TAMPA, Fla. ― The commander of the Corps’ Raider commando outfit said at a special operations conference Tuesday that he didn’t believe the Raiders would be disbanded and that the elite force might even grow.
Maj. Gen. Daniel D. Yoo, the commander of Marine Forces Special Operations Command, or MARSOC, was responding to a question from an audience member at the Special Operations Forces Industry Conference in Tampa, Florida, regarding worries from industry leaders about making equipment for the Raiders, especially if the unit was on the chopping block.
“I don’t think so," Yoo said, noting there may even be “potential” for growth. “In our short history we’ve come a long ways.”
That growth may come from Raider enablers known as special operations capability specialists, who are cut to MARSOC for a tour of duty and eventually return to their primary occupation within the Marine Corps, Yoo told Marine Corps Times in an interview.
Those enablers hold vital skills ― like intelligence, communications and electronic warfare ― for the Raiders’ preparation for a near-peer fight.
Worries from industry leaders about MARSOC’s demise stem from a March Heritage Foundation report authored by retired Marine Lt. Col. Dakota Wood.
Wood’s research recommended MARSOC be disbanded to shore up manpower and resources for the Corps to return to its primary amphibious mission to address rising near-peer threats.
The Raiders have been a “boon” for SOCOM during the course of America’s counterinsurgency conflicts across Iraq and Afghanistan, Wood wrote.
"That national emergency has long been over, and the Corps should redirect its efforts to its primary role.”
Wood’s concerns about the Raiders’ role in a world returned to great power competition are shared by some lawmakers on Capitol Hill, who recently questioned SOCOM Commander Gen. Richard Clarke about the utility of SOCOM in the near-peer battle.
“I think the special operations community is uniquely suited to build networks of partners and allies around the globe to put us in a position, first of all, to compete for that influence and legitimacy in peacetime,” Clarke told lawmakers.
Yoo echoed those sentiments with Marine Corps Times Tuesday.
The Indo-Pacific area of operations is a geopolitically complex region comprised of 36 countries with varying interests and worries about China’s role in the region, Yoo explained.
Some are Muslim countries and others see the need to maintain strong economic ties to China, which means a large conventional force footprint in those countries may not be politically advantageous to them, Yoo said.
Marine Raiders are uniquely positioned and qualified to train and boost readiness of allied partners in the Indo-Pacific area while not upsetting other sensitivities, Yoo said.
“We are inside the first island chain in many of our locations,” Yoo told Marine Corps Times. “We are the inside force for the initial salvo, if it ever gets to that level of conflict."
“Hopefully it won’t, because we can do things and really reassure and facilitate partners that are sovereign governments with capabilities to stand up for themselves out there,” Yoo said.
While the Raiders are important to training forces in the Pacific region, the elite commandos are also focused on preparing the force to fight across all domains of war to include cyber.
In 2018, MARSOC laid out its vision for a 2030 force, which may see an entirely new formation and team dynamics as the force wrangles with recruiting talent and capabilities to fight in in the cyber, virtual and electromagnetic spectrum.
“We may see a formation completely different 10 years from now,” Yoo told audience members at the conference Tuesday.
Yoo said the the Raiders will need operators and units “that are as comfortable in multidomain warfare as we are in the physical.”
“Fire and maneuvers that we grew up with at this table [conference panel with SOCOM component commanders] is the same thing you’ll see in the virtual domain,” Yoo said.
Defense News reported that SOCOM plans to submit a report in May to Congress about its roles and mission.
Shawn Snow is the senior reporter for Marine Corps Times and a Marine Corps veteran.