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New MARSOC role players have very specific qualification requirements

Apr. 22, 2014 - 06:00AM   |  
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MARSOC Marines take to the hills
Members of 3rd Marine Special Operations Battalion conduct a direct action hit during training in 2009 at the Mountain Warfare Training Center in Bridgeport, Calif. (Sgt. Steven King/Marine Corps)
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As Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command prepares for complex missions involving al-Qaida in northern Africa and elsewhere, it is hiring highly qualified role players to help its operators train.

MARSOC awarded a $57,000 contract April 17 for an assortment of role players, including a fluent French speaker with a college education in chemistry to play a high-value individual, and another role player to play an “al-Qaida personality.”

The contract also calls for other role players “who are capable of or understand tradecraft,” including surveillance or surveillance detection, another role player to act as a cell leader and person of interest, and 10 AK-47s supplied with blank ammunition for the exercise.

The training will involve direct action and special reconnaissance missions in urban and rural environments, according to the contract documents, and will incorporate up to 15 role players at a time. All of the role players are required to be U.S. citizens, and several need security clearances.

Mike Company, 3rd Marine Special Operations Battalion, out of Camp Lejeune, N.C., will participate in two week-long exercises with the role players, scheduled for April 25 through May 2 and June 6-13 near Charleston and Beaufort, S.C.

The company providing the role players, BKM Global, provides role player support for a variety of Defense Department and government training activities, and specializes in working with the U.S. intelligence community.

A MARSOC spokesman, Capt. Barry Morris, said he could not elaborate on the nature of the training Mike Company would be conducting, or the details provided in the contract documents.

But this solicitation to provide operators with realistic training is in keeping with a new battalion-level focus on specific regions of the world.

Last year, MARSOC officials announced they were regionally aligning the command’s three special operations battalions. Under the realignment, 1st MSOB, out of Camp Pendleton, Calif., focuses on missions in the Pacific region, while Camp Lejeune’s 2nd and 3rd MSOBs focus on the Middle East and Africa, respectively.

The intent was to create “regionally attuned, linguistically capable and culturally knowledgeable” special operations forces, a MARSOC spokesman said at the time the realignment was announced, with plans to complete the transition by the time MARSOC’s mission in Afghanistan ended.

While the latest contract award for role players does not specify which region the training environment is likely to simulate, 3rd MSOB’s alignment with Special Operations Command Africa and the use of francophile role players and al-Qaida personalities suggest a mission in North Africa.

In December, Marine Corps Times reported on another training contract for 3rd MSOB that called for highly skilled role players trained in signals and human intelligence, with secret or top secret security clearances, and extensive indigenous military experience in North Africa.

While MARSOC answers to U.S. Special Operations Command, its development of specialized training with a focus on Africa parallels a larger Defense Department emphasis on missions within the continent. The U.S. military has provided limited support to French troops battling extremists who overthrew the government in Mali, and troops under U.S. Africa Command, operating out of Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti, conduct drone surveillance operations and occasional strikes on extremist groups.

Marine Corps Special-Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force Crisis Response, operating out of Morón, Spain, may be forward-positioned in the Gulf of Guinea within the next two years as the Corps also prepares for more Africa-focused missions, Marine leaders said earlier this month.

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