United States Marine Corps Critical Skills Operator

Critical Skills Operators
CSO providing security in Helmand province during the War in Afghanistan
Active October 1, 2011 - Present
Country United States of America
Branch United States Marine Corps
Type Special operations force
Part of United States Special Operations Command
Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command
Nickname Raiders

A United States Marine Corps Critical Skills Operator (CSO) is a member of the U.S. Marine Corps in the primary career field assigned to United States Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command. The Military Occupational Specialty for the Critical Skills Operators is 0372 and was created on October 1, 2011.[1][2]

MARSOC's initial requirement for manning was 850 CSOs to outfit 48 fully operational Marine Special Operations Teams.[3]


After the successful MarDet 1 program the Marine Corps authorized the creation of a Marine Corps contingent at the United States Special Operations Command.[4] The new command, United States Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command (MARSOC) drew substantial numbers from the Marine Corps Recon community at both the battalion level and from Force Reconnaissance Companies. Initially the career path of these Marines was similar to that of the Marines' existing Recon community; Marines were assigned to MARSOC for a period of five years after which they would be rotated to a new unit.[2] The creation of the 0372 MOS was a response to the desire of MARSOC Marines to remain at MARSOC with an MOS that would allow them a Special Operations dedicated career path.

CSO selection and training


CSO candidates in the A&S Preparation and Orientation Course conducting a 300m swim in preparation for A&S.

Selection of the right personnel begins with a rigorous screening process designed to identify the right Marines for the right billet within MARSOC. Operational billets are open only to males. Only those Marines wanting to serve as Critical Skills Operators, as opposed to support, must attend Assessment and Selection (A&S); however, all Marines are screened to ensure that the Marines joining MARSOC meet the established prerequisites for duty within the command. Screening takes place in 3 stages: record screening, physical screening, and a psychological and medical evaluation. Prior to A&S candidates go through the Assessment and Selection Preparation and Orientation Course (ASPOC) to prepare marines for A&S.

Assessment and selection

Once a Marine is qualified through the MARSOC Recruiter's screening process, he will be assigned to the Assessment and Selection (A&S) Program.[5]

(A&S)Phase 1

The three-week A&S Phase 1 course serves as the precursor to the roughly three-week Assessment and Selection Course (A&S), and the nine-month Individual Training Course (ITC), with the purpose of preparing MARSOC Critical Skills Operator candidates for the challenges of A&S.[6]

Aside from the physical training, which includes running, swimming and hiking, the course incorporates a mix of classroom instruction and practical application of basic Marine Corps knowledge and MARSOC and Special Operations Forces fundamentals.[6]

A&S Phase 1 completion does not guarantee selection.[6]

(A&S)Phase 2

A&S is a mentally and physically challenging evaluation that enables MARSOC to identify Marines that have attributes compatible with special operations missions and the MARSOC way of life. A&S is highly competitive.[6]

Individual Training Course

An SH-60 Seahawk waits for a simulated Medical evacuation.

Marines selected for assignment as Critical Skills Operators or Special Operations Officers attend Individual Training Course (ITC), a nine-month program that builds multidimensional operators capable of operating across the full spectrum of special operations, and aware of the strategic context in which they operate.[6] ITC uses a building block approach; the training rigor will systematically increase to mimic the complexity and stresses of combat. During ITC students are under constant observation from the instructors as well as their peers. ITC is broken down into four training phases:[7]

Phase 1

Phase 1 trains and evaluates students in the basic skill sets required of all special operators. Physical fitness, swimming and hand-to-hand combat are stressed in a PT program designed around endurance, functional fitness and amphibious training. This physical training program will continue throughout the course and has been designed to prepare the student for the unique demands of special operations. Field skills including: navigation, patrolling, Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape (SERE), Tactical Combat Casualty Care (TCCC). Mission planning, Fire support training and Communications round out the first phase.

Phase 2

Phase 2 builds upon the foundation of Phase 1, training the student in small boat and scout swimmer operations, crew served weapons, demolitions, photography and information collection and reporting. Students will be evaluated in two Full Mission Profile exercises “Operation Raider Spirit”, a 2 week exercise focused on patrolling and combat operations, and “Operation Stingray Fury” focused on urban and rural reconnaissance.

Phase 3

Student will be trained in rifle and pistol combat marksmanship and will then learn the tactics, techniques and procedures needed to serve as a member of a Marine Special Operations Team during assault operations. This Phase culminates in a series of full mission profile precision raids on rural and urban objectives during “Operation Guile Strike”.

Phase 4

In the final phase, students will receive instruction on Irregular Warfare operations. The course culminates with “Operation Derna Bridge”. Derna Bridge will require the student to use all of the skills mastered throughout the course while training, advising and operating with a Partner Nation / Irregular force. Newly graduated Marine special operators will be assigned to one of the three Marine Special Operations Battalions.

Language training & linguistic requirements

CSOs conducting breaching training.

All Marine Critical Skill Operators are required to undergo continual language training. However, based on ability, certain Marines will be selected for follow-on language training at an Advanced Linguistics Course.

Advanced training

The training of Marine Critical Skills Operators does not end with ITC. They will continue training at their assigned battalion for another 18 months. Marine Critical Skills Operators may qualify for advanced training and certifications in areas such as foreign language, and emergency medical care based on future assignments.[8] Marine Critical Skills Operators also attend the U.S. Army Airborne School and the USMC Combatant Diver Course. In addition, the MSOS offers advanced-level courses in a number of subject areas: Special Reconnaissance, Close Quarters Battle, Sniper, Breaching, weapons employment.


  1. ^ Headquarters Marine Corps. "MARADMIN 202/11". Marines.mil. 
  2. ^ a b Gina Cavallaro. "Amos OKs new MOS for MARSOC". Marine Corps Times. 
  3. ^ U.S. Marines. "ITC 2-11 Graduation". marines.mil. 
  4. ^ Priddy, Maj. Wade (June 2006). "Marine Detachment 1: Opening the door for a Marine force contribution to USSOCom". Marine Corps Gazette (Marine Corps Association) (June 2006): 58–59. 
  5. ^ "Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command > Units > Marine Special Operations School > Assessment Screening". Retrieved 30 September 2014. 
  6. ^ a b c d e http://www.marsoc.com/selection-training/
  7. ^ "Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command > Units > Marine Special Operations School > ITC". Retrieved 30 September 2014. 
  8. ^ "MARSOC Public Affairs". Retrieved 30 September 2014. 
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