CAMP LEJEUNE, NC – U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Special Operations Command Critical Skills Operators have to function and make vital decisions in uncertain and often austere environments, and the Marines that support them are expected to adapt accordingly. That’s why 14 Marines recently graduated the fourth iteration of the ever-growing Special Operations Training Course, a six-week curriculum that trains MARSOC’s combat support and combat service support personnel in basic to intermediate special operations forces skills.
“The goal of STC is to enhance interoperability within the special operations community,” said the STC officer in charge. “The good thing is that the course is still in its infancy, so it’s constantly evolving. Every class is getting better and better,” he said.
STC – which is now a pre-deployment requirement for MARSOC combat support and combat service support Marines – introduces them to basic special operations concepts and techniques. Students of STC Class 2-11 trained in combat marksmanship, communications, military operations in urban terrain, direct action, special reconnaissance, patrolling and close-quarters battle. Students also earned their foreign weapons instructor certification and their tactical combat casualty care certification during the course.
“It’s important that support Marines are exposed to these concepts before attaching to a special operations team or company, because they need to be able to speak MARSOC’s language,” said Staff Sgt. Michael Ditto, STC’s chief instructor and also a MARSOC operator. “I think this also builds an appreciation for what an operator has to go through – there’s a lot going on behind the scenes,” he said.
At the end of each week, students of STC Class 2-11 were tested on everything they’d learned throughout the course. The tests included rigorous physical events, generally consisting of timed runs with ruck sacks, sometimes up to 12 miles.
“It was pretty intense,” said Sgt. Edrick Villarreal, a radio operator who served within force reconnaissance units for six years, and a recent graduate of STC Class 2-11. “Testing us while we were fatigued definitely made it more challenging.”
STC’s physical training regimen draws on MARSOC’s Performance and Resiliencey program, a curriculum that focuses on training the military athlete through exercise, physical rehabilitation and nutrition.
Since the first STC class was conducted in March 2009, the course has grown from three weeks to two months. The next course will be three months long and will include Full Spectrum Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape training.
“My vision is that at the end of a three-month period with STC and SERE, we graduate a tactically savvy Marine that is prepared to support Marine special operations as much as possible,” said Col. R.E. Anders, the commanding officer for the Marine Special Operations Support Group. “When MARSOC first formed there was an idea that every Marine who came in the door would enter a training pipeline and come out the other end some flavor of MARSOC. Now, through this course, we have an ability to reenergize that vision and take steps towards realizing it,” he said.
The course has also evolved in other aspects, said Ditto. Classes now come directly from the Marine Special Operations School, so that Marines in STC are introduced to the same curriculum, excluding some topics, as Marines in the Individual Training Course (the pipeline for CSO candidates) might get, Ditto said.
“It’s just on a different level than ITC. Obviously it’s not as long, it’s not as in depth, but they have exposure, and that’s what matters,” he said.
“At MARSOC, we don’t see Marines as enablers or operators, because Marines are Marines,” said Anders. “When you have a truck driver or a dog handler or an intelligence Marine, you have a known commodity, because that Marine can fight. Whereas other branches have to take SOF (special operations forces) and train them in other MOSs, we’re able to take other MOSs and train them in SOF. That’s why our biggest contribution to the special operations community is the eagle, globe and anchor.”