Marine MARSOC Critical Skills Operator (CSO) selection outline

The Marine Corps took its time to become part of SOCOM but now their MARSOC units are not only part of the SOCOM umbrella but growing in both size and influence. The Corps keeps a pretty tight lid on their operators and their training. We visited their booth at the annual SOFIC event in Tampa. And when the conversation got around to visiting their Selection and Assessment Course, you could feel the brakes applied quickly. We were told to contact the headquarters and broach the subject with them. And we’re still waiting for a reply. Which isn’t surprising.

The MARSOC operator is much like the operators in the Army, Navy and Air Force. They are older and more mature, most are married with families.  The Corps is looking for self-starters who are initiative-driven and is constantly looking to improve themselves and those around them. The CSO MOS for enlisted is 0372 and for Officers, it is 0370.

The basic MARSOC Teams are assigned to MARSOC Companies and Battalions. Like the other services, the selection and assessment pipeline for the Marine Special Operations units is extremely intense. Even before they can attend Selection, prospective candidates are thoroughly screened. The criteria for that includes but is not limited to:

  • Minimum GT: 105 (no waivers accepted)
  • Minimum PFT score: 225 (regardless of age)
  • Enlisted: Any MOS, E-3 to E-5, between 3 and 7 years time in service
  • Officer: Any O-2 to O-3. First Lieutenant: must be career designated; Captain: no more than 1.5 years time in grade.
  • No NJP within the last 12 months or no more than 2 in the current contract. No NJP as an Officer.
  • No derogatory Page 11 entries within the last 12 months. SNCO & Officer’s with derogatory Page 11 entries require a waiver.
  • No incidents of drug abuse or possession.
  • No adverse fitness reports within 12 months
  • No court-martial convictions
  • Marines must be medically fit and have a current record of NSW/SO Duty Medical Examination
  • Marines must have a minimum of 3 months remaining or agree to an extension to attend Assessment and Selection.  If selected, the Marine must either reenlist or extend to meet minimum 36-month CSO obligated assignment tour at MARSOC. Officers must be willing to execute 48-month obligated assignment tour upon completion of ITC.
  • Marine must be eligible for and maintain a Secret clearance.

Selection and Assessment:

The Corps’ MARSOC Evaluators are looking for the 10 critical attributes in their CSO candidates when they attempt Selection. They are:

  • Integrity
  • Effective Intelligence
  • Physical Ability
  • Adaptability
  • Initiative
  • Determination
  • Dependability
  • Teamwork
  • Interpersonal Skills
  • Stress Tolerance

The Assessment and Selection (A&S) course is a mandatory 21-day smoker which the cadre use to screen and select candidates for their physical ability, confidence, and situational awareness. The course is run only 3 times a year. Tests include gated events such as a12-mile ruck march, land navigation, swimming, 11-minute treading water event, and an abandon ship drill.

While some of the events are the same across the board in any SOF unit, they also incorporate their own spin on some of the training events that are more oriented to what CSOs will be expected to perform.

Individual Training Course (ITC):

Once a candidate has been selected and is moving through the CSO pipeline, he will attend the Individual Training Course (ITC). This is a 9-month course is designed to produce Critical Skills Operators for the teams. The ITC consists of 4 phases:

Phase 1: As the starting block for CSOs the first phase is filled with lessons and tests on Basic field skills. Candidates are trained in Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape (SERE), Tactical Combat Casualty Care (TCCC) and extensive communications training. The strenuous and difficult PT program that begins in the initial phase of training will only increase as the course continues.

Phase 2: During the second phase, the candidates will become proficient in small unit tactics and they’ll be tested in mission planning, fire support training, small boat operations, scout swimming, demolitions, as well as intelligence collection and crew served weapons.

The candidates must first pass a small unit event, a 9-day exercise, which is called “Operation Raider Spirit” where they’ll be tested as members of a small unit as well as getting leadership experience. After a Special Reconnaissance block of instruction, the candidates finish phase 2 is an exercise, “Operation Stingray Fury”, where the candidates will be tested in both an urban and rural setting.

Phase 3: While most Marines are already very proficient in small weapons training and marksmanship, the beginning of the next phase will take the candidates to an even higher plain with close quarters combat (CQB) operations. The skills the candidates are taught here will be the same tactics and procedures that the men in MARSOC battalions have already perfected.

Phase 4: This is the ultimate test for the candidates as they enter an Irregular Warfare training and exercise. Here is where they will be tasked and evaluated to train, advise and lead an irregular force from a partner nation on a series of missions.

The Marines don’t disclose the attrition rates for their MARSOC Selection and subsequent training. Back in 2010, the attrition rate for Selection was about 46 percent which the Corps then ordered to cut to 20 percent by ensuring that the candidates who were tasked to attend were in much better physical condition.

If a candidate passes all of his ITC training, he’ll be awarded the MOS 0372, Critical Skills Operator, and then move on language training and the Airborne Course. Officers will be awarded the 0370 MOS, Special Operations Officer and head off to the Team Commander’s Course (TCC).

Marine MARSOC Critical Skills Operator (CSO) selection outline

There like in the other SOF units, is where the training really begins. CSOs will be assigned to one of the teams and begin their team training as subject matter experts (SME) on either advanced communications, special weapons, engineering, intelligence or advanced special operations.

The MARSOC operators will have up to 85 different advanced courses open to them depending on what their jobs and area of operations are.

MARSOC CSOs have operated in over 40 countries and can conduct:
Foreign Internal Defense, Direct Action, Special Reconnaissance, Counterinsurgency, Security Force Assistance and Preparation of the Environment.

Photos: US Marine Corps


Originally published on Special Operations.com