USMC MarSOC battalion to take joint command in Aghanistan

MarSOC battalion to take joint command

By Trista Talton - Staff writer
Posted : Monday Sep 7, 2009 10:58:20 EDT

CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. — Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command is about to mark another first.

This fall, 1st Marine Special Operations Battalion from Camp Pendleton, Calif., will assume command of a task force responsible for parts of northern and western Afghanistan, overseeing all U.S. spec ops forces in the region.

These task forces oversee any combination of spec ops outfits, including Army Green Berets, Navy SEALs, Air Force combat controllers and special operations aviation units.

The request came from U.S. Special Operations Command, which is changing the structure and organization of its task forces in Afghanistan and Iraq. SOCom’s plan calls for MarSOC to maintain a spec ops task force, with a battalion headquarters that rotates out every nine months.

MarSOC includes about 2,100 Marines, sailors and civilians. That’s about 500 personnel shy of its authorized end strength, meaning it may be a while before the command can maintain a spec ops task force year-round.

“We’re still building that capacity,” said Col. Dan Masur, Marine Special Operations Regiment commander. “The Army will pick up part of the enduring rotation until we can do a 365-day rotation.”

MarSOC officials hope that will be no more than two years from now, he said.

MarSOC companies have rotated into Afghanistan since 2007. Typically, they have operated under the command of Army task forces.

Masur said this is a natural progression for MarSOC, which stood up at Camp Lejeune, N.C., in February 2006.

“It says a lot for MarSOC,” he said. “It says a lot about the Marine support and SOCom support we’re getting.”

Most of 1st MSOB’s equipment will be MarSOC-owned, he said, but the battalion — commanded by Lt. Col. Jeff Tuggle — will use some gear left by the current task force.

The battalion has prepared for its upcoming deployment as if it’s already commanding joint special operations forces, Masur said. The Marines have been talking to Army spec ops officials about what works and what doesn’t, and looking at other joint spec ops task forces to see how they are structured.

Eventually, MarSOC’s three battalions will have four companies each. Officials won’t specify how many Marines and sailors compose a company, saying only they are smaller than the standard 200-Marine companies in the conventional force.

For the most part, the command has kept two companies at a time in Afghanistan, MarSOC spokesman Maj. Michael Armistead said. Those companies will maintain seven-month deployments, he said.
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