4th Marine Expeditionary Unit and Amphibious Squadron 8

25th MEU

Marines and sailors with the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit and Amphibious Squadron 8 offload from the USS Iwo Jima after conducting their PHIBRON-MEU Integrated Training in preparation for their deployment later this year, Aug. 12. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Mary M. Carmona/Released)

Afghanistan Veteran Paddles Away War’s Demons

PTSD Mississippi

Afghanistan Veteran Paddles Away War’s Demons – Former Marine coping with post-traumatic stress disorder finds solace in paddling length of Mississippi River. – Gerald Herbert / AP

Afghanistan Veteran Paddles Away War’s Demons  >> Photo Gallery on NBC News

Two tours in Afghanistan took a toll on Joshua Ploetz.  The former Marine was injured in a roadside bomb. He lost friends in combat, and later, to suicide.

When the Winona, Minnesota, resident returned from the war eight years ago, he was coping with post-traumatic stress disorder, known as PTSD, the fallout from a minor stroke and other injuries. Adapting to civilian life proved difficult. Relationships failed, employment was hard to come by and, Ploetz said, he had an overwhelming feeling of being “lost.”

This summer, Ploetz, 30, found direction — and became an inspiration — paddling a canoe the length of the Mississippi River. He launched on May 19 in Lake Itasca, Minnesota, where the river begins as a narrow creek lined with tall trees and bald eagle nests.

The trip to the Gulf of Mexico would take him 71 days, about 49 of them spent paddling and the remainder resting. Ploetz said he needed every inch of the river’s more than 2,300 miles to paddle away the demons of war, or at least calm them a bit.

See full photo gallery and read more at NBC News

The past aligned with the future: MARSOC becomes Marine Raiders

The past aligned with the future: MARSOC becomes Marine Raiders

Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. James F. Amos announced today at the Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command change of command ceremony that MARSOC would formally assume the title of “Marine Raiders” and that its subordinate commands will reflag as Marine Raider Regiment, Marine Raider Group, Marine Raider Battalions, etc. Today’s announcement formally recognizes the Raiders’ legacy in present day Marine Special Operations. (Official Marine Corps photo illustration by Sgt. Scott Achtemeier)

Story by Gunnery Sgt. Joshua Higgins.

MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. – During World War II, four Marine Raider battalions and two Raider regiments were formed and saw action in the Pacific Theater between 1942 and 1944. Formed to conduct amphibious raids and guerrilla operations behind enemy lines, the Raider battalions were the United States’ first special operations units.

The Raiders went on to participate in campaigns across the Pacific Ocean and earned more than 700 decorations, including seven Medals of Honor, before disbanding approximately two years later.

Though the units’ existence was short-lived, they left a lasting impression. The Marine Raider battalions were the inspiration for what would become modern day special operations.

But when U.S. Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command was established in 2003, the unit did not officially carry on the moniker.

Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. James F. Amos made official the title in a proclamation he released Wednesday, which calls for “the official continuation of our Corps’ special operations heritage from the Raiders of World War II to our modern day Marines.”

“United States Marines take great pride in our special operations and irregular warfare heritage. … From this point forward, the Marines of MARSOC will be officially aligned with the Marine Raiders of World War II and are charged with maintaining the high standards and traditions that accompany such distinction,” Amos read during the unit’s change-of-command ceremony held at Stone Bay aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.

While MARSOC is adopting the name Marine Raiders, the command’s official title will remain MARSOC. However, Major Subordinate Elements of the unit will reflag with the Raider name. For example, subordinate commands will reflag as Marine Raider Regiment, Marine Raider Support Group, Marine Raider battalions, etc.

The Marine Raiders and MARSOC share the common experiences of being a specialized unit, formed during a time of conflict, and uniquely manned, trained, and equipped to conduct special operations.

Use of the Marine Raider title has so far been informal, although MARSOC units have linked to the Raiders since establishment. Special operations Marines have used the Raider insignia in their unit emblems and it has become both a linkage to Marine Corps identity and a source of unit pride.

Major Gen. Mark A. Clark, the MARSOC commander, welcomed the news as he turned over command of MARSOC to Maj. Gen. Joseph L. Osterman.

“The decision to align MARSOC with the Marine Raiders of WWII will enhance the esprit de corps and anchor MARSOC’s identity and heritage with the Marine Corps,” said Clark. We are proud and honored to adopt the name Marine Raider, carrying on the rich heritage passed along to MARSOC by the Raiders of World War II,” said Clark. “As with every Marine Corps unit, MARSOC desires a moniker that creates its own unique identity that is based on Marine Corps heritage and enables Marines to trace the legacy of those Marines who served before them.”

Although MARSOC draws upon the Raiders’ heritage for identity and esprit de corps, the unit is a forward-looking organization focused on innovative and critical thinking, standing always ready and prepared for modern day and future conflicts, explained Clark.

The reason for the recent designation is two-fold. First, Clark said, the Marine Raiders were performing special operations missions during World War II and therefore provides a logical, historical link to MARSOC.

The second reason is one backed by Raiders themselves. At recent Marine Raider reunions, its remaining original members have highlighted their strong desire for their legacy to not be forgotten and to be carried on by another Marine Corps unit.

“The Marine Raiders have chosen MARSOC to be the holder of their legacy,” said Clark. “We feel we owe it to those Marine Raiders still living and their families to make every attempt to do so.”

A CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter with USS Peleliu (LHA-5)

Super Stallion

A CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter flies ahead of the amphibious assault ship USS Peleliu (LHA-5) after conducting helocast operations at Pyramid Rock Beach, Marine Corps Base Hawaii. The helocast was part of a final amphibious assault during Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) Exercise 2014. Twenty-two nations, 49 ships and six submarines, more than 200 aircraft and 25,000 personnel are participating in RIMPAC from June 26 to Aug. 1 in and around the Hawaiian Islands and Southern California. The world’s largest international maritime exercise, RIMPAC provides a unique training opportunity that helps participants foster and sustain the cooperative relationships that are critical to ensuring the safety of sea lanes and security on the world’s oceans. RIMPAC 2014 is the 24th exercise in the series that began in 1971. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Matthew Callahan/Released)

Marines fast-rope from a CH-53E Super Stallion Helicopter

Vertical assault prepares MEU Marines for upcoming deployment

Marines fast-rope from a CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter July 18 at the Central Training Area, Okinawa, Japan, during a Marine Expeditionary Unit exercise. The training scenario called for the 31st MEU’s Battalion Landing Team to insert via aircraft into a landing zone near a simulated hostile village to seize and capture high-value individuals. The Marines are with 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 31st MEU. The aircraft is with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 262, which is part of the MEU’s air combat element. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Adam B. Miller/Released)

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