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Always Faithful, Always Forward: Marine Corps Culture and the Development of Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command

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Technical Report

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Naval Postgraduate School Monterey United States

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The Department of Defense activated U.S. Special Operations Command SOCOM in 1987, but the Marine Corps did not become a full partner until 2006. This study explores why. The activation of U.S. Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command MARSOC demonstrates the limitations of a senior civilian to prompt change in a military organization, especially after his perceived indecision encourages additional resistance. Culture matters. The Marine Corps adopted an acknowledge and evade strategy to retain control of its Marines, prevent the creation of an elite within an elite in its ranks, and undermine Secretary Rumsfelds eventual desire to create a Marine Corps special operations component. The non-traditional backgrounds of the officers and senior-enlisted personnel who proved pivotal in MARSOCs development exposed them to unique career opportunities that better equipped them to adapt to the demands of the post-911 environment. These Marines represented a fundamental disconnect between the culture of the Marine Corps as an institution and how that culture manifested in the actions of its members. They believed in the special operations mission and its importance to the future of the Marine Corps. Motivated by professional duty, they embodied what it means to be a Marine and helped Secretary Rumsfeld overcome an intransigent senior Marine Corps leadership. These quiet professionals are the unsung heroes of the Marine Corps journey to a special operations component.

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  • Military Forces and Organizations
  • Humanities and History

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