The Marines will rename several special operations units as Marine Raiders at a ceremony Friday, resurrecting a moniker made famous by World War II units that carried out risky amphibious and guerrilla operations. The exploits of the original Marine Raiders — who pioneered tactics used by present-day special forces — were captured in books and movies including "Gung Ho!" in 1943 and "Marine Raiders" in 1944.When it comes to special forces, the Navy has the SEALs, the Army has Delta Force, the Green Berets and the Rangers, and the Air Force has its Pararescue force. All of these units are seriously bad-ass, although they argue amongst themselves as to who is the bad-assiest. The Marines, until now, had, um, MARSOC. Raiders, obviously, is catchier.
The name will give a unique identity to the Marines' branch of U.S. Special Operations Command, which includes special forces from the U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines. The Marines' Special Operations Command, known as MARSOC, was formed more than a decade ago as part of the global fight against terrorism.
"Whereas most people in the American public probably wouldn't have been able to tell you what MARSOC stood for, 'Raider' will jump off the page," said Ben Connable, a military and intelligence analyst at the nonprofit research agency RAND Corporation.
Still, I'm not sure how I feel about this, for the same reasons the Marines disbanded the Raiders and the Paratroops before World War II even ended. Marine high command worried that having an elite within an elite was a contradiction that could cause problems, politically. All Marines were and are considered elite by the Marine Corps, as they are the only branch of the military that trains every single member to fight as a rifleman and washes out anyone who can't qualify for a combat role. Establishing the Raiders would imply that the rest of the Marine Corps was just doing a non-special job that the Army could do, justifying anti-Marine forces -- who then included Harry Truman, who wanted to disband the Marines -- to reduce the Marines to a regiment-sized force for very special missions, and give the rest of the Corps' duties to the Army. Naturally, this did not appeal to Marine leadership, so they disbanded the Raiders. I am not alone in this sentiment:
Connable said the resurrection of the Raider name was a positive move because it will tie a group set apart from the rest of the branch into the history of some of the most famous Marines. He said MARSOC wasn't initially popular with some Marines because of the branch's famous "esprit de corps" that includes pride in the group and the concept that all members are elite to begin with.These days, though, I think it unlikely that the Marines would be downsized to just the size of their special forces, the Raiders. The concept of special operations troops within a larger organization, be it Army, Navy, Air Force or Marines, is too well ingrained to support the suggestion that the parent organization be dissolved as redundant of other forces. Current military thinking favors special forces, and not without basis in reality. In a fight against irregular forces such as terrorist organizations, you need smaller, more adaptable units that can do the things that special operation forces do. So I think reviving the Raiders is kind of cool.
"The whole idea of 'special Marines' is unpalatable to Marines in general," said Connable, a retired Marine officer.
Now, when will the Army revive the dragoons?