Word came back from Headquarters Marine Corps (HQMC) that they will not approve the affected members of the MARSOC 7 to wear the Marine Special Operators Breast Insignia (MSOI) at this time. Their decision is based on a series of Marine Administrative Messages (MARADMIN) spanning from 2011-2016, although most of the MARSOC 7 had either voluntarily left active duty by this point or been forced out. Those MARADMINS cover the initial lateral move opportunity for MARSOC Critical Skills Operators (CSO) as a primary military occupational specialty (MOS) of 0372, requirements for a selection panel for Special Operations Officer MOS of 0370, and guidance on wearing the insignia.
The men of Fox Company were the pioneers of modern Raiders yet the MARSOC 7 are not authorized to wear the insignia because they didn’t follow an administrative process. On one side, the rules are the rules. I get that. On the other, the Marine Corps is an organization that prides itself on looking out for the well-being of their own. The MARSOC 7 had their careers and lives ruined while the Marine Corps virtually stood by and allowed it to happen by their apparent lack of support in clearing their names. When the Marine Corps chooses to, it can move mountains to make things happen. It can break protocol. The Commandant made time to recognize Chuck Norris an honorary Marine, but they can’t make time to personally respond to a Congressman on the matter of the MARSOC 7. It can promote a bulldog to a new rank in a formal ceremony at 8th & I in Washington DC. But when they could publicly show support for seven Marines who had their lives shaken, HQMC opts to take the easy road and point to some MARADMINS as if their hands are tied. After three months since the initial inquiry into the process, the best the offices at HQMC can do is indicate that the MARSOC 7 need only to follow the formal application process to be considered for approval or disapproval of wearing the MSOI – except that has already been done with no progress in sight. The longest serving member of the House Armed Services Committee, Congressman Walter Jones (NC), has also been involved in requesting that HQMC award the MSOI to the MARSOC 7, but even he hasn’t gotten a proper response yet. If a Congressman is essentially being ignored, is it any wonder that the formal request submitted by the former Fox Company CO is being treated the same way?
To summarize the formal process, the Communication Strategy and Operations Officer Communication Operations & Media Analysis Branch Office of Marine Corps Communication (HQMC) had this to say. “The establishment of the primary MOS 0372 Critical Skills Operator occurred in 2011 and MOS 0370 Special Operations Officer in 2014. MARADMIN 202/11 and MARADMIN 491/14 specified the process to award the respective MOS to eligible Marines. The results of the 0372 special selection board were announced via naval message, in accordance with MARADMIN 202/11, and the results of the 0370 special selection board were announced in MARADMIN 653/14. These one-time special selection boards were used for grade shaping purposes to build out the occupational fields and provide the new community the right amount of leadership and career roadmap potential for its members”. Those who missed that cutoff would need to successfully complete MARSOC Assessment and Selection (A&S), the Individual Training Course (ITC), and for officers, graduate from the MARSOF Team Commander’s Course. What happened in the process was that many Marines — officers in particular — with a non-combat MOS, no special operations training, no combat deployments with Marine Special Operations, and very limited support roles in the MARSOC community were allowed to hold the MOS, skip the training pipelines, and wear the MSOI due to the administrative process and selection panel. This is similar to a support MOS Marine being allowed to apply for wearing the campaign cover of a Drill Instructor after simply being stationed on the same base where the drill field is located.
HQMC has indicated that there is no way around their administrative process, but there are reasons to believe this is not entirely true. One member of the MARSOC 7 who remained on active duty after the MARADMINS took effect simply opted to accept the 0372 MOS in place of his original 0321 MOS when offered via his unit’s admin office. There was no application involved in his receiving the newly formed MOS that would later allow him to wear the MSOI. Several other MARSOC enlisted CSO’s were grandfathered in for serving one or two deployments in combat before the MARSOC ITC was developed. They did not attend ITC but were allowed to remain in MARSOC through the CSO MOS cutoff date and later received the MSOI – again without any application process. These were men with multiple combat deployments and highly trained backgrounds — just like the MARSOC 7.
Recently the former Fox Company Commanding Officer (CO) submitted a formal request for authorization to LtGen Beaudreault’s PP&O office at HQMC that was received on 26 Feb 2018. As of today, that package has not been acknowledged. The PP&O office continues to state that there is “nothing to review” and that any Marine who wishes to apply for the MSOI will need to formally do so. Well, one did try and it took over three months for HQMC to turn around and reveal that they either lost the request or are choosing to ignore it. The others in the MARSOC 7 have no interest in wasting their time submitting a request until their Commanding Officer’s gets sorted out first. I don’t blame them for not wanting to go through a process that will get them nowhere.
If you, the reader, can imagine being a member of the MARSOC 7 and seeing your fellow Marines unlawfully interrogated by NCIS for several weeks — often over 20 hours at a time — including one legally immigrated Marine who was threatened to have his family deported unless he signed an NCIS-prepared statement falsely accusing the MARSOC 7 of ‘homicide’. Imagine if you watched for 3.5 weeks as two of your trusted officers with numerous combat deployments had their ranks, names, ages, photographs of their faces, and hometowns exposed along with accusations of ‘homicide of 19 civilians and wounding 50 others including women and children’ by dozens of articles in the national and international media, which resulted in years of severe unemployability, battles with life threatening health issues, and PTSD. Imagine being in the MARSOC 7 and after years of actively engaging HQMC to make this situation right, would you believe that the Marine Corps has any thought of voluntarily fixing a problem for any of these Marines which has destroyed their careers, health, and families lives?
Think the insignia isn’t important? Ask a SEAL how important his trident is. Ask a Ranger how important his tab is. Ask a Special Forces soldier how important his Green Beret is. It is pretty important because they all earned it. At this point, it doesn’t appear as if the Marine Corps is going to make the process as easy as they want it to seem. These Marine Raiders are not looking for financial compensation, only that their honor be fully restored. It is time for the Marine Corps to get over themselves and quit being so legalistic in their refusal of the request for the MSOI so the other men in the MARSOC 7 can get on with their lives.
Featured image: MARINE CORPS BASE HAWAII – A recruiter with the U.S. Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command (MARSOC) screening team wears the MARSOC insignia during a brief at the base theater aboard Marine Corps Base Hawaii (MCBH) on Sept. 7, 2017. The MARSOC screening team visited MCBH providing information to Marines who were pre-selected or interested in becoming Marine Raiders. | U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Jesus Sepulveda Torres