critical skills operator

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MARSOC Corpsman receives Silver Star.

Major Gen. Joseph L. Osterman, commander, U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Special Operations Command, presents Petty Officer 2nd Class Alejandro Salabarria the Silver Star Medal during a ceremony at Stone Bay aboard Camp Lejeune, N.C. Salabarria was awarded for his actions in Afghanistan Sept. 15, 2014.

(Photo and article by Sergeant Lia Gamato, 5 FEB 2016.)

MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. - Petty Officer 2nd Class Alejandro Salabarria, a corpsman with 2nd Marine Raider Battalion, Marine Raider Regiment, U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Special Operations Command, was awarded the Silver Star Medal during a ceremony at Stone Bay aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C., Feb. 5, for his actions in Afghanistan.

Salabarria, a Miami native, joined the Navy in December 2008 with the full intention of becoming a corpsman serving at an infantry unit. However, his first orders directed him to Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island, South Carolina.

Unfazed, Salabarria decided to take control of his future service as a corpsman, taking an interest in special operations. He attended the Basic Reconnaissance School and Army Basic Airborne School, then received orders to 3d Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C. While preparing for deployment with Scout Sniper Platoon, Salabarria jumped on the opportunity to attend the Special Operations Combat Medic Course in Fort Bragg, N.C. Upon graduation, he received orders to 2nd MRB.

“From all of his training, he was basically a junior (Special Amphibious Reconnaissance Corpsman), which was exactly what we needed on the team,” said a critical skills operator with Marine Special Operations Team 8214, Marine Special Operations Company F.

Salabarria checked into the team in 2013 and, from the start, he set himself apart.

“Most corpsmen stay in their bubble … but Sal was always the guy who wanted to go out and be a CSO before he was a corpsman,” said a critical skills operator. “Which was great because it’s hard to instill that aggressiveness in someone.”

In June 2014, the team deployed to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. It was nearing the end of their deployment, on Sept. 15, 2014, that the team was caught by enemy fire.

“We were headed to the (landing zone), and what caught my eye was that off to my right there was one guy praying. No one else was praying, just this one individual,” said the CSO. “Didn’t think anything of it.”

The team was dropped off on the LZ and split into two groups for the flight, one team staging to the north, the other to the south. Because aircraft wasn’t expected to land for several hours, the teams took a tactical pause to adjust their gear. It wasn’t until dark settled over the LZ that they came under attack.

“It’s funny that I heard (it) because we were a fair good distance away, but it was clear as day. I heard, ‘What the (expletive),’ and it almost sounded like a flash bang went off, and then just rapid fire,” said the CSO.

A rogue shooter had fired an M203 round into the LZ before circling around firing off an automatic weapon into the groups of gathered Raiders and commandos.

“I immediately hit the deck, I thought Sal is right next to me. He wasn’t,” said the CSO. “I don’t think he even hit the ground, I think he just ran.”

Salabarria had grabbed his medical kit and taken off running toward the center of the LZ where someone was yelling in pain. He explained that the only thing visible were muzzle flashes and the outlines of people, so he followed the cries for help. Salabarria first came across the foreign interpreter who then directed him to the team SARC. The senior medic had been struck by rapid fire in his arm and leg, shattering the upper part of his shin bone.

“I checked him over real quick, and that’s when I noticed that we were directly getting shot at,” said Salabarria. “At that point, I laid on top of (the team SARC), told him not to move, and I shot at (the shooter) until he went down.”

“Stories go, that other commandos were shooting, that our guys were shooting,” said the CSO. “But from my perspective, it was a gunfight between two people.”

For his “bold initiative, undaunted courage, and complete dedication to duty,” Maj Gen. Joseph L. Osterman, commander, U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Special Operations Command, presented Salabarria with the Silver Star Medal. He was joined by Surgeon General Vice Adm. C. Forrest Faison III, and teammates from 2nd Marine Raider Battalion.

“I think anybody on that team, given the opportunity, would have done the same thing. It just happened to be me that did it,” said Salabarria.

Sergeant Charles Strong lost his life during this attack. His family attended the ceremony as guests of honor, along with the family of Capt. Stanford H. Shaw III, who was a part of the “Raider 7” lost in March 2015, in a helicopter crash off the coast of Florida. Shaw was the officer who first submitted Salabarria for the award.

“(This medal) is more for Capt. Shaw and Sgt. Strong than anything,” said Salabarria. “It’s all for them.”

USMC Sergeant Charles C. Strong. 15 SEP 2014.
Died in Herat Province, Afghanistan of wounds suffered in an insider attack. Strong was assigned to 2nd Marine Special Operations Battalion, Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command, out of Camp Lejeune, NC.

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Marine Raiders conduct 10-Day training exercise: RAVEN

Marine Raiders conduct a 10-day readiness exercise referred to as RAVEN, to enhance their readiness for worldwide deployment in support of global contingencies. During the exercise, the Critical Skills Operators and Special Operations Officers trained with conventional Marine Corps forces, and participated in a range of realistic military training including Direct Action, Special Reconnaissance, Preparation of the Environment, Security Force Assistance, Counterterrorism, Counterinsurgency, and Foreign Internal Defense.

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Sparks

A Critical Skills Operator with U.S. Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command uses a saw to cut through a metal door to gain entry on a building during Marine Special Operation School’s Master Breacher’s Course, at Stone Bay aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C., Aug. 20, 2015.  (U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Sgt. Scott A. Achtemeier / Released)

A Marine with Echo Company, 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, provides security during a partner nation force training exercise at Hurlburt Field, Fla., Aug. 17 – 27. The Marines of 2/8 joined forces with Critical Skill Operators with U.S. Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command to strengthen the process-driven capability integration process between Special Operations Forces and the Marine Air Ground Task Force and to increase the Marine Corps’ and MARSOC’s ability to partner with foreign counterparts to advise, train and assist allied security forces. Throughout the 10-day training evolution, Marines with 2/8 played the role of a notional partner nation force, while MARSOC Critical Skills Operators and Special Operations Officers advised, trained and assisted 2/8, increasing both MARSOC’s and 2/8’s ability to advise, train and assist partner nation forces throughout the globe.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Capt. Barry Morris/Released)

A new breed of operator.

Marine Special Operations Officers (SOOs) graduating MARSOC’s ITC will be assigned a new Primary Military Occupational Specialty, clearing the way for retention and promotion in a professional career path.

Previously, only enlisted Marines designated as Critical Skills Operators (CSOs) were awarded a PMOS of 0372, while SOOs were awarded an Additional Military Occupational Specialty of 0370. The decision now allows SOOs to hold 0370 as a PMOS, and be managed with a development strategy that facilitates talent management of Special Operations Forces skills, standardized training, retention, promotions, command, professional military education and career progression, according to Maj. Gen Clark, the MARSOC commander.“Approval of the PMOS allows the Marine Corps the ability to develop Marine Special Operations Officers (SOOs), over a course of a career, as both fully proficient special operations professionals and well-rounded Marine Corps Air-Ground Task Force officers,” said Clark.

Critical Skills Operators in the 3rd Marine Special Operations Battalion, U.S. Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command, conduct low level static line jumps at Bridgeport, California. October 16, 2014.