Marine Corps seeks to enlist smarter Marines

    Recruits meet Parris Island drill instructors who will train them throughout Marine boot camp
    Drill instructor Sgt. Abraham Miller waits with Platoon 1056, Delta Company, 1st Recruit Training Battalion, moments before the recruits meet their new drill instructors June 7, 2014, on Parris Island. (Photo by Cpl. Octavia Davis)

    Seeking a more skilled and mature force, the Marines may seek to require higher test scores to get into the Corps.

    According to, Deputy Commandant of Marine Corps Combat Development Command Lt. General Robert Walsh says that requiring higher test scores on the General Technical side of the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery is being seriously considered as the Marines look to revamp their force.

    “Our infantry Marines, that GT score has been down at 85 since Vietnam. Post-Vietnam, conscript, the draft, that’s what it is. Now the Marines we’re bringing in today are much higher than that,” Walsh said. “We’re bringing them in at higher levels, but we’re going, ‘Should we raise the bar?’ We know to be able to operate in this environment, we need to have a little bit of a higher bar, so we’re looking at that.”

    The drive for smart Marines began with former commandant General Joseph Dunford who felt that the Corps’ demographics needed to evolve to keep up with a more technically sophisticated battlefield.

    Publishing planning guidance last year for better psychological evaluations to predict resiliency of recruits, Dunford also demanded that the branch also needed more noncommissioned officers.

    “The big challenge is looking to the future and bringing in the right talent. I’ll be honest: we’re looking very hard at recruiting,” Walsh said. “We’re very successful in recruiting, but we’re looking at raising the bar in our entry-level capabilities on who we bring in, GT scores and what (military occupational specialties) they go to. What we’re seeing is, the entire force we want to raise up to a higher level.”

    While the USMC hasn’t had trouble meeting recruiting goals for many years, Walsh admits raising the bar will make it harder for recruiters to meet goals.

    “So the tension will be with us and manpower, because that’s hard for them now to have to recruit,” he said. What I will say is we do pretty well. We meet our goals, but we meet our goals because our recruiters work very, very hard.”

    The Corps is looking to mirror its Special Operations Forces’ trends of having older, more mature troops, something many in the brass feel is beneficial. In addition, the Marines wish to continue work in programs to harvest and retain quality infantry leadership in both the NCO and Officer corps.

    “The commandant has been pushing this very hard on looking at the special operations model for some of the things they do that are very good, where they’ve got higher rank, more seniority, and this technical environment, bringing them in,” Walsh said. “If you think more SOF like in terms of more senior, better trained, better equipment, that’s a lot of what we’re looking at.”

    Marine brass are expected to make major planning decisions concerning proposed changes later this year.

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