Elite & Special Forces Main Page US Elite & Special Forces Main Page

Last Updated: 13 April, 2016

This article is structured as follows:

  • Part 01: Background to the US Marines Corps’ Special Operations Capabilities Specialist (SOCS).
  • Part 02: Entry Standards and Applications.
  • Part 03: Outline of US Marine Corps SOCS Selection and Training.
  • Part 04: Miscellaneous.


1.0     Introduction

Logo, MARSOC, Marine Corps Force Special Operations Command, USMC, US, Special ForcesThis article provides an overview of the recruitment, selection and training process for the US Marine Corps’ Special Operations Capabilities Specialists (SOCS).

These Combat Support Marines form the special operations element of the US Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command (MARSOC) Special Operations Forces (SOF) community, which is the marine/amphibious component of the US Special Operations Command (USSOCOM).

SOCS candidates are able to join MARSOC based upon their military occupational specialty (MOS) skill and receive advanced SOF training and certification. MARSOC considers SOCSs as operational and tactical force multipliers, and they frequently deploy alongside Critical Skills Operators (CSOs).

SOCS roles include:

  • Intelligence;
  • Communications;
  • Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD);
  • Dog Handlers; and
  • Fire-Control Specialists.

SOCSs are awarded the Additional MOS (AMOS) of 8071, and return to the general Marine Corps operating forces after an extended tour of service with MARSOC.

From boot camp to first deployment, a Special Operations Capabilities Specialist may undertake approximately six months to one year of training.

It must be emphasised that a candidate must be physically fit at the beginning of the Special Operations Capabilities Specialist training process if they are to stand any chance of success. The course requires far greater expenditure of physical energy than is normally required in other peace time training. It is essential that candidates arrive fully fit, carrying no injuries and with a sound grasp of basic navigation techniques.

1.1     Aim

The aim of this article is to describe the fundamental entry requirements, selection process and training for personnel seeking to become a US Marine Corps Special Operations Capabilities Specialist (SOCS).

1.2     Women and US Marine Corps Special Operations

Iraqi Freedom, Women, GenderFrom January 2016, in accordance with current US Federal Government policy on the employment of women in the US military, service in the US Marine Corps’ SOF community is open to both male and female volunteers (Pellerin, 2015).

Women in the US military have, for a number of years, been able to serve in a variety of SOF-related roles, including:

  • Intelligence;
  • Military information support;
  • Civil affairs units;
  • Female engagement teams;
  • Cultural support teams; and
  • Air Force special operations aviation roles.

As of March 2015, approximately two-thirds of the roles in USSOCOM were integrated (Vogel, 2015).

In January 2016 “…the first female applicant surfaced only days after the Jan. 4 deadline Defense Secretary Ash Carter set for new jobs to open.” (Seck, 2016a), with the total number of females applying for MARSOC rising during January and February.

As reported in March (Seck, 2016b), the first female to attend the US Marine Corps’ Critical Skills Operator training pipeline in August 2016 will be a Staff Sergeant.

“MARSOC is the first element within U.S. Special Operations Command to publicly confirm a female applicant after special operations jobs were opened to women earlier this year.” (Seck, 2016b).

1.3     What is the Difference between a SOCS and SOCS-S?

  • Special Operations Capabilities Specialist (SOCS):
    • Are Combat Support (CS) Marines that are able to join MARSOC based upon their MOS skill and receive advanced SOF training and certification.
    • Roles include: Intelligence; Communications; EOD; Dog Handlers; and Fire-Control Specialists.
    • Are awarded the Additional MOS (AMOS) of 8071 upon successful completion of the SOCS training pipeline.
    • Return to the General Marine operating forces after an extended tour of service with MARSOC, which is typically 60 months.
  • Special Operations Combat Service Specialist (SOCS-Ss):
    • Are Combat Service Support (CSS) Marines who serve one standard tour with MARSOC in their primary MOS (PMOS).
    • Roles include: Administration; Motor Transport; and Logistics.
    • Training includes core skills for joint and interagency work, as well as enhanced SOF combat skills training to enable their successful integration and survivability in special operations environments.


2.0     Introduction

US Recruiting Station, MEPSInformation regarding the basic requirements for enlistment or commissioning in the US Marine Corps can be found by clicking on the links, which the reader is advised to read if not already familiar.

The US Marine Corps does not accept direct entry applicants, i.e. civilians with no prior military experience, for the Special Operations Capabilities Specialist branch. As a result, volunteers for Special Operations Capabilities Specialist may be accepted from US enlisted personnel to serve with the US Marine Corps’ Special Operations community.

Consequently, there are two recognised pathways to becoming a US Marine Corps Special Operations Capabilities Specialist:

  1. Enlist while in the US Marine Corps and apply for a SOCS post; or
  2. Enlist while in the US Navy (each Marine Special Operations Company includes several Special Amphibious Reconnaissance Corpsmen (SARCs) specially trained in combat diving, basic airborne and amphibious reconnaissance.

2.1     MARSOC Screening Team

For those SOCS aspirants who meet the general requirements and eligibility for training, they will simply receive orders to MARSOC with no formalised screening or assessment (Hill, 2015).

The MARSOC Screening Team consists of two teams:

  • West Coast Screening Team: includes Hawaii.
  • East Coast Screening Team: includes Okinawa.

The Headquarters Marine Corps MARSOC Screening Team (HMST) also conducts Unit Level Briefings at the location of the unit.

The HMST brief explains the requirements and process for:

  • Attending assessment and selection;
  • Joining MARSOC; and
  • Gives an overview of MARSOC and its missions and operations.

2.2     General Requirements and Eligibility for All Candidates

Subject to the requirements outlined below, all US Marine Corps enlisted personnel are eligible to attend the Special Operations Capabilities Specialist training programme.

General Requirements for all candidates (Hill, 2015):

  • Have a minimum General Technical (GT) score as per service MOS on the ASVAB.
  • SCI (Sensitive Compartmented Information) Security clearance eligibility.
  • Complete Marine Corps Physical Fitness Test (Section 2.5).
  • Must be worldwide deployable.
  • Be eligible for jump school.
  • Must be screened in accordance with the SOCS screening checklist.
  • Must have completed pre-deployment requirements as member of MARSOC.
  • Must be Lance Corporal or above with a minimum of 36 months of service.

2.3     MOS Eligibility

In order to eligible to attend SOCS training, candidates must have one of the following MOS:

  • Counterintelligence Specialist, 0211.
  • Intelligence Specialist, 0231.
  • Imagery Interpretation Specialist, 0241.
  • Geographic Intelligence Specialist, 0261.
  • Airborne Radio Operator/Loadmaster, 7382.
  • Wire Chief, 0619.
  • Telecommunications Systems Chiefs, 0619.
  • Radio Chief, 0629.
  • Small Computer Systems Specialist, 0651.
  • Data Systems Technician, 0651.
  • Data Chief, 0659.
  • Information Security Technician, 0681.
  • Information Assurance Technician, 0689.
  • Field Artillery Radar Operator, 0842.
  • Field Artillery Fire Control Man, 0844.
  • Special Communications Signals Collection Operator/Analyst, 2621.
  • Signals Intelligence Analyst, 2629.
  • Electronic Intelligence (ELINT) Intercept Operator/Analyst, 2631.
  • Special Intelligence Systems Administrator/Communicator, 2651.
  • Military Police, 5811.

2.4     General Requirements and Eligibility for US Navy Candidates

A US Navy Corpsman can join as a Combat Medic, officially known as Special Amphibious Reconnaissance Corpsmen or SARCs, and receive advanced special operations medical training after training.

2.5     Physical Fitness Test

BPFA, RunningAll candidates must complete the US Marine Corps Physical Fitness Test (PFT). The PFT is utilised as an initial physical screening tool that must be passed in order to start training.

The PFT consists of three events:

  • Males: Perform dead-hang pull-ups (no time limit), abdominal crunches (two-minute time limit), and a 3-mile run.
  • Females: Perform flexed-arm hangs (no time limit), abdominal crunches (two-minute time limit), and a 3-mile run.

Note: The above is taken from the MARSOC Training Guide published in 2014.


3.0     SOCS Selection and Training Phases

The journey to becoming a SOCS is not easy, and training is rigorous and highly selective, but the courage and strength individuals will gain as a candidate will stay with them for their entire life.

The SOCS training programme is the selection and training process for all candidates wishing to join the US Marine Corps’ SOF community as a Special Operations Capabilities Specialist.

All candidates will undertake a number of distinct stages of training (Table 1), in which candidates are taught the fundamentals of US Marine Corps special warfare through formal US Marine Corps schooling and on-the-job training.

Table 1:  SOCS training pipeline
 Stage Programme Sub-course/Element Duration
Preparation Enlistment or Commission Process Variable
Basic Military Training or Officer Candidate School 9.5 weeks
MOS (or Employment) Training Variable
Assessment None, receive orders to MARSOC N/A
Individual Qualification Training (IQT) Special Operations Training Course (STC) 6 weeks
SERE Training 2.5/3 weeks
MARSOC Level 1 MOS Specific Course Variable
Unit Training Phase (UTP) A collective UTP that focuses on integration of all assets, to include support and service support, into mission profile scenarios in both direct and indirect operations specifically tailored to the assigned mission. Up to 6 months
 Source: JSOU, 2015

3.1     Training Hierarchy

Logo, MARSOC, Marine Special Operations School, SOFThe Marine Special Operations School (MSOS), commanded by a Colonel (OF-5), is a unit of MARSOC and is headquartered at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. The MSOS was established in June 2007.

The role of the MSOS is to screen, assess, select and train Marines to be CSOs and SOOs. The MSOS is the home of all US Marine Corps special operations entry-level training for CSOs, SOOs and Special Operations Capabilities Specialists (SOCS), and consists of (JSOU, 2015; MARSOC, 2015):

  • Headquarters and Supply (H&S): staff officer branches, medical and supply.
  • Training and Education Branch (T&EB): Academics; Whole Marine; ITC Proctors; and MIQC.
  • Assessment and Selection Branch (A&S): Conducts the assessment and selection of all CSO and SOO candidates.
  • Special Operations Training Companies (SOTCs): There are four SOTCs, each commanded by a Captain (OF-2), which deliver the ITC and Advanced Courses (e.g. weapons employment, communications and special reconnaissance).
    • SOTC-1: ITC Phase 1 and MARSOC Helicopter Insertion Extraction Training (MHIET).
    • SOTC-2: ITC Phase 2, MARSOC Close Quarters Battle Leaders II Course (MCQBL2) and MARSOC Master Breacher Course (MMBC).
    • SOTC-3: ITC Phase 3, MARSOC Technical Surveillance Course (MTSC), Advanced Special Training Level II (ASOT II) and MARSOC Advanced Sniper Course (MASC).
    • SOTC: 4: ITC Phase 4 and MARSOC Team Commander’s Course (MTCC).
  • Special Skills Branch: Commanded by a Lieutenant Colonel (OF-4), delivers:
    • Full Spectrum SERE Training.
    • Language Training through the Basic Language Course (BLC), which produces capable speakers in French, Indonesian, Tagalog, and Modern Standard Arabic.
    • ITC Phase 0.

3.2     Assessment and Selection

Unlike CSOs or SOOs, SOCSs candidates simply receive orders to MARSOC with no formalised screening or assessment (Hill, 2015).

Captain Graham Hill (2015, p.20) states:

“This disparity between the recruiting of these two complementary and equally important groups will ultimately hinder the growth and development of Marine special operations. MARSOC needs to establish more accurate standards for the SOCS-Cs and establish a recruiting, screening, and assessing process to ensure qualified applicants are being selected for the unique mission.”

Hill (2015, p.22) further argues that formalised screening and assessment, as well as raising other standards, such as the PFT, will ensure that SOCS Marines are “intelligent enough”, “physically fit enough” and “mature enough” for the difficult missions that MAROSC undertakes.

3.3     Special Operations Training Course

Candidates who receive orders for MARSOC will attend the Special Operations Training Course (STC).

The STC is designed to train all SOCS in the warfighting skills necessary to ‘shoot, move and communicate’ as an integral component of their assigned MARSOC unit in the distributed environment. It is 6 weeks of unhindered, realistic, challenging basic and intermediate SOF war fighting skills training.

3.4     SERE Training

The 2.5-week (3-weeks?) SERE (Survival, Escape, Resistance and Evasion) training course is delivered by the US Air Force Basic Survival School, located at Fairchild Air Force Base in Washington.

The course teaches basic survival techniques for remote areas (using minimal equipment) and training include principles, procedures, equipment and techniques, which enable individuals to survive, regardless of climatic conditions or unfriendly environments and return home.

3.5     MARSOC Level 1 MOS Specific Courses

SOCSs will attend a MARSOC Level 1 MOS specific course, which may include:

  • Explosive Ordnance Disposal (6 weeks).
  • Communications (12 weeks).
  • Intelligence (4-6 weeks).
  • Joint Terminal Attack Controller (4 weeks).
  • Multi-Purpose Canine (10 weeks).
  • SARC/IDC Corpsman (13 months).

3.6     Basic Airborne Course

All candidates must attend the Basic Airborne Course delivered by the US Army at the Airborne School, Fort Benning in Georgia.

During the 3-week course, candidates will learn the basic parachuting skills required to infiltrate an objective area by static line airdrop.

Detailed information on the 3-week Basic Airborne Course can be found here (scroll down to Section 3.2).

3.7     Graduation

Marines who successfully graduate the SOCS training pipeline will undertake a 60 month tour of duty with MARSOC, and will be awarded the AMOS 8071.

Unlike Critical Skills Operators and Special Operations Officers, SOCS do not stay with MARSOC for the duration of their US Marine Corps career.


4.0     Summary

The Special Operations Capabilities Specialist branch is open to all appropriately qualified enlisted personnel of the US Marine Corps. SOCS training seeks to attract determined, highly-motivated, intelligent, reliable and physically fit individuals to serve with the US Marine Corps’ SOF community. This article provides the basic information to allow individuals to make an informed judgement before applying for SOCS training.

4.1     Useful Books

  • Always Faithful, Always Forward: The Forging of a Special Operations Marine by Dick Crouch published in 2014 by the Penguin Group.
  • MARSOC: U.S. Marine Corps Special Operations Command by Fred J Pushies published in 2011 by Zenith Press.
  • Level Zero Heroes: The Story of U.S. Marine Special Operations in Bala Murghab, Afghanistan by Michael Golembesky and John R. Bruning published in 2014 by St Martin’s Press.

4.2     Useful Links

4.3     References

Hill, G. (2015) MARSOC’s Failing Standards. Marine Corps Gazette. September 2015. 99(9), pp.20-22. Available from World Wide Web: https://www.mca-marines.org/gazette/2015/09/marsoc-s-failing-standards. [Accessed: 13 April, 2016].

JSOU (Joint Special Operations University) (2015) Special Operations Forces Reference Manual. 4th Ed. MacDill Air Force Base, Florida: The JSOU Press.

MARSOC (US Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command) (2015) MARSOC Command Pamphlet. Available from World Wide Web: http://www.marsoc.com/media/. [Accessed: 31 March, 2016].

Pellerin, C. (2015) SecDef Opens all Military Occupations to Women. Available from World Wide Web: http://www.therecruiterjournal.com/secdef-opens-all-military-occupations-to-women.html. [Accessed: 04 December, 2015].

Seck, H.H. (2016a) First Female Marines Apply to MARSOC. Available from World Wide Web: http://www.military.com/daily-news/2016/01/20/first-female-marines-apply-to-marsoc.html. [Accessed: 31 March, 2016].

Seck, H.H. (2016b) First Female Marine Headed to MARSOC Selection. Available from World Wide Web: http://www.military.com/daily-news/2016/03/25/first-female-marine-headed-to-marsoc-selection.html. [Accessed: 31 March, 2016].

Vogel, J.L. (2015) Statement of General Joseph L. Vogel, U.S. Army Commander United States Special Operations Command before the House Armed Services Committee, Subcommittee on Emerging Threats and Capabilities, March 18, 2015. Available from World Wide Web: http://www.socom.mil/Documents/2015%20USSOCOM%20Posture%20Statement.pdf. [Accessed: 29 December, 2015].