Marines take foreign military training into the field
By MATT HILBURN, Associate Editor
Ties That Bind
Holding hands with other men is most likely
not something that comes easily to
Leathernecks, but for members of the Marine
Corps’ Foreign Military Training Unit (FMTU) who
recently returned from their first deployments overseas, it can be part of the job.
“I spent a lot of time holding other mens’ hands and
walking around which was … a different experience,”
said one corpsman who took part in an African deployment with an FMTU team. “It was a sign of friendship
— so that’s how you’d walk around if you talked. You
just get used to it, I guess.”
It’s that kind of cross-cultural understanding the
Marine Corps hopes will lay the foundation for FMTU
teams to train foreign militaries over the course of a
sustained relationship with partner countries.
Team members spoke with Seapower on the condition that their names and mission locales not be used.
“One of the first things we’ve got to do is build the
rapport up-front, before anything,” said Col. Michael
Peznola, FMTU’s commanding officer. “Once you’ve
got the rapport, it gets you trust. Once the trust is established, you can take that partner nation anywhere.”
The purpose of the Marine FMTU teams is to intervene in selected countries and train local military
forces to counter incipient terrorist
threats. Their overall objective is to
target nations with active or emerging terrorist groups, bolster the local
forces and thereby avoid major conflicts, such as the wars in Iraq and
The new Marine force partially fulfills a key strategic requirement of the
U.S. military generated in the aftermath of 9/11 and the conflicts in Iraq
and Afghanistan. Defeating terrorist
networks requires new capabilities,
including “multipurpose forces to
train, equip and advise” indigenous
militaries and deploy with partner nations, according to
the 2006 Quadrennial Defense Review, the Pentagon’s
assessment of future strategies and resources.
FMTU is a part of Marine Corps Forces Special
Operations Command, a subcommand of Special
Operations Command (SOCOM), that was created in
2005 after forceful discussions among top Pentagon
officials about the Marine Corps’ role in SOCOM.
Previously, Marines were detached to SOCOM by
the Pentagon for special missions rather than assigned
to it, as were units from the other services. Composed
of specially trained units, such as Army Green Berets
and Navy SEALs, from the Pentagon’s four services,
SOCOM’s purpose is to plan and execute global operations against terrorist networks.
The FMTU organization is headquartered at Camp
Lejeune, N.C., and now has just over 300 Marines in
its ranks and 10 teams ready to go. The Marines hope
to create two additional teams per quarter, building the
FMTU force to 24 teams. Once fully manned, FMTU
will comprise about one-sixth of the Marine Special
Operations Command that eventually will count about
2,500 Marines among its ranks.
In fiscal year 2007, FMTU teams will conduct 20-30
missions — depending on demand — typically of 60-90
Among the Marines’ tools to overcome cultural barriers: goat
meat and soccer balls.
■ Their larger goal is to create sustained relationships with partner
■ Marine FMTU teams were created in the aftermath of 9/11.
■ A key to a successful mission: being “on-game 100 percent of