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The story behind the photos of the commandant wearing the Raider patch

Dec. 9, 2013 - 06:00AM   |  
Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Jim Amos was surprised when the president of the U.S. Marine Raider Association slapped a Raider patch on his uniform in August.
Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Jim Amos was surprised when the president of the U.S. Marine Raider Association slapped a Raider patch on his uniform in August. ()
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Why was the Marine Corps commandant photographed wearing a Marine Raider Patch on his dress blue uniform? Short answer: He was punked.

The image of Gen. Jim Amos sporting the classic (and unauthorized) emblem on his left shoulder caused a stir when it surfaced a few weeks ago on Facebook. But the photo was not evidence of new uniform regs or a decision to flout policy; it was the aftermath of a practical joke.

Amos went to Wilmington, N.C., in August to appear as guest of honor for the annual Marine Raider reunion, celebrating members of the elite Marine units that conducted special operations missions until the end of World War II.

After Amos gave an address, U.S. Marine Raider Association President Andy Koehler shook his hand and slapped the iconic patch on the shoulder of his uniform, causing a stir among the guests and making Amos’ security detail take a step forward.

“Gen. Amos turned to me immediately and said he knew he was being set up,” Koehler said. “He said something to the effect of, he’s going to have some questions to answer.”

Still, Koehler said, Amos was a good sport about the ambush and kept the patch on for the rest of the night.

“Gen. Amos was classy about the whole thing,” Koehler said. “He was a good sport. He was grinning while he was wearing it.”

A spokesman for Amos, Lt. Col. Dave Nevers, confirmed Koehler’s account of the event and said the night was one of the highlights of Amos’ three years as commandant.

“When, full of enthusiasm and gratitude, the Raiders proudly presented the commandant their patch and slapped it on his shoulder, all the old-timers erupted in a standing ovation,” Nevers said via email. “It was in that warm spirit that the patch was both presented and received.”

The relationship of the Raiders to their present-day successor, Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command, has been the subject of some controversy in recent years. In 2011, Amos denied a proposal to rename MARSOC personnel “Marine Raiders.” MARSOC Marines are not authorized to wear the iconic blue-and-white Raiders patch, but some have been spotted sporting it on their uniforms in combat zones nonetheless.

Neither Koehler nor Nevers had a comment on whether regulations regarding wearing of the patch should be reconsidered, but Koehler said the Raider reunion was full of MARSOC personnel mingling with Raiders and their friends and family members.

“I can appreciate the fact that [MARSOC Marines] want to connect with their history,” Koehler said. “The Raiders today, they see MARSOC as their legacy.”

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