A decade after the Marine Corps stood up its new special operations command, Marine Raiders are helping lead the charge against the Islamic State group, training local troops forces across the African continent and quietly conducting missions across the Asia-Pacific region.

Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command MARSOC activated on Feb. 24, 2006, to lend the Corps' muscle to U.S. Special Forces Command as it took on expanded operations in Iraq, Afghanistan and beyond.

Beginning as a fledgling force drawn from two Marine force reconnaissance companies, MARSOC expanded to three special operations battalions — each with its own support battalion — aligned with Africa, the Middle East and the Asia-Pacific region.

"MARSOC has grown into a mature Special Operations Forces organization over the last 10 years and is on a sustainable operations path," Maj. Gen. Joseph Osterman said in a release. "We are Marines first and bring the strong Marine ethos of honor, courage and commitment to special operations."

A staff sergeant and CSO with 1st Raider Battalion who requested anonymity, citing security concerns, told Marine Corps Times that in his experience over the last 10 years, that it is the tight-knit camaraderie that has driven MARSOC's success.

"I look back at everything and am humbled and honored to walk beside and serve beside my heroes every day," he said. "Just living and breathing and sweating and gun fighting beside guys like that ... they just work in the shadows, that's all they want and they care about their brothers."

Even as the Corps reduced its own numbers because of the drawdown and increasing budget constraints, MARSOC continued to grow to a present strength of more than 2,700 Marines, including about 1,000 critical skills operators.

Today, they are deployed on a global scale conducting a wide range of missions to support theater commanders, including leading the joint special operations task force in Iraq taking on ISIS the Islamic State group.

"Our people, not equipment, make the critical difference in our success," Osterman said. "MARSOC units are in high demand among [theater special operations commanders] due to its reputation for professionalism and combat-proven small unit tactics, cultural awareness and operations intelligence at all levels," he said.

On June 19, MARSOC officially adopted the name "Raiders" to honor the heritage of its World War II predecessors.

First activated in February 1942, four Marine Raider battalions waged irregular warfare across the Pacific as a special amphibious light infantry force, often operating behind enemy lines.

They were disbanded in January 1944, however, due in part to resentment of an "elite of the elite" within the Corps.

Gen. James Amos echoed this sentiment 67 years later, when as commandant in 2011 he initially rejected MARSOC's taking on the Raider name.

Matthew L. Schehl covers training and education, recruiting, West Coast Marines, MARSOC, and operations in Europe, Africa and the Middle East for Marine Corps Times. He can be reached at mschehl@marinecorpstimes.com.

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