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Special Ops Marines talk the talk

Marine Corps Special Operations Command (MARSOC) is an interesting unit. As past of US Special Operations Command (SOCOM), they are the first Marines under the operational control of anyone but the Corps. They have also been developing some very specialized skills to assist them in their missions. They have their own operator training course that teaches advanced skills in infiltration, exfiltration, weapons and surveillance. But now they have just started graduating the first students from their own language training school. They use instructors from the Defense Language Institute and the focus is on a communicative style that will allow them to converse directly with host nation personnel and the local populace where they operate.

MARSOCLanguage Photo by Lance Cpl. Stephen C. Benson
Six Marines who began the course on June 1, 2009 will graduate. The ALC is the first course of its kind in the military in which students learn French, Bahasa (the primary language of Indonesia), Dari, Pashtu and Urdu between 36 and 52 weeks. Friday's graduates will be from the 36-weeklong French and Indonesian course. The 52-weeklong Dari, Pashtu and Urdu courses will finish sometime this summer.

The course is intended to prepare Marines to meet the challenges of mastering the cultural understanding necessary to partner with host nations. The aggressive curriculum includes formal classroom work taught by contracted instructors using the communicative approach, a two-week immersion period within the U.S. and later four additional weeks in a foreign country where the language is spoken.

I spoke with MAJ Michael Armistead, MARSOC spokesman, today about the program. He explained that many of the missions they are tasked with involve extended contact and interactions with the host nation military in joint operations and also with the civilians they encounter in building rapport and gaining their support.

"This allows the Marines to show that they have done more than just learn a few words, and have taken the time to be able to really speak the language fluently and understand the culture."

 Much of what we do overseas is low intensity conflict not outright war and the ability to work with local forces and among it's people is vital to being able to do that.While their credibility as pipehitters is just fine, this shows they realize kinetic operations are only part of the game. This is another example of what makes the Marine Corps and SOCOM valuable to the military and the country. They adapt to new situations and missions and develop the necessary skills to conduct them successfully.