“We make Marines,” proclaims a banner at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, SC, summarizing the service ethic that recruits must prove they have the mental and physical strength to serve in the Corps by surviving training camp. By the time men and women receive their eagle, globe and anchor, they have proven they have the physical and mental strength to earn the coveted title of “Marine”.
But the Commander of the Marine Corps, General David Berger, wants “exceptionally talented Americans” to be able to bypass the Corps’ traditional rites of passage and begin to serve “at a rank appropriate to their education, experience and ability.”
Berger’s radical new talent management plan calls for enabling civilians with essential skills to join the Marine Corps “sideways” rather than starting at the bottom as new recruits.
“Due to the significant lead time required to develop expertise, we are unable to respond quickly to changes in the security environment that require urgent course corrections,” Berger wrote in his plan., which was first released to the public on November 3. “The rapid increase in the importance of the cyber domain, for example, has challenged us to find creative ways to quickly develop essential skills mid-career and above. Unless we find a way to quickly infuse expertise into the force – in the right ranks – I fear advancements in artificial intelligence and robotics, among other areas where the speed of technological change is exponential, force us to adopt a reactive posture.
Berger clarified that this option would be limited to certain military occupational specialties, adding that it would be “difficult to imagine a scenario” in which a civilian could skip training camp in order to join a combat arms field like the infantry or artillery.
He also wrote that Marines who are no longer on active duty and now have “critical career experience” should be able to return to service at a higher rank.
“For example, I can imagine a Marine who left active duty as a captain or corporal to join our ranks as a lieutenant colonel or gunnery sergeant, respectively, after spending 5-7 years working in a IT or IT field where the service currently lacks capacity. Berger wrote. “With the right education and the right experience, that same corporal might also be eligible for a return as a middle or senior officer.” “
The new talent management plan could involve a “cultural shift” in the way the Marine Corps attracts the best people possible, said Lt. Gen. David Ottignon, deputy commander of the workforce and business. Reserve.
For example, how will Marines who have been through The Crucible at Parris Island or San Diego react to the idea of allowing civilians to bypass training camp to become Marine Corps cyber experts? Ottignon reflected with reporters on Monday.
“How does that align with the culture of a Marine Corps of about 180,000 Marines going through this demanding training that keeps us all united – consistency in what we do?” Said Ottignon. “It’s a cultural thing that we’re going to have to overcome. “
The Marine Corps has been here before. Former Commanding General Robert Neller initially considered allowing civilians with computer skills to become Marines without going through a training camp in 2017.
But Neller faced a conundrum: He didn’t want to bring in people who didn’t meet Marine Corps grooming standards.
Then-Marine Brig. Gen. Loretta Reynolds, who headed Marine Corps Forces Cyberspace Command at the time, recalled in 2016 that Neller once asked her, “Should I start letting the guys with the purple hair and curls in? ‘ears ?
Ultimately, the Marine Corps decided to create a Cyber Auxiliary division of civilian volunteers, not Marines. “You can also have purple hair, but no EGA [Eagle, Globe, and Anchor]Neller said in 2019.
The question of whether cyber experts who bypass training camp can hold the Marine title has not disappeared.
“This is clearly what the commander proposed as something to be discovered and analyzed,” Ottignon said on Monday. “And I don’t know the answer yet. I don’t think the Commander knows the answer yet – other than we know there is exquisite talent there. “
This is why the Ottignon team offers various options for exactly how the Marine Corps can attract people with the skills the Corps needs most, he said.
“We think – we could be wrong – you could take a young man or a young woman, say from George Mason University who works in cybersecurity and sees opportunities in government; and we show them: Look, no kidding, you’re going to be part of an offensive / defensive team and building skills; it might be attractive to them. His [Berger’s] the point is: how do you do this; and this is the cultural piece that I gave you.