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Infantry training in Corps faces scrutiny

USMC training.A broad assessment of the Marine Corps’ infantry training aimed at identifying and fixing shortcomings may loom on the horizon.

Commanding Generals of the Corps’ infantry battalions are now considering a recommendation made by the gunner community following their annual symposium in August which advocates for a review of training at all ranks, said Brig. Gen. David Berger, director of operations at Marine Corps headquarters.

The Infantry Operational Advisory Group, a board comprising regimental commanders across the Corps, has since backed the idea, setting the stage for Berger to present it to the service’s Ground Board in December, he said.

“It’s sorting out what’s required at each level and having a continuum that progresses a [private first class] or private all the way to master gunnery sergeant,” Berger said. “It’s an important topic because there are lots of skills that have walked into these courses by necessity, and some of them belong and some of them don’t.”

Berger declined to provide specific examples of military occupational specialty training that could be removed, but mission creep is not a new concern for grunts. Last summer, for example, the gunners recommended the Corps assess ways to ease the burden on squad leaders, who have an ever-growing list of responsibilities to learn, including operating multiple radios, collecting intelligence and overseeing military working dogs.

The review would assess what isn’t MOS-specific in classes such as the Infantry Squad Leader Course, which includes more than 30 days of training and field exercises designed to increase understanding of squad- and platoon-level tactics and the weapons common in an infantry company. The gunners and regimental commanders agree that finalizing baseline syllabuses for courses at each level could improve training by making it similar for more Marines taking it, officials said.

“You’d be able to deliver [the syllabus] to the unit and say, ‘Here’s your fire team course. You can modify it however you want, but here’s the approved template.’ ” Berger said. “It doesn’t exist right now.”

The training assessment could include development of course content review boards that assess each course, said Chief Warrant Officer 5 Robert Brooks, the Corps’ senior gunner.

“We need to see what needs to be added,” he said. “It’s not just what needs to come out. It’s, ‘What have we learned in the last 10 years that needs to be added to these courses?’ ”

This year the gunners also recommended that the Corps develop a specific course for senior gunners — mostly chief warrant officers 4 and 5 — who have progressed in their careers from overseeing the weapons training for battalions to handling servicewide issues. Although most of their careers have been spent as enlisted Marines, gunners at the division level and up must advise generals on joint issues involving other branches of service, perform duties such as writing urgent universal needs statements and understand the military acquisitions process, Brooks said.

“We want it to be long enough so they can learn what they need, but short enough so that we’re not taking them away from commanders for a lengthy period of time,” he said. “I think what’s going to drive that is the recommendations of the Ground Board. I have all confidence that they will concur with this.”

The Snooper Report.
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