Special operators practice boarding and searching ships. Operators are deploying to Guam on a rotational basis to provide a persistent forward-deployed presence in U.S. Pacific Command. (Staff Sgt. Robert M. Storm/Marine Corps)
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Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command has initiated a rotational deployment to Guam that will see Marine operators training with Navy SEALs on a regular basis.
The first MARSOC unit, a fully capable Marine special operations company, arrived in Guam in February in time to participate in the joint multinational Pacific exercise Cobra Gold in Thailand, said Capt. Barry Morris, a spokesman for the command. It’s not clear how long this first deployment will be, Morris said, and he declined to speculate. He did say that during the deployment MARSOC plans to participate in another joint exercise, Rim of the Pacific 2014, which is scheduled to begin this summer in Hawaii.
The stretch between the exercises would put the MARSOC deployment at roughly six months, similar to the other rotational deployments in which the Marine Corps participates. The Corps is rotating battalions and squadrons through Japan on a six-month rotation through its unit deployment program and will soon send a 1,100-Marine-strong battalion landing team to Darwin, Australia, as part of the expandingrotational deployment Down Under.
This is the first rotational deployment MARSOC has announced, and it follows the command’s announcement last year that it would align its three battalions with the U.S. military’s global combatant commands, focusing on the Asia-Pacific region, Africa and the Middle East. First Marine Special Operations Battalion, out of Camp Pendleton, Calif., is slated to align with Special Operations Command Pacific.
Morris said the special operations company in Guam and the ones that will follow on future deployments will conduct “routine partner-nation training exercises and other operations” as they are directed to throughout Southeast Asia.
In keeping with the regional strategy, Morris said MARSOC would use the deployments to provide a persistent forward-deployed presence in U.S. Pacific Command to strengthen partnership relations and to promote U.S. interests.
“Routine and persistent deployments to this same region will allow us to establish long-term relationships with key partners and to improve interoperability and cooperation between forces,” he said.
According to a news release from Guam Gov. Eddie Calvo, the MARSOC unit in Guam is co-located with the permanently deployed Naval Special Warfare Unit 1 in Guam’s Apra Harbor, where Navy SEALs train.
“Naval Base Guam was selected because it provides a capable forward-basing solution for MARSOC in PACOM due to its proximity to planned training partner nations engagements and the Southeast Asia region,” Morris said in an email.
The new deployment rotation also comes as the Marine Corps’ rebalancing to the Pacific is in full swing. In addition to the rotational deployments to Japan and Australia, Guam will be a larger focus for the Marine Corps in coming years.
Almost 5,000 Marines are expected to move to Guam from Okinawa in coming years, but delays in congressional approval — pending the completion of a detailed master plan from the Defense Department — have delayed the move and the infrastructure needed to accommodate the influx.
A spokesman for Marine Corps Activity Guam, Col. Philip Zimmerman, said the arrival of the MARSOC company would be “a great addition to the Marine Corps family here in Guam,” that would strengthen the Corps’ relationship with the people of Guam, according to a statement.
The governor of Guam also cheered the arrival of the Marine operators.
“We are honored to do our part for the country and the security of our allies,” Calvo stated in the release. “This gives us a chip in the game — an opportunity to work collaboratively while building a mutual respect for each other’s needs. Ensuring a smooth integration moving forward is a priority.”■
Gaynor Dumat-ol Daleno, a reporter for Pacific Daily News, contributed to this report.