders: the Corps' only special forces unit (2023)

Marine Raiders: the Corps' only special forces unit (1)

Photo by Senior Airman Joseph Pick. Compiled by Coffee or Die Magazine.

It was the night of August 17, 1942.

Alongside the enemy, the Marine Raiders also struggled with exhaustion. The men of the 2nd Jaeger Battalion killed just over half the Japanese soldiers on Makin Island. Now they had to get off the beach and into open water, where two US Navy submarines were waiting to pull them out.

The Raiders rowed their zodiacs through the crashing waves, but only half made it to the boats. The others reluctantly returned to the beach, many without their weapons. Though the Japanese had suffered heavy casualties, it was only a matter of time before the survivors would rally and defeat the relatively defenseless raiders.

Marine Raiders: the Corps' only special forces unit (2)

US Marine Corps photo by Wikimedia Commons

A rescue ship was sent to recover the stranded raiders, but it was promptly sunk by Japanese planes. At this point, the Raiders left their heavy equipment behind. They signaled the submarines to move to the calmer waters of a nearby lagoon. Then they built a big raft with the leftover rubber boats and several abandoned canoes.

Amid the chaos of the hasty retreat, not all raiders made it onto the raft. Those who sailed to the submarines and were transported to safer waters, alive to fight another day. Eleven Marines were left behind. Of these, nine were captured and beheaded by the Japanese; the fate of the other two is unknown.

However, the mission would be remembered as a great success for the newly formed Marine Raider Battalions.

The attack on Makin Island was one of the first American offensive ground operations against Imperial Japan and marked a significant escalation of American military involvement in World War II. It revealed weaknesses in Japan's coastal defenses. And it laid the groundwork for the island-hopping campaign that culminated in Japan's unconditional surrender three years later.

The attack on Makin Island was also one of the Marine Raiders' first operations. The Raiders were an experimental unit formed in 1942 to conduct small, commando-style amphibious assaults. Over the next eight decades, the scope of the unit's mission grew, but the legacy of their World War II predecessors is ingrained in the Raiders' DNA.

(Video) What Is a Marine Raider?

As the Corps' sole Special Forces unit, the Raiders expand the branch's role as an expeditionary force. They are often tasked with complex missions in locations that are inaccessible to traditional Marines. However, despite their long history, Raiders occupy a gray area between special operations and regular infantry. Maybe it's because they've proven themselves to be exceptional in both.

Who exactly are these elite warriors? And what makes them different from other American fighters?

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Who are the Marine Raiders?

Marine Raiders are the only unit within the Marine Corps that reports directly to United States Special Operations Command (SOCOM). They specialize in direct action, unconventional warfare, sea interdiction, special reconnaissance, foreign homeland defense, counter-terrorism, and counterinsurgency, among others.

The Marine Corps has always considered itself the elite unit of the US military. However, the Marines did not contribute a component to SOCOM until 2006 when they formed the Navy Special Operations Command (MARSOC). In 2014, the Marine Corps renamed MARSOC the Marine Raiders to honor the unit's World War II origins.

Marine Raiders: the Corps' only special forces unit (4)

Foto of US Marine Corps von Sgt. Janessa K.Pon.

Today, the Marine Raiders are organized as a single regiment composed of three battalions with rotating regional approaches. Raider Battalions 1, 2 and 3 alternately conduct operations in AFRICOM, CENTCOM and INDOPACOM.

Marine Raiders has been in action since 2006more than 300 times for more than 40 different countries🇧🇷 They fought and killed Taliban fighters with hand grenades. They cleared IS strongholds in Iraq and waged a fight against al-Shabab terrorists in Kenya. Their actions on the myriad battlefields of the War on Terror have earned themmore than a dozen medals for bravery.

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(Video) MARSOC Marine Raiders | United States Marine Forces Special Operations Command

gun ho! First United States Special Forces

Although relatively new to SOCOM, the Marine Raiders can claim to be America's premier operators. In fact, Elite Marines have been around four months longer than Army Rangers. That makes them the oldest.official special unitin the US Army

After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, President Franklin D. Roosevelt became interested in creating a special forces unit to emulate British commandos. He believed such a unit would be a natural part of the Marine Corps given its reputation as a highly adaptable force. Thomas Holcomb, then a major in the Marine Corps, had reservations.

In Holcomb's view, the Marine Corps was already an elite force. He was concerned that creating a more exclusive faction within the branch would be redundant. Then the commander of the Pacific Fleet, Admiral Chester Nimitz, supported the President's request. At this point, Holcomb relented and gave the go-ahead for the formation of a Navy command unit.

Marine Raiders: the Corps' only special forces unit (5)

US Air Force photo by Senior Airman Ryan Conroy.

In February 1942, two battalions of Marine Raiders were activated at Quantico, Virginia. Lieutenant Colonel Merritt "Red Mike" Edson was selected to command the 1st Raider Battalion. And Lieutenant Colonel Evans Carlson was chosen to lead the 2nd Raider Battalion. The units included approximately 2,000 Marines, carefully selected for experimental duties.

Both raider battalions first saw combat in August 1942. Edson's 1st Assault Battalion made a successful attack on the Japanese-held island of Tulagi. Ten days later, Carlson's 2nd Raider Battalion carried out the attack on Makin Island.

Encouraged by these early victories, the Marine Corps decided to expand its special operations capabilities. He quickly raised two more raider battalions.

The Raiders were instrumental in the battles of Guadalcanal, New Georgia and Bougainville. In the final stages of the war, the scale of the fighting in the Pacific became so great that several divisions were take control of heavily fortified islands occupied by Japan.

Marine Raiders: the Corps' only special forces unit (6)

US Air Force photo by Senior Airman Ryan Conroy.

In short, the small commando teams had little to contribute to the all-out assaults needed to end the war. On February 1, 1944, the Raider battalions were officially disbanded and the Raiders were incorporated into regular infantry units.


Although the first Raider battalions lasted only two years, their members received seven Medals of Honor and 136 Navy Crosses during that time.

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Are Marine Raiders considered Tier 1 Operators?

Today's raiders stand shoulder to shoulder with other Tier 2 Special Forces such as Navy SEALs, Army Rangers and Green Berets. Typically, only members of a special mission unit such as DEVGRU, 1st SFOD-D, and 24th STS are considered Tier 1.

Each US special forces unit is capable of conducting a variety of missions. But each unit has certain distinctive features that set its members apart from the rest. Navy SEALs, for example, are considered the premier maritime interdiction unit. Green Berets are trusted for their ability to train and guide foreign military personnel in counterinsurgency campaigns.

Marine Raiders: the Corps' only special forces unit (7)

US Air Force photo by Senior Airman Joseph Pick.

While training for almost every type of mission, Marine Raiders have carved a niche for themselves within the Special Operations community. In recent years, Raiders have developed a unique skill that could one day be considered their bread and butter: cyber warfare on the ground.

"Tactical cyber warfare is becoming a niche for Marine Raiders," said a sergeant in the 1st Raider Regiment.Coffee or Morir, speaking on condition of anonymity."Our people perform traditional SOF missions and still have the bandwidth to conduct cyber operations on the ground in areas where conventional units cannot."

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some good men

The Marine Corps currently maintains three Raider Battalions, all attached to the 1st Marine Regiment. Each battalion is made up of four companies, and each company is made up of four 14-man Marine Special Operations Teams (MSOTs). The MSOT is considered the main unit of the Marine Raiders.

In 1942, Holcomb hesitated to form the Raiders. He believed that any "standard marine infantry battalion could carry out any mission associated with British commandos or Chinese guerrillas". But like the men who landed at Makin and Tulagi, today's Marines continue to prove they are much more than ordinary soldiers.

Because of this, Raiders tend to be paid more for their work than most other Marines. Elite operators earn the same base salary as the rest of the military. However, the broad nature of their mission creates opportunities for them to make more money.

Marine Raiders: the Corps' only special forces unit (8)

U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Steve Fox.

(Video) Why MARSOC Raiders are not designated as a Tier 1 unit?

Attackers are often paid extra because their missions and training missions are dangerous enough to warrant additional monetary compensation. For example, raiders earn more for taking military freefall and combat diving courses.

Despite the perks, most raiders aren't in it for the money. Those who aspire to join their ranks often do so because they want to become the best Marines they can be.

"Marine Corps culture helps create better operators," said the anonymous raider. "All the Marines who were proud of what they did and wanted to do more are here in Raider Battalions now."

Read below:Who has the best special ops motto? 7 Classified Special Operations Slogans

Mac Caltrider

Mac Caltrider is Senior Writer for Coffee or Die magazine. He is a US Marine Corps veteran and former police officer. Caltrider earned his BA in history and now reads everything he can find. He is also the creator oftubes and sides, a website for increasing readership among teams. Caltrider spends most of his time reading, writing, and fighting a one-man war on premature hair loss.


Are Marine Raiders special forces? ›

The Marine Raider Regiment (MRR), formerly known as the Marine Special Operations Regiment (MSOR), is a special operations force of the United States Marine Corps, which is a part of Marine Corps Special Operations Command (MARSOC).

What is the MARSOC motto? ›

United States Marine Forces Special Operations Command
Marine Forces Special Operations Command
Garrison/HQCamp Lejeune, North Carolina
Motto(s)"Always Faithful, Always Forward"
March"MARSOC Always Faithful, Always Forward"
Anniversaries7 September 2015
14 more rows

Are MARSOC Raiders Tier 1? ›

Are Marine Raiders Considered Tier 1 Operators? Today's Raiders stand shoulder to shoulder with other Tier 2 special operations forces like Navy SEALs, Army Rangers, and Green Berets. Typically, only members of a special missions unit such as DEVGRU, 1st SFOD-D, and 24th STS are considered Tier 1.

What is the dropout rate for Marine Raiders? ›

Throughout the Individual Training Course, candidates continue to refine their physical stamina and endurance. The course has an attrition rate of 28 percent.

Are the Marine Raiders elite? ›

This, combined with the resentment within the rest of the Marine Corps that the Raiders were an "elite force within an elite force", led to the original Raider units being disbanded.

Is there a Marine special forces unit? ›

First, the Marine Corps has two primary special operations forces: The Marine Raiders and the Force RECON units. As part of the Special Operations Command, the Marine Raiders run small lethal teams to eliminate targets.

What do you call a female Marine? ›

As of 2006, women made up 4.3 percent of Marine officers and 5.1 percent of the Corps' active duty enlisted force. Today, they are no longer referred to as "female Marines." They are, simply, Marines.

What gun do Marine Raiders use? ›

The basic infantry weapon of the United States Marine Corps is the M27 Infantry Automatic Rifle. Suppressive fire is provided by the M240B machine gun, at the squad and company levels respectively.

What is the most secret military unit? ›

If they are compromised during a mission, the US government may deny all knowledge. SOG is considered the most secretive special operations force within the United States, with fewer than 100 operators. The group generally recruits personnel from special mission units within the U.S. Special Operations community.

How difficult is MARSOC? ›

An average of 11 months of grueling training and the mastery of seven weapons are just some of the hurdles to join the elite tier of the Corps'. After serving three years as a Marine, MARSOC candidates arrive at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, in the best shape of their lives.

How hard is it to become a Marine Raider? ›

Enlisted Marines who want to become a special forces Raider must: Have a minimum ASVAB General Technical score of 105. Excellent physical fitness scores and pass a MARSOC swim test. Be able to get a secret clearance.

Can Marine Raiders have beards? ›

Are you allowed to have a beard or mustache in the Marine Corps? Beards are not authorized.

How often do Marine Raiders deploy? ›

A Marine Raider trains—sometimes away from home—to prepare for deployment and to ensure mission success. There is no “typical deployment,” but most pre-deployment training is 10-12 months followed by a 6-9 month deployment. After a deployment, time with family is a command priority.

Do Marine Raiders still deploy? ›

MARSOC deployed its first units in August 2006, six months after initial activation. Since then, MARSOC has deployed continuously. MARSOC's current missions include counterterrorism, counterinsurgency, foreign internal defense and security force assistance.

Who is the youngest Marine Raider? ›

Peter James Kiernan is a lifelong New Yorker who, after his community was intimately affected by the events of 9/11, enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps after his 18th birthday. Peter excelled, becoming the youngest Marine Raider in the history of the Marine Special Operations Command (MARSOC).

Is it harder to be a Navy SEAL or a Marine Raider? ›

U.S. Navy SEALs are an elite unit, more exclusive and harder to be admitted to than the U.S. Marines. The United States Marine Corps (also known as USMC or Marines) is one of the 5 branches of the U.S. military under the Department of Defense.

What is the most badass Marine unit? ›

The 2nd Battalion, 5th Marines based in Camp Pendleton boasts of its combat record that stretches back to the First World War. It is also the most decorated battalion unit in the history of the Marine Corps.

Why is MARSOC not Tier 1? ›

MARSOC is comparable to the 75th Ranger Regiment, a light infantry unit with good air support and amphibious capabilities. It is unlikely that a MARSOC unit will ever become a Tier 1 force. Still, individual Marine Raiders may occasionally be selected to serve in a joint Tier 1 unit.

Can a Marine be a seal? ›

An active-duty Marine cannot become a Navy SEAL. In order to go through Navy SEAL training, an individual must be a member of the Navy.

What does a Marine call a bathroom? ›

Head (ship's toilet) The use of the term "head" to refer to a ship's toilet dates to at least as early as 1708, when Woodes Rogers (English privateer and Governor of the Bahamas) used the word in his book, A Cruising Voyage Around the World.

What do you call a ex Marine? ›

"Veteran marine" or "former marine" can refer to anyone who has been discharged honorably from the Corps. "Retired marine" refers to those who have completed 20 or more years of service and formally retired or have been medically retired after less than 20 years service. "Sir" or "Ma'am" is appropriate out of respect.

What is a nickname for a Marine? ›

Three such words are “gyrenes,” “jarheads,” and “grunts.” Their times of origin and usage differ somewhat, but each has the same role in the Marine Corps culture. They have become a source of pride for all Marines. ties to the U.S. Navy, Marines interacted with sailors more and more.

Do Marine Raiders use dogs? ›

Raider dogs have been integral to Marine Special Operations Command's counterinsurgency conflicts from Afghanistan to Iraq. The dogs are trained in explosives detection and tracking, among other skills.

What uniform do Marine Raiders wear? ›

The Raider Uniform: $1,213

While in garrison, they often wear Marine Corps Marpat, but down range they are often seen wearing Crye Combat Tops and Bottoms in Woodland pattern.

What is the Marines favorite rifle? ›

The M27 Infantry Automatic Rifle (IAR) is a 5.56mm select-fire assault rifle, based on the HK416 by Heckler & Koch. It is used by the United States Marine Corps (USMC) and is intended to be issued to all infantry riflemen as well as automatic riflemen.

What is the most highly trained unit in the US military? ›

SEAL Team 6, officially known as United States Naval Special Warfare Development Group (DEVGRU), and Delta Force, officially known as 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta (1st SFOD-D), are the most highly trained elite forces in the US military.

What is a JSOC ghost unit? ›

The Group for Specialized Tactics, also known as the Ghosts, is an elite Special Mission Unit within the US Army and JSOC and is located at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

What is the most decorated active unit in the US Army? ›

The 3rd Infantry Division is the Most Decorated Infantry Division in the Army. The Medal of Honor is the most prestigious award a soldier can receive for serving in the U.S. military.

What rank do you have to be for MARSOC? ›

MARSOC accepts applications from Marines ranking from E-3 to E-5, and from Marine officers ranking from O-1 to O-3. If one were to meet all of these qualifications their next step would be to contact a MARSOC recruiter or attend a MARSOC screening team visit.

Is MARSOC getting disbanded? ›

Marine Forces, Special Operations Command

CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. – Marine Forces Special Operations Command will soon begin implementing a phased plan to consolidate all MARSOC personnel and equipment to its headquarters aboard Camp Lejeune by the end of 2022.

How many years does it take to become a Marine Raider? ›

In addition to being a Marine for three years, a MARSOC Raider candidate will be required to attend the Marine Special Operations Individual Course (ITC) at the Marine Special Operations School in. Officers also will attend a four-week Team Commanders Course (TCC) after successful completion of ITC.

Do Marine Raiders swim? ›

During Assessment & Selection (A&S), you are expected to perform proficiency in a number of swimming techniques. These include the USMC side stroke and/or breast stroke, and a 11-minute tread in your utility uniform. Additional aquatic preparation guidance can be found on page 23 of the 10-week training guide and log.

Do Marine Raiders learn a language? ›

Like SF, MARSOC operators are also required to learn a foreign language; however, like their SF counterparts, some go on to advanced training while others stay at a more basic level.

Do all Marine Raiders go to jump school? ›

Do all MARSOC Marines become receive SCUBA and Airborne training? A9. No. However, critical skills operators may qualify for advanced training and certifications in areas such as Airborne, SCUBA, language, and emergency medical care based on future assignments.

Do Marine Raiders wear the skull patch? ›

The U.S. military has traditionally shied away from incorporating darker images of heraldry into its patches and insignia. The main exception, however, are the World War II Marine Raiders and their use of the skull.

Are there any female Marine Raiders? ›

Four women and five attempts total have been made by female Marines at the MARSOC selection, Maj. Nick Mannweiler, a spokesman with MARSOC, told Marine Corps Times.

Do Marine Raiders wear patches? ›

Some of these Raiders wore a Raider patch briefly or not at all. Most would wear the 6th Marine Division patch. Some Raiders, regardless of battalion, were proud to have been a Raider and refused to remove the skull patch from their uniform and replace it with that of a different unit.

Where do Marine Raiders get stationed? ›

Command Structure

The Marine Raider Regiment is split between Camp Lejeune, NC and Camp Pendleton, CA. The Marine Raider Regiment (headquarters), Support Group, Training Center, and the 2nd and 3rd Marine Raider Battalions are located at Camp Lejeune, NC. The 1st Raider Battalion is located at Camp Pendleton, CA.

How long is a MARSOC contract? ›

A candidate must have a minimum of 90 days on contract to attend A&S. Reenlistment is not a requirement, as the MARSOC monitor will work to gain a 60-month obligated time-in-service upon selection.

What is a 72 Marines? ›

MOS OCC Field 72: Air Control/Air Support/Antiair Warfare/Air Traffic Control.

What do Marine Raiders specialize in? ›

They specialize in Direct Action, Special Reconnaissance, Counter-Terrorism, and Foreign Internal Defense. They train and fight from air, land, and sea.

What are the differences between Marine special forces and MARSOC? ›

Special Forces have Robin Sage as a culminating training exercise; MARSOC has Derna Bridge. Like SF, MARSOC operators are also required to learn a foreign language; however, like their SF counterparts, some go on to advanced training while others stay at a more basic level.

Are Marine Raiders frogmen? ›

Other Frogmen units include Marine Raiders Marine Recon, elements of US Army Special Forces (aka Green Berets) Combat Divers, Army Ranger Regimental Reconnaissance Company, Air Force Pararescue, Air Force Combat Controllers, and Air Force Special Reconnaissance, as well as operatives of the CIA's Special Activities ...

What rank do you need to be to join MARSOC? ›

It takes, at a minimum, four and a half years to create a Marine CSO; a Marine must have served a minimum of three years or achieved the rank of at least lance corporal before being considered a MARSOC candidate.

Do Marine Raiders get deployed? ›

A Marine Raider trains—sometimes away from home—to prepare for deployment and to ensure mission success. There is no “typical deployment,” but most pre-deployment training is 10-12 months followed by a 6-9 month deployment. After a deployment, time with family is a command priority.


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