Snake Eaters for Life?
Yesterday Defense Tech reported a little-noticed line in Vice Adm. Eric Olson’s written testimony. regarding the career path for Marines in special operations forces.
DT readers will remember that one of the main selling points – particularly for opponents of the new MarSoc force within the Corps – with the service’s entry into the spec ops world was that once Marines finish with a stint in the snake eater world, they’d return to the “regular” Corps with new knowledge, tactics and specialized skills that could help make mainstream grunts better.
But Olson’s answer to lawmakers that he wants a “spec ops for life” career path for Marines – like the other services – flies in the face of that logic.
MarSoc officials have backed away from that earlier argument, saying instead that, although Marines assigned to MarSoc may serve in the command for longer than the usual three-year assignment because of the training investment, the service wants to make sure Marines who do a stint there are competitive for promotion; meaning they still need to do “Marine” things to advance in the Marines.
Here’s a statement from MarSoc spokesman, Maj. Cliff Gilmore:
MARSOC is working with Marine Corps Manpower to determine the best model for personnel assignment and career paths within MARSOC and the SOF community. Our intent is to balance three factors: First, we must ensure we build and maintain our SOF capabilities; Second, we must ensure a good return on time and money invested to train SOF personnel; Third, we must ensure our Marines remain competitive for promotion within the Corps.Because it was given such short shrift in Olson’s testimony, maybe the issue won’t come to any kind of conflict. But there is a lingering doubt within the “legacy” SOF that the Corps special operators are “immature” and inexperienced. One thing the old SOF has been proud of is the maturity and experience of its personnel, the kind of expertise that comes only from spending an entire career in the community.
Will the Corps be willing to give up its best leathernecks forever? I’ll bet that will be a tough sell.