MARSOC Now Officially ‘Marine Raiders’

Marine special operations forces have called themselves "Raiders" for years. Now it's official.


Marine special operations forces have called themselves “Raiders” for years. Now it’s official.

AP (“Rangers, SEALs, now Raiders: Marines resurrect historic name“):

The Army has the Green Berets, while the Navy is known for the SEALs. Now, an elite branch of the U.S. Marine Corps will officially be known as Raiders.

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.

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.


After Friday, the formal names of eight units comprising some 2,700 Marines will include “Marine Raider.” Representatives from the units will gather in formation with their commanders to unveil their new battle colors while renaming citations are read.

In a news release, the Marine Corps said the renaming will give commanders a shorthand way to refer to special operations Marines, similar to the labels “Green Beret” or “SEAL,” in what it called “an official identity.”


Some Marines have worn the Raider emblems unofficially since 2003 when the branch’s first present-day special operations unit was activated for a deployment to Iraq.

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.

“The whole idea of ‘special Marines’ is unpalatable to Marines in general,” said Connable, a retired Marine officer.

During World War II, the Raiders were organized in response to President Franklin Roosevelt’s desire to have a commando-style force that could conduct amphibious raids and operate behind enemy lines. Raider commanders studied unconventional warfare tactics, including Chinese guerrillas, and were given their pick of men and equipment, according to Marine historians.

The previous Commandant, General Jim Amos, formally denied a MARSOC request to be known as “Raiders” in 2011 on the basis that “we’re Marines first.” But he indicated last March that he was open to reconsidering that idea and announced its adoption in August. (Amos had a habit of making unpopular decisions and reversing himself down the road.)

Given the extent that heritage is important to the Marine Corps, invoking the name of the World War II era commandos strikes me as a no-brainer. And, frankly, since Marines don’t wear patches on their uniforms, no real change will take place in how the Raiders look vice their MARSOC incarnation. The tell-tale sign will remain the scuba badge, which is next to impossible for a non-MARSOC Marine to earn.

Additionally, while the Marines do a better job than the other services at maintaining a high esprit and conformity to standards even in the support branches, they’re hardly alone in their cultural resistance to designating some of their members as “special.” Indeed, the Army Special Forces fought for years against Big Army for the green beret and other signifiers of their unique status. It literally took an order from President Kennedy to make the beret official.

FILED UNDER: Military Affairs, Terrorism, , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. stonetools says:

    Gonna have to run this past my wife.She too went into the Marines with the idea that all Marines were special,ooh-rah!

    If the Army and the Navy
    Ever look on Heaven’s scenes,
    They will find the streets are guarded
    By United States Marines.


    Frankly, though, I don’t think that she ( or any Marine) really cares.

  2. Gustopher says:

    Is there some other meaning of “raider” that I am not thinking of, which would not imply that these very special marines rape and pillage? I’m completely stuck on Viking raiding parties assaulting towns on the coast of Britain.

  3. CB says:

    Hm, I always thought MARSOC was basically just Force Recon spruced up with a fancy new acronym. Doesn’t this kind of change the entire elite hierarchy within the Corps, or am I just talking nonsense?

  4. dazedandconfused says:


    Only partially. Recon fought tooth and nail to stay out of the whole SOC thingy. Its been their tradition that nothing they do gets a speck press and they liked to do things their own way, which included being able to seamlessly fold into rifle companies, even become one themselves. Opening the door to SOC opened the door to loss of control. Amos wasn’t the only one who resisted the movement to draw Recon into SOC, even if only by denying the symbolism.

  5. CB says:


    Thanks for the response!

  6. Dave D says:

    @Gustopher: It was the unit designation during their jungle campaign in WWII. They were sent on raiding missions against the Japanese. Its less rape and pillage, more surprise, kill and disrupt when not expected.