The top Marine and the sergeant major of the Marine Corps visited Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, on Feb. 21, to celebrate the 13th anniversary of the Corps’ elite Raiders.
Marine Forces Special Operations Command, or MARSOC, was founded in 2005 at the direction of then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.
The unit adopted the Raider title in 2015 — an ode to the WWII Marine commandos who were trained in rubber small boat amphibious raids.
According to a command story, over the past 13 years Raiders have earned more than 300 valor awards while carrying out more than 300 operational deployments across 17 countries.
That operations tempo has been costly: 43 Raiders have lost their lives in training and combat operations, including two multipurpose canines, according to the command story.
“Honoring our fallen and upholding their legacies are central virtues within MARSOC,” Maj. Gen. Daniel D. Yoo, the commander of MARSOC, said in the command story. “We are in sustained combat. Today is about taking a pause to celebrate our past accomplishments and remember and honor those who have gone before.”
The Raiders have built a strong legacy serving in combat theaters from Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, to assisting in the liberation of Marawi, Philippines, from ISIS militants.
Recent valor awards have included two Silver Stars, for heroic actions by Raiders in Mali and Iraq.
One Raider was awarded the nation’s third highest award for combat bravery at the outset of the campaign to liberate Mosul, Iraq from ISIS militants in support of Operation Inherent Resolve.
The Raider exposed himself to enemy fire to take out a bomb-laden armored vehicle barreling towards his team’s position.
Another Raider was awarded the Silver Star for launching a mission to rescue hostages during the November 2015 terrorist attack on the Radisson Blu hotel in Bamako, Mali.
Several Raiders have also received the nation’s second highest award for combat bravery, the Navy Cross.
Staff. Sgt. Sky Mote and Capt. Matthew Manoukian were both posthumously awarded the Navy Cross for their heroic actions during an insider attack carried out by a uniformed Afghan police officer on August 10, 2012. The two Raiders were killed in the attack.
Gunnery Sgt. Jonathan W. Gifford also was posthumously awarded the Navy Cross, for his heroic actions on June 29, 2012, in Afghanistan. Gifford led a charge on an all-terrain vehicle to rescue pinned down Afghan commandos.
A MARSOC schoolhouse, Gifford Hall, now bears his name.
A fellow Raider, Gunnery Sgt. Daniel J. Price, accompanied Gifford that day, and was posthumously awarded the Silver Star.
Gunnery Sgt. Brian Jacklin was awarded the Navy Cross for his heroic actions over a 48-hour period in June 2012, while operating in Helmand province, Afghanistan. Jacklin led a counterattack and rained down direct and indirect fire on enemy positions, following heavy enemy gunfire that left the team leader and another Marine critically wounded.
"Marine Raiders continue to make impressive contributions to SOCOM's efforts around the world,” Gen. Robert B. Neller, the commandant of the Marine Corps, said in the command story.
“I am sure their WWII Raider predecessors would be as proud of them, as we are today. On this 13th anniversary, we cannot forget to pause and honor those MARSOC Marines who have given their last final measure too," he said.
Shawn Snow is the senior reporter for Marine Corps Times and a Marine Corps veteran.