MARSOC; A Year in Review - challenge, growth, success

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MARSOC; A Year in Review - challenge, growth, success
Story by: Lance Cpl. Joseph Stahlman

MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. (Dec. 15, 2007) – This holiday season, U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Special Operations Command approaches its second anniversary as part of U.S. Special Operations Command. Throughout the past year, MARSOC’s five subordinate units -- Marine Special Operations Advisor Group, Marine Special Operations Support Group, 1st and 2d Marine Special Operations Battalions, and Marine Special Operations School -- have grown in manpower and equipment, excelled on the battlefield, and integrated fully into the special operations community.
MARSOC began this year with 1,379 personnel and grew to more than 1,730, bringing it to approximately 70 percent of its anticipated end-strength of 2,516 Marines and Sailors.
Marine Special Operations Support Group formally activated Jan. 19 to deploy task-organized enabler Detachments capable of providing combined-arms planning and coordination, military working dogs, special operations communications support, combat service support, all-source intelligence fusion capability, and logistics support. In addition to supporting MARSOC units directly, tailored MSOSG detachments can deploy as directed to support special operations missions throughout the world.
The Jan. 27 activation of Marine Special Operations School, the last of five planned MARSOC units, marked another step toward full operational capability for the Marine SOF component. Marines and Sailors of the school-house began conducting pre-deployment certification exercises for MARSOC units even before MSOS formally activated and continue to play a vital role in assessing and selecting personnel best qualified for assignment to MARSOC billets and success in SOF missions

MSOB Marine Special Operations Companies deployed for the first time this year to conduct special operations missions in the Philippines and Afghanistan with great success. On June 23, special operations Marines, Soldiers and Afghan Security Forces routed a tough group of Taliban insurgents using air strikes, rockets and an imposing show of force in the area of Washir, Helmund Province, Afghanistan.
Success on the battlefield did not come without loss. Cpl. Travis Woods of 1st MSOB and Petty Officer 1st Class Luke Milam of 2d MSOB were the first MARSOC Marine and Sailor to lay down their lives in combat. Both were killed while conducting combat operations in Afghanistan and more than 20 Purple Heart Medals were awarded to MARSOC Marines and Sailors for injuries sustained during combat throughout 2007.
MARSOC’s commitment to success during operations abroad was mirrored by numerous individual accomplishments among MARSOC’s Marines and Sailors here at home.
Sgt. Michael G. Lyborg, Marine Special Operations Advisor Group’s chief instructor for the Individual Skills section of Standards and Training, graduated from the U.S. Army Ranger School at Fort Benning, Ga., as the honor graduate of his class in July.

MSOAG’s Marine Special Operations Teams must maintain a high level of tactical proficiency and cultural expertise in order to ensure success when operating in austere environments far from the nearest friendly support. To that end, Lyborg and his fellow instructors provide a six-month course to prepare their fellow MSOAG Marines and Sailors to execute foreign internal defense missions as part of USSOCOM’s persistent engagement strategy designed to strengthen relationships with foreign nations and improve the capabilities of their military forces.
Gunnery Sgt. Joseph A. Gerace, Command, Control, Communications, Computers (C-4) Requirements manager, was selected as 2007 Reservist of the Year by the Marine Corps League for his integral role in the initial formation of USSOCOM’s Marine Corps component. Gerace, a native of Chelsea, Mass., attended a ceremony in Washington D.C., Oct. 3, where he formally accepted the award.
Another MARSOC Marine raised more than $80,000 for the families of comrades killed and injured during the Global War on Terrorism by competing in several endurance events, including the Iron Man Arizona triathlon in April. Capt. Andrew Christian of 1st MSOB swam 2.4 miles, completed a 112-mile bicycle ride, and then carried a 3 x 5 foot American flag throughout the marathon portion of the race to cross the finish line after a grueling 10 hours, 54 minutes and finish 185th out of 2,066 participants.
Throughout the year, MARSOC continued to grow and improve while simultaneously deploying special operations units in support of the Global War on Terrorism. This year, MARSOC companies and teams deployed worldwide to execute nearly 20 special operations missions. MARSOC continues to advance toward full operational capability and plans to carry out more than 40 additional special operations missions in 2008.
Whether deployed as part of an MSOAG Special Operations Team, an MSOSG Detachment, or an MSOB Special Operations Company, or certifying units for deployment at the MSOS here at home, each MARSOC Marine and Sailor did their part to provide USSOCOM with added special operations capacity and capability throughout a challenging and successful 2007. The year ahead promises to be even better as USSOCOM’s newest component continues to take the fight to the enemy on all fronts in the Global War on Terrorism.