The Marine Raiders are considering consolidating the entire elite special operations unit on the East Coast, as the force preps for the future battlefield against more sophisticated adversaries, according the Marine officials.
That would mean 1st Raider battalion — the only West Coast Raider unit — would move closer to its two other sister battalions headquartered aboard Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.
No final decision has been made regarding the consolidation effort, a Marine official said.
But two sources within the Raider community, who spoke to Marine Corps Times on condition of anonymity, said that the move was expected — if approved — to take place sometime between 2020 and 2021.
Marine Forces Special Operations Command, or MARSOC, was founded in 2005 at the direction of then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.
The move is somewhat controversial and likely to stoke frustration among some of the nearly 1,000 Marines and personnel who staff 1st Raider Battalion headquartered aboard Camp Pendleton, California. It may also cause heartbreak among the many Raiders who have built lore and heritage at the West Coast Raider unit.
Gunnery Sgt. Lynn Kinney, a MARSOC spokeswoman, told Marine Corps Times that the “potential consolidation” of the Raiders on the East Coast is just “one line of effort," among others, to “increase performance, efficiencies, and capabilities,” as the Marine special operators plan for the future battlefield.
Kinney said the potential move of 1st Raider would “enhance” the Raiders as a whole to rapidly respond and innovate “to meet the future operating environment challenges articulated in its vision, MARSOF [Marine special operations force] 2030."
The MARSOF 2030 vision, published in 2018, called for the Raiders to consider major changes to training, education and manning in order to face down more sophisticated rising near-peer adversaries.
The Raiders contend the potential consolidation of all Marine special operations forces on East Coast aligns with the 2018 National Defense Strategy, which called for the U.S. to pivot to the return of great power competition.
The 1st Raiders move to the East Coast could result in long term financial savings and simplify and ease training burdens.
The Marine Raider Training Center — which is charged with assessment and selection, as well as advanced and basic special operations skills training — is headquartered aboard Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, with 2d and 3d Raider Battalion.
However, one Raider cautioned that the move could cost MARSOC experienced manpower, as Raiders frustrated with the decision could opt to retire or decide not to re-enlist.
“We may see a formation completely different 10 years from now,” its commander says.
It’s a risk MARSOC will have to consider in its calculus.
Raiders can’t be made overnight. The elite operators slog through a nearly seven-month Individual Training Course to earn the Raider insignia.
Their enabler counterparts — known as special operations capability specialists — have their own training pipeline that familiarizes them with operating with special operations units. These Marine hail from intelligence, electronic warfare and communications jobs fields.
MARSOC has maintained a relatively healthy graduation rates of 73 percent at its Raider school house over the past five years, according to data obtained by a government record’s request.
While no final decision has been made on the consolidation effort, there are questions about what will come of 1st Raider Battalion’s relatively new facilities aboard Camp Pendleton, and whether new buildings will need to be built to accommodate the influx of Raiders and support staff to the East Coast.
According to Navy budget documents from fiscal year 2007, 1st Raider Battalion’s new barracks, warehouse, vehicle maintenance lot and training facilities cost nearly $50 million.