The U.S. Marine Corps usually is characterized as the elite fighting force among American military branches. However, the Corps formed special units populated with troops who qualify as the most capable of completing covert missions. These units are battalion reconnaissance and force reconnaissance, or Recon and Force Recon for short. Both of these special units share some similarities, but they perform different roles in the Marine Corps.
Recon Marine Training
Every Recon Marine starts out as an infantry rifleman. First, a recruit must go through 13 weeks of basic training, followed by about a month of training at the school of infantry (SOI). After SOI, if a Marine has requested to enter a Recon unit, he must go through the selection and training process. Before he is allowed to attempt the basic reconnaissance course (BRC), the prospective Recon Marine must attain at least 105 points on the General Technical (GT) section of the Armed Services Vocational Ability Battery (ASVAB), score a first-class in the physical fitness test (PFT), and achieve an expert marksmanship badge. Also, the Marine must not be colorblind, nor should he have any moral or drug waivers. Finally, he should have eyesight that is correctable to 20/20, and he should be able to attain a secret clearance. If he passes the BRC, then he is considered a basic Reconnaissance Marine. From there, he receives additional schooling, which includes airborne jump master, mountain warfare and assault climber, and close-quarters battle training (CQB).
Force Recon Training
Before a Battalion Recon Marine is even invited to take part in the Force Recon indoctrination program (RIP), he must have at least three to four years of field experience and possess a PFT score of 285 out of 300 points. The RIP lasts for 48 hours and consists of a grueling battery of swimming and running courses, plus forced marching while carrying a 50-pound rucksack. If the Marine can make it through these courses, he is then interviewed and assessed for personality issues and compatibility with the Force Recon culture. Once selected, Force Recon inductees must attend Amphibious Reconnaissance School (ARS).
Roles of the Recon Marine
Recon Marines act as elite forward-operating troops who are the “eyes and ears” of their respective battalion or division. If intelligence is required for certain geographical areas, and data cannot be attained through deployment of observation drones or other electronic methods of reconnaissance, Recon Marines are sent to observe, collect information and communicate to their units any relevant intelligence. Often sent out in small groups, Recon Marines may sometimes take direct action or engage the enemy with weapons as necessary.
Roles of the Force Recon Marine
Force Recon Marines also can accomplish basic reconnaissance activities, but they are trained to partake in clandestine, unconventional attacks against an enemy. Their main job is deep reconnaissance, which means that they engage in long-range surveillance to evaluate enemy strengths, analyze geographical terrain and gather other information useful to the unit’s command. Long-range surveillance missions are more dangerous because they are located far into unfriendly territory. Although the Marine Special Operations Regiment (MSOR), created in 2007, had taken over the duties of operations involving direct action against enemy troops and installations, Force Recon Marines are called upon if Marine Special Ops teams are not available. Marine Force Recon is comparable to the Navy SEALs and the Army’s Special Forces.