Marine recon tries new detachment concept, elite forces do more with less
In an effort to better support combatant commanders, the Marine Corps’ special operations force is taking part in the “Force Recon Detachment Concept.” The change is being made with the goal of giving elite forces the ability to do more with less. This concept is particularly important amidst defense budget cuts.
According to Fox News, the Recon platoons used to report to the lower-level Battalion Landing Team commander instead of the MEU commander. This resulted in poor training because there was a lack of communication between ranks in regards to what it took to keep a recon unit at its best and how to best utilize them.
“Now the Force Recon Detachment Concept gives the MEU commander two maneuver assets,” said Master Sgt. Cory Paskvan of the Second Reconnaissance Battalion, based at Camp Lejeune. He explained that it is comprised of two Force Recon platoons trained for light capability missions like ship takedowns, precision raids and surveillance. These assignments are directly under the MEU’s command, providing a direct line to missions in line with Force Recon’s capabilities.
Fox News reported that Recon grew in the wake of 9/11 as the need for its unique capabilities increased with the lopsided wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Then in 2006, the community was faced with what could be considered its biggest structural challenge to date when it was decided that the Marines needed a Special Operations Command and MARSOC was created. However, the restructuring did not go as planned. In 2008, the Marine Corps reconstituted Force Recon platoons.
Like the Recon force, Paskvan’s career has been full of twists and turns, constantly changing with the times. Right out of the School of Infantry, he attempted to go Recon but was unsuccessful as he did not meet all the requirements. He then was deployed and as soon as he returned stateside, he reapplied for Recon.
At his one-day recon physical screening, approximately 20 Marines showed up. They went through a series of strenuous and demanding qualifiers which included a forced march with 50 pounds of gear, a swim test, a run on the beach, and timed runs on an obstacle course.
“Most guys cracked in the pool,” Paskvan said. “By the end of the screener, only five of the 20 were left.”
Paskvan moved forward to the Reconnaissance Indoctrination Program and learned advanced land navigation, patrolling, supporting arms and amphibious Recon missions. He became an expert in parachuting, diving and sniping.
The path Paskvan took to make it into Recon does not exist anymore. Now Marines yearning to become a Recon soldier from a non-infantry MOS have to go through the School of Infantry first and then go through the Basic Reconnaissance Course. This process was created to relieve units of the burden of running a RIP program and then having to house cadets who do not qualify. The new pipeline also had the desired effect of standardizing Recon training across the force.
According to Fox News, the Recon training and readiness matrix is complicated and intense. Marines must maintain their qualifications on a regular basis. To keep a Category 3 Freefaller status, a Marine must jump at night in full combat gear while carrying a weapon and wearing oxygen gear.
Recon may take a longer approach to a problem but it leads to a more effective and efficient end, usually with less causalities. They find adversaries, send rockets ahead of the troops, and set out explosive devices along enemy routes. Once identified, Recon can snipe foes out or call in air support to defuse the threat.