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US Marine raiders certified for deployment through Raven exercise.

| 2021

U.S. Marine Raiders with Marine Forces Special Operations Command recently completed Raven unit readiness exercises alongside Marines from across the Fleet Marine Force as well as U.S. Army Special Forces. Cpl. Brennan Priest, U.S. Marine Forces Command, reports.
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A Marine Raider prepares to complete a raid during a Raven unit readiness exercise in Nashville, Apr. 30, 2021. (Picture source: U.S. Marine Corps)

Raven is MARSOC’s pre-deployment unit readiness exercise, designed to evaluate Marine Special Operations Companies and Marine Special Operations Teams as well as provide valuable training and experience to supporting units. “This exercise has evolved over time to encompass a broad range of military operations,” said a Marine special operations team commander. “It stresses interoperability with partner nation forces, other services, and government agencies and departments.”

The exercise places the MSOC into a notional country, simulating a deployment. The training environment includes a vast network of internet simulation and civilian and military role-players that comprise the host-nation military security forces. The company and supporting units constantly work through scenarios that require them to gather intelligence, control narratives and public perception, train host-nation forces, complete strikes, coordinate with the Department of State, conduct reconnaissance and execute raids. As a supporting unit, Marines with Force Reconnaissance Company, 2nd Reconnaissance Battalion provided their capabilities to the MSOC.

“Reconnaissance Marines are valuable both to conventional and the special operations community,” said 1st Lt. Rex Vankoevering, a platoon commander with Force Reconnaissance Company, 2nd Reconnaissance Battalion. “We provide that connecting file between the conventional forces and the special operations capability. Additionally, another asset we provide is that persistent near real-time ground reconnaissance and battlespace shaping capability, allowing special operations and conventional forces to free up and complete other mission sets.”

The reconnaissance Marines supported multiple missions using various insertion and extraction techniques including military freefall. They worked alongside the MSOC to provide intelligence on objectives that ultimately supported the commander's decision to approve mission execution and provide an elevated level of safety and confidence prior to any mission execution.

The 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, supported the MSOC during the final Raven evolution, while various other units from the Fleet Marine Force acted as partner-nation forces throughout the exercises. U.S. Army Special Forces acted as a peer-to-peer competition force, gathering information and attempting to disrupt the MSOC’s operational foothold. “We are here to provide that peer-to-peer threat,” said a U.S. Army Special Forces member. “We are working on our tactics through surveillance, counter-surveillance and electronic warfare. While completing our training we are providing similar challenges to each other. With MARSOC having the same level of capabilities as a Special Forces group, we have the same goals, we are learning good lessons and getting better as a force.”

This exercise emphasizes that there is more to being a Marine Raider than direct action raids. The company must prove its proficiency in all skill sets that will be required during deployment. Every critical skills operator, special operations officer, special operations capability specialist and support Marine demonstrates their effectiveness as a part of the MARSOC team.

Everything that Marines do, especially at MARSOC is rehearsed. This is an opportunity not only to complete direct-action raids, reconnaissance and intelligence operations but to practice strengthening partnerships with the host-nation forces prior to deployment. Marine Raiders ensure that they speak a common language and incorporate any agencies or partners that could add to the fight wherever they are across the globe. “It’s been long days, long nights, it’s been stressful, we are all pretty tired but we are going to come out of this exercise fully prepared for a deployment,” said the MSOT commander.

MARSOC units provide scalable, expeditionary Marine Raider teams worldwide to accomplish special operations missions assigned by U.S. Special Operations Command.


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