MCSOCOM Det One
Most observers would say that Det One was just a Force Recon platoon surrounded by headquarters and support elements. Not true. Yes, it had a large and highly capable recon platoon (comprised of only seasoned and highly experienced veterans). It also had an intelligence element larger than the recon platoon, which included a substantial radio reconnaissance (tactical SIGINT) and HUMINT capability, as well as a full analysis and production capability. It also had a small fires liaison element. And it had a logistics element, which could handle its service support needs. Finally it had a command element which was fully capable of battlestaff functions. The sum of Det One parts was greatly exceeded by the synergy of Det One, which is the truth behind any Marine air-ground task force.
Det One was a “proof of concept” unit, a two-year experiment to see what a Marine force contribution to SOCOM should be. The unit ended up going for about three years. In 2004 it deployed to Iraq as part of a Naval Special Warfare Squadron (i.e. the SEALs), where it operated for six months. The details of that operation are waaaay beyond what can be written here, but suffice it to say that Detachment, even after some of its elements had been broken up to support task units in that squadron, performed beyond expectations and brought exceptional capabilities to the battlefield. Det One Marines took down high value targets in Baghdad, provided liaison to coalition forces, directly supported the protection of the top members of the original Iraqi interim government, and provided a mix of sniper support, fires coordination, command and control, and intelligence support to conventional forces during the landmark battle of Najaf. The Detachment occupied an operational niche in SOCOM, something between “white SOF” and the tier-one units. Like I said, much of the best detail is classified, but I have every hope of being able to publish a declassified version that will tell the story in as much detail as possible.
However, with the rise of MarSOC it was decided to stand Det One down. The policy aspects of the decision are far beyond my pay grade. MarSOC is a completely different animal. Without Det One there probably wouldn’t be a MarSOC, and we’ll leave it at that.
From spring 2004 to the present, I’ve been privileged to be able to talk to the Marines and sailors in that unit, record their stories and write their history. What I’ve written above barely scratches the surface on Det One. But it’ll have to do for now.