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Cover Story September 20th, 2007

  Untitled Document

thing has likely gone wrong. In the latter case of 'snatching' an individual, the effort is always made to make sure their hostage (or rescued fellow, whether it is a sailor, Marine, soldier or airman gets back to the water with them, without a shot being fired.

The Making of a Force Recon Marine

Let’s take a look at Force Recon Marine. What is Force Recon, what are their missions? What is the nature of their training?

United States Marine Corps Force Reconnaissance (Force Recon) units are special-purpose units roughly analogous to the Navy SEALs, Air Force Air Commandos, or U.S. Army Special Forces, and are widely recognized as the "special operations forces" of the United States Marine Corps. Marine Force Recon personnel, or "operators," perform highly specialized, small scale, high-risk operations, such as:

Amphibious and deep ground surveillance.
Assisting in specialized technical missions such as Nuclear, Biological, Chemical, Radio, sensors and beacons, etc.
Assisting in ordnance delivery (i.e., designating targets for close air support, artillery and naval gunfire).
Conducting direct action raids, such as gas and oil platform (GOPLATS) raids and the capture of specific personnel or sensitive materials.
Behind Enemy Lines Assault
Deep Reconnaissance
Hostage/prisoner of war rescue.
Unconventional warfare
Foreign Internal Defense

That’s a pretty big menu for any special forces unit.

How It Works:

The commander of a larger force of Marines needs information about his operational area. The commander has Force Recon at his disposal. He gives them their mission. They go and accomplish it. It isn’t always quite that simple, or that easy, however. Lots of spooky things happen with Force Recon units while on their missions. Their missions usually focus on specific information requirements which, due to their changing or unique nature, cannot be obtained by means other than putting a man on the ground to observe and report. With the intelligence the Force Recon units provide to the theatre commander, he now has a range of options he can choose to execute.

There are two basic types of operations that Force Recon employs. “Greenside” and “Blackside.”

The “Greenside” operations you are less likely to hear about. Six-man recon teams, generally led by a Sergeant, are usually too far ahead of the main force to expect artillery support or quick helicopter extractions so Force Recon Marines on a Greenside operation will rely on stealth, evasion and training and not firepower to accomplish their mission. Ideally, they get in, get the information, and get out, making no contact with the enemy. "Blackside" operations are operations involving a high probability of direct contact with opposing forces, and can include Tactical Recovery of Aircraft Personnel (TRAP), Gas/Oil Platform raids, VBBS (Vessel, Board, Search, Seizures) and other missions involving close quarters battle. The unit may also include special operators as the mission requires, such as explosive ordnance disposal personnel, electronic warfare specialists or others, and the unit may be inserted into the mission area by a variety of means via land, air (parachute drop or helicopter), or an amphibious method.

These ‘blackside’ missions are the Force Recon Missions you are more likely to hear about.

Do you have what it takes to become a member of Force Recon?

photoLet’s assume you want to become a member of Force Recon. Requirements are that you first pass a physical training test. Below, we list the scores which represent a perfect 300 on the USMC PFT (Physical Fitness Test):

3 mile run (18:00min 100pts)
20 pullups (dead hang) 100pts
80 situps/2min. 100pts.
You will be required to perform two obstacle courses in under 2:00 each time, swim 500 meters in full cammies in 17:00, and other fun water activities. 10 mile ruck with 50lbs pack in under 2 hours is also graded.

It helps to prepare months in advance with swimming at least 4-5 times a week. Wear cammies and fins at least once a week too. Minimum swim practice time should be an hour daily.

You will also be required to perform what is called a Level Test which is:
Max Push ups 2min.
Max Sit ups 2min.
Max Pull ups 2min.
Max Flutter Kicks 2min.
Max 8 Count pushups in 2:00
Max scissors in 2:00

Your calisthenics workouts should consist of the above exercises performed every other day for a total of 3-4 times per week. The day of PT rest will help your muscles recover and be able to gain more reps in two minutes. Also practice perfect form but do each of the exercises as fast as you can. Speed and endurance is your goal.

Running is also a major part of INDOC (Indoctrination - editor). You should run at least 4-5 times per week and perform a rucksack run once a week in order to prepare for the following:

Rucksack Run 3-4 miles timed Forced March (or "Hump") for 20 miles @ 4-5mph
Rucksack Run 3-4 miles timed (with 50 lb)
After repeating the Marine PFT again you get to interview with the Team Leader and Company CO/XO. You may physically make it but still not get selected. Usually, it is attitude and teamwork difficulties that get you rejected at this phase of INDOC. Then the special school training begins. If accepted, you may go through the following schools:

The Basic Reconnaissance Course - at either Expeditionary Warfare Training Group Pacific or Atlantic.
Survival Evasion Resistance and Escape (SERE) Training - at either NAS North Island, CA, or NAS Brunswick, ME.
Army Airborne School - Ft. Benning, GA.

In addition, candidates are required to complete several distance learning courses including Land Navigation, Operations Against Guerrilla Units, Terrorism Awareness, Infantry Patrolling, and Communications.

Advanced training opportunities include courses in combatant diving, scout sniper training, military free fall, jumpmaster, and dive supervisor.

Basic Recon Course at either Little Creek, VA/. or Coronado, CA. Airborne (basic and Military Freefall) Jumpmaster, Pathfinder, Ranger, Scout-Sniper, Combat Diver (SCUBA) Diving Supervisor, Mountain warfare & assault climber, Jungle operations, specialized training in urban tactics, Close Quarters Battle & shooting skills, demolitions, communications, photography, controlling aircraft landing operations and directing Airstrikes, Naval Gunfire and Artillery.

Recon Team Leaders are normally Sergeants or Staff Sergeants (some Force Recon Teams). The Team Leader is the senior man to go to the field on missions. Some missions require the full platoon to act as a unit, and in that case the Platoon Commander may also go to the field.

photoWhile Force Recon Marines have had their basic and advanced Force Recon Training while assigned to other bases, they practice their individual and unit skills while on board Camp Pendleton, awaiting orders to deploy to a trouble spot somewhere in the world. You might find them practicing skydiving, scuba diving, hand to hand combat, beach assaults, any number of skills necessary to conducting combat operations.

You just can’t find a much better scenario for such a wide variety of training areas as Marine Corps Base Camp Joseph H. Pendleton, the nation's busiest military base.

Force Recon units are just one part of the Base. The Base is home to the First Marine Expeditionary Force, 1st Marine Division, 1st Force Service Support Group, elements of the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, Marine Corps Recruit Depot Weapons & Field Training Battalion, School of Infantry, Marine Corps and Army Reserve Forces, Marine Corps Tactical Systems Support Activity, the Navy's Assault Craft Unit 5 and a Naval Hospital.

It’s not only Marines who train here. You’ll find active duty and reserve Marines, but you’ll also find Army and Navy units, as well as national, state, and local agencies.

Camp Pendleton's daytime population of 60,000 includes military personnel, their families, civilian employees and citizens of neighboring communities who conduct business here. Additionally, more than 28,000 retired military and 21,000 reservists depend on the Base's services and facilities. Several schools are located on Camp Pendleton including Assault Amphibian School Battalion, School of Infantry, Field Medical Service School and Marine Corps University. Following recruit graduation, enlisted Marines receive basic infantry training at the School of Infantry at Camp San Onofre before assignment to other units throughout the Corps.

More than 38,000 military family members occupy base housing complexes. However, with a daytime population of 60,000 military and civilian personnel, the Marines, Sailors and their families rely on the surrounding communities for retail goods and services not available on Base.

The neighboring cities of Carlsbad, Escondido, Fallbrook, Oceanside, San Clemente, San Marcos, Temecula and Vista provide employment, housing and services needed by the Camp Pendleton population.

At one time, as early as 1769, this beautiful area was trod by Spanish explorers, later by thundering herds of cattle, and priests, who would head up Franciscan missions, the most productive one being Mission San Luis Rey, just south of the present-day Camp Pendleton. At that time, San Luis Rey Mission had control over the Santa Margarita area.

The Marine Corps acquired the land, then known as Rancho Santa Margarita y Las Flores, in 1942, for which they paid $4,239,062. It was named for Major General Joseph H. Pendleton who had long advocated the establishment of a West Coast training base. By October 1944, Camp Pendleton was declared a "permanent installation" and by 1946, became the home of the 1st Marine Division.

During the Korean War, $20 million helped expand and upgrade existing facilities, including the construction of Camp Horno. When Camp Pendleton trained the country's fighting force for the Korean and Vietnam Wars, approximately 200,000 Marines passed through the Base on their way to the Far East.

The Corps broadened its capabilities during the 1980's from "amphibious" to "expeditionary" by combining infantry, armor, supply and air power. Troops and equipment could now be deployed halfway around the world in only days as part of a self-sustaining air-ground team. This successful use of military power has been demonstrated through Marine Corps operations in Grenada, Panama, the Persian Gulf, Somalia, Bosnia, Haiti Afghanistan and Iraq.

Camp Pendleton has continued to grow through renovations, replacing its original tent camps with more than 2,600 buildings and 500 miles of roads.

The original ranch house is now the home for the Commanding General of the First Marine Expeditionary Force and has been declared a National Historic Site.

Some of the statistics surrounding Camp Pendleton are rather fascinating:

More than 77,000 retired military personnel reside within a 50-mile radius of Camp Pendleton with all the privileges to Base recreation facilities, commissary, exchange and medical services.

Camp Pendleton's military and civilian personnel earned more than $2.2 billion in wages and salaries during 2006. There are more than 35,000 active duty, 8,000 reservists and 3,900 civilians working on base. There were more than 23,000 reservists who trained on Base during 2003.

An additional $192 million in retirement pay was returned into the local community in 2006.

Payroll figures include gross income, base pay, housing pay, messing pay, sea pay, hazardous pay, and other benefits the individual may receive.

Marine Corps Private R.C. Zahn, a recruit assigned to Platoon 1008, Company C, high crawls toward a ditch, nearing the end of the Movement Course at Edson Range, Camp Pendleton, Calif. The course simulates a combat environment and is one of the base's training facilities vital to the mission of keeping Marines and sailors ready for worldwide.
Photo by Ethan E. Rocke.

Civilian Employee Salaries

Marine Corps Base 1,280 Employees $84.5 million
Marine Corps Community Services 1,707 Employees $34.6 million
Navy Hospital & Dental 504 Employees $26 million
Commissary (DECA) 110 Employees $4.0 million
Marine Corps Air Station 30 Employees $2.2 million
Billeting 38 Employees $1.1 million

With a more than $2.2 billion annual payroll to Camp Pendleton servicemembers and civilian employees on base. Southern California business interests depend heavily on much of that income returning into the surrounding communities through purchases of property, local goods and services.

During 2003, the base spent more than $356 million in supplies and service contracts. There are six fuel station on base that support 1,775 military-managed vehicles. To help maintain the high demand on Pendleton's utilities, there are seven sewage treatment plants, 150 miles of sewer mainlines, 24 wells, 375 miles of water mainlines, 23 reservoirs, 145 miles of gas lines, 335 miles of electrical lines, 215 electric substations and two landfills.


Marines trudging along one of Camp Pendleton’s many trails

Along with having its own utility distribution systems, Camp Pendleton also maintains 7,300 family housing units and is constructing additional units in conjunction with maintaining 18,000 permanent party billeting spaces. In addition, there are more than 2,600 buildings and structures. The largest structure on Base is the 6,000-foot runway at the Air Station.







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