For the second time in two years, Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command held a press conference Friday to memorialize and salute seven troops from within the command who perished in a tragic aviation incident.
Col. Steven Grass, deputy commander of MARSOC, addressed the media from MARSOC's headquarters at Stone Bay, North Carolina, just hours after the Marine Corps publicly released the names of the troops killed Monday afternoon in a KC-130 crash in LeFlore County, Mississippi.
Six Marines and a sailor aboard belonged to MARSOC and were traveling from North Carolina to the West Coast for training ahead of a deployment to the Middle East. Nine more troops aboard were aircrew belonging to VMGR-452, a Reserve unit based in Newburgh, New York.
- Corps Identifies 16 Troops Killed in Tragic KC-130 Crash
- Evidence From Marine KC-130 Crash Site Points to Mid-Air Disaster
- Seven MARSOC Raiders Among Troops Killed in KC-130 Crash
The Washington Post reported Friday that a number of the Marine Raiders killed in the crash belonged to Marine Special Operations Team 8231, the same team that lost seven Marines in a 2015 UH-60 Black Hawk Crash near Eglin Air Force Base, Florida.
"The Marines and sailors of MARSOC have been similarly tested before," Grass said. "...I'm impressed with the absolute strength and resilience that have become hallmarks of MARSOC."
The motto of MARSOC, Grass said, is Spiritus Invictus, Latin for 'unconquerable spirit.'
"Our command is a tight-knit community, made up of some of the most highly trained and dedicated Marines that I've ever known," he said. "And as a team and a family, we're going to pull together to see this through, and I thank you for your support. Semper Fidelis and Spiritus Invictus."
Grass declined to answer any questions about the specifics of the crash, citing an ongoing investigation that will likely take months to complete. He said MARSOC is expected to hold a memorial ceremony for the fallen troops in coming days, though a date and time for the event has yet to be set. The Marines who died in the crash, he said, were aware of the risks they undertook daily in training and the execution of their duty.
"We are a professional military organization, first off, and we're an all-volunteer force, especially the volunteers who come to this unit," he said. "And the families generally understand the environment that the Marines and the sailors get into when they take on this responsibility, and they don't go in with ignorance. Having said that, we do a great deal of preparation to prepare our families and Marines to be resilient and while you can't downplay the tragedy of a loss, we intend to honor our fallen, intend to take care of the families, and we intend to move on."
MARSOC's fallen, all noncommissioned officers and staff noncommissioned officers, represented a number of seasoned and decorated warriors. All but one had numerous deployments under their belts, and several had returned just months before from supporting the fight against ISIS in the Middle East.
Their names, backgrounds and photographs can be found here.