New Marine Training Plan Emphasizes Technology to Prepare for Modern Conflict

THE PENTAGON – The Marine Corps laid out a plan Tuesday for transforming training and education of the force through advancements in technology and a focus on critical thinking that will better shape Marines for future operations. Training and Education 2030 is the latest strategy document produced by the Marine Corps as part of its […]

Recruits with Bravo Company, 1st Recruit Training Battalion, initiate the Crucible with a hike at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C, Jan. 12, 2023. US Marine Corps Photo

THE PENTAGON – The Marine Corps laid out a plan Tuesday for transforming training and education of the force through advancements in technology and a focus on critical thinking that will better shape Marines for future operations.

Training and Education 2030 is the latest strategy document produced by the Marine Corps as part of its Force Design 2030 effort to reshape the service for modern conflict. Training and Education 2030 is a companion policy to Talent Management 2030 released last year.

Under the new plan, the Marine Corps aims to move away from some of the repetitive training and replace it with exercises that require critical thinking to help young Marines learn to make battlefield decisions, said Lt. Gen. Kevin Iiams, commanding general of Training and Education.

“There’s a sacred process to making a Marine,” Iiams said. “That’s not going to change.”
The critical thinking piece is going to allow the Marines to prepare for what the Marine Corps leaders predict the future will hold as well as unknowns, he told reporters during a roundtable on Tuesday.

The document, which lays out a number of objectives and areas of further study, along with deadlines for each, also formalizes the commanding general of Training and Education as a new deputy commandant.

Training and Education 2030 will build on the core legacy of the Marine Corps, through more integration and abilities provided by technology not previously available or used.

“They want to talk,” Iiams said. “They want to be part of solutions. They want to be thinkers and what we’re doing is we’re just unchaining them, they have capability well beyond anything that we ever imagined. And this is just us recognizing that and finding a ways and a means to unleash it.”

The focus on critical thinking is one way that the Marine Corps can mature the force without just bringing in and retaining older Marines, said Col. Joseph Farley, assistant chief of staff for Training and Education Command.

The training program also lays out some new standards for the Marines, including an emphasis on swimming.

For the past 20 years, the Marine Corps was focused on the Middle East, with operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. With the change of focus to the Indo-Pacific, Marines need to be better equipped to be in the water, said Col. Eric Quehl, director of the policy and standards division in the Training and Education Command.

A U.S. Marine with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit Maritime Raid Force prepares to breach and entrance during a limited scale raid as part of Realistic Urban Training Exercise 23.1 on Marine Corps Base Hawaii, Jan. 11, 2023. US Marine Corps Photo

One aspect of the training plan is Project Tripoli, which will eventually allow for integrated training across the globe through the use of simulations. The idea behind Project Tripoli is that different units will be able to train together even when not in the same place through a combination of live and simulated training.

As an example, Iiams said a situation under Project Tripoli is a lance corporal using a blended reality system to train at Twentynine Palms, Calif., with an F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter pilot using the same training system in a simulator from the East Coast.

“So the airplane doesn’t exist, he sees it as an avatar as being flown by a pilot on the East Coast, that pilot looks down and can actually see the entire grand scheme of maneuver, and can strike and employ in support of the forces,” he said. “That simulator might also be flying in a formation with a live airplane, that live airplane looks over and actually sees its wingman avatar.”

Tripoli also helps to address the lack of long ranges that are required for training on long-range precision missiles or ranges that allow for Marines to test equipment like jammers, Iiams said.

With the use of virtual space, the Marines are able to do this type of training within the space the service already has.

It also allows for more real-time adjudication and feedback, Iiams said.

“We know that Marines learn, humans, learn, in real-time,” he said.

The virtual aspect can also help with safety around training, as it’ll allow for progressive training, said Col. Mark Smith, director of range training programs division under the Training and Education Command.

That sort of progressive training means that a Marine might be able to train on the basics before using live fires, Smith said. Or they can do training that would be considered riskier in a safe environment because of the virtual element.

It also allows Marines to train their critical thinking skills in an environment where they cannot get hurt, Farley said.

The Marine Corps has a mishap library from training exercises so Marines can see mistakes made by other units when training in order to learn and avoid making similar ones, Iiams said.

Aspects of the new training policy are already in effect. Training and Education 2030 lays out new standards and training for marksmanship with a new advanced rifle qualification course, Iiams said.

“[It is] more offensively minded,” Iiams said. “It’s combat related, it’s positional shooting, it’s talking about how they’re actually going to employ their [weapons], teaching them how they’re going to employ their weapons in combat, instead of just marksmanship.”

A U.S. Marine with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit Maritime Raid Force signals platoon to halt while on patrol during a limited scale raid as part of Realistic Urban Training Exercise 23.1 on Marine Corps Base Hawaii, Jan. 11, 2023. US Marine Corps Photo

Marksmanship is more than firing at static paper targets, Quehl said. Instead, the Marines are using training that requires service members to start at farther positions and progress toward the target to simulate a combat situation.

That’s already been rolled out in the fleet, but they are still working toward full operational capability, he said.

The Marine Corps is a learning organization, said Sgt. Maj. Stephen Griffin, command senior enlisted leader of Marine Corps Training and Education Command.

The document lays out the plan for how to modernize the force to be able to address future operations, Iiams said.

“And I think what’s really key here when we talk about the document, as much as we’re talking about new, is this document actually builds on the core legacy of high standards. It’s really, really rooted in our core values, our warfighting ethos, what we consider for our Marines, you know, a desire for a bias for action. And then, you know, really our cornerstone document, which is MCDP 1 Warfighting, and that’s all of the tenets of maneuver warfare.”

Marine Corps ‘Shifting Threats’ Campaign Highlights New Technology Focus

The Marine Corps’ adaptability is necessary for the changing world, according to the service’s new recruiting campaign, which launched online Thursday and will air Saturday during the University of Georgia vs. University of Florida football game.  The advertising campaign, “Shifting Threats,” features Marines as they adapt to the more technologically sophisticated world in scenes that look […]

Still image from the Marines’ ‘Shifting Threats’ ad campaign released on Oct. 27, 2022.

The Marine Corps’ adaptability is necessary for the changing world, according to the service’s new recruiting campaign, which launched online Thursday and will air Saturday during the University of Georgia vs. University of Florida football game. 

The advertising campaign, “Shifting Threats,” features Marines as they adapt to the more technologically sophisticated world in scenes that look to be out of a video game. The ad shows modern techniques like how Marines use and destroy drones against the backdrop of traditional Marine Corps missions like amphibious landings, humanitarian aid and disaster relief and infantry operations in harsh weather environments.

“The future is threatened by enemies often unrelenting, unexpected and unpredictable,” the video’s narrator says. “In the midst of an uncertain and evolving world, the need for Marines to defeat these shifting threats is critical because the need to ensure stability for our nation has never been greater. When there are battles to win for America’s future, there is one constant. Marines.”

In designing the ads, the goal was to highlight what Marines are and do in a way that would make sense for the general public but also entice people to join the Marines, according to a release announcing the campaign.

The service is facing a tight recruiting environment, a challenge shared by all branches. The Marine Corps met its Fiscal Year 2022 recruiting goals, with 33,210 new enlisted active-duty Marines and 4,602 enlisted reservists. The Marine Corps also commissioned 1,705 officers, according to a service news release.

The Marine Corps turned its attention to recruiting in the past fiscal year, an effort part of Talent Management 2030, which falls under Force Design 2030. The Marines also hit its retention goals early, the service announced in July.

The service aimed to get 5,820 Marines on their initial contracts to reenlist, while the retention goal for Marines with four to 20 years of service was 5,417, USNI News previously reported.

Under Talent Management 2030, the Marines are beginning to shift away from the small, quick turnover force that has been the standard and instead looking to retain service members for a longer period of time, USNI News reported.

Although the Marines are focusing on retention, the force will still shrink, with Force Design 2030 calling for a reduced force of 175,000 Marines.

The campaign video itself is focused on highlighting aspects of Force Design 2030, including putting technology in the hands of individual Marines to make help decisions on targeting enemy assets.

Featured in the video is the Marine Air Defense Integrated System (MADIS). In 2019, the Marines took out an Iranian drone from 1,000 yards away during a Strait of Hormuz transit using MADIS aboard USS Boxer (LHD-4). The system uses electronic jammers, radars and gun systems, to take out the drone, USNI News previously reported.

A similar situation plays out in the ad with Marines using a handheld device to take out enemy drones. The conclusion of the video shows an infantry Marine helping target an unspecified enemy ship to be sunk by an F-35B Lighting II Joint Strike Fighter.

The Marine Corps video is available on YouTube, and the “Shifting Threats” campaign will use online and television advertising as well as social media. Unlike the Navy, the Marine Corps still advertises on television.

Marine Corps Exceed Retention Goals Early, Hit More Than 100 Percent

The Marine Corps hit retention goals early for the first time in 10 years, the service announced last week. Over the past nine years, the Marine Corps reached approximately 97.2 percent of its retention goal. However, for Fiscal Year 2022, the service already hit 101.1 percent of its goal, said Yvonne Carlock on behalf of […]

11th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) celebrates the Marine Corps 246th birthday on the flight deck of the amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD-2) on Nov. 10, 2021. US Navy Photo

The Marine Corps hit retention goals early for the first time in 10 years, the service announced last week.

Over the past nine years, the Marine Corps reached approximately 97.2 percent of its retention goal. However, for Fiscal Year 2022, the service already hit 101.1 percent of its goal, said Yvonne Carlock on behalf of Manpower and Reserve Affairs.

The goal for FY22 for Marines on their initial contracts was 5,820, Carlock said in an email. For Marines with four to 20 years of service, the retention goal was 5,417.

Carlock was not able to provide retention goals for FY 2021 in time of publication. It is unclear if the retention goals for this year are higher or lower than in the past.

It was also unclear the effect of COVID-19 on retention, Carlock said in the email. The Marine Corps has separated ​​3,069 Marines due to refusal to get vaccinated against COVID-19, according to the most recent report.

Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. David Berger’s Force Design 2030 calls for a reduced force of 175,000 Marines, USNI News previously reported. Force Design 2030 also calls for a focus on retention, going against the traditionally high turnover that is associated with the Marines.

The Marine Corps, like the other military branches, is struggling with recruitment due to a competitive marketplace. The service cannot recruit itself way out of talent challenges, Gen. Eric Smith, deputy commandant of the Marine Corps, said Monday. But the service can use retention to solve some of the problem.

The Marine Corps is changing how they retain, Smith said at the Center for Strategic and International Studies event. Before the service would often wait until it received all the interest for reenlistment before racking and stacking each Marine.

Now it is making the process more streamlined, with one step instead of 22, and making it more appealing for people to stay.

As an example, Smith said the service wants to be able to have conversations to figure out how it can keep Marines. If a service member says he or she would stay if they could stay in the same location for a couple more years, that could be a concession the Marine Corps makes in order to retain someone, Smith said.

But Marines should not expect to ask that they stay in the same location for 20 years, Smith said.

The Marines are also putting retention responsibility on leaders through the Command Retention Mission (CRM).

“In support of the CRM, Enlisted Assignments and Retention Branch created multiple avenues to coach and education commanders,” Carlock said in the email. “The on-the-road Key Leader engagements and multiple virtual engagements as well were used to strengthen relationships and communication throughout the Marine Corps.”

While the service started its retention campaign before Talent Management 2030 was announced, the service was able to benefit from the attention to retention, Carlock said.

Looking ahead to fiscal year 2023, the service is applying the Commandant’s Retention Program, which uses the Headquarters Marine Corps to screen Marines and pre-approve them for re-enlistment, Carlock said.

The retention team screened 24,680 and was able to pre-approve nearly approximately 2,500 for re-enlistment, she said.

“All these Marine[s] have to do is agree to reenlist, choose a unit option, and execute their reenlistment,” Carlock said in the email. “The other 20 steps in the process have been completed for them. Would we have wanted to do more than 2,500? Yes! But that was the maximum our team could process for now. We are looking at ways to increase that number.”

Marine Corps Aiming to Keep Marines in Longer With More Transparency, Attention to Physical and Mental Fitness

The Marine Corps is aiming to add more transparency and data into how it evaluates career trajectories to retain enlisted Marines and officers, as the service lays out how to meet the goals of its new talent management strategy. By using assessment tools and data, the Marine Corps can help project a Marine’s career, showing […]

Rct. Riley Goodrichstocking, a recruit with Fox Company, 2nd Recruit Training Battalion, practices combat marksmanship during the companies’ Table II fire drills at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C., Sept. 15. U.S. Marine Corps Photo

The Marine Corps is aiming to add more transparency and data into how it evaluates career trajectories to retain enlisted Marines and officers, as the service lays out how to meet the goals of its new talent management strategy.

By using assessment tools and data, the Marine Corps can help project a Marine’s career, showing them what skills they might need to develop, as well as what billets they could aim to make, in order to encourage the Marine to seek a career in the service.

Talent Management 2030, designed by Marine Corps Commandant Gen. David Berger, calls for a variety of changes that will allow manpower to meet the goals of Force Design 2030. Overall, the Marine Corps is looking to adapt how it recruits and focus on maturation of the force through retention.

Under the industrial model developed in the World War II era, Marines were treated as inventory. A young force was considered stronger, and the turnover rate was part of the service. But health science has shown that a person’s brain tends to mature around age 25, and a person is physically strongest in their mid-to-late 20s.

The Marine Corps is now focusing on an investment in the quality of each Marine, which is how it will maintain competitiveness against American adversaries, even those who might have more service members, Sgt. Maj. Troy Black, the Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps, said during a press roundtable Thursday.

“Our biggest advantage against any adversary has and will continue to be how we invest, train, educate, take care of the soldier, sailor, airman,” Black said.

The service has not yet figured out how to meet all of its goals laid out in the plans. For example, while the Marine Corps wants to look into lateral transfers that would allow the service to pull in civilians who have expertise in areas like cyber, it has not quite figured out how it would insert those new Marines into the force, especially those that have not been brought up in Marine Corps culture, Lt. Gen. David Ottignon, the deputy commandant for manpower and reserve affairs, said during a press roundtable on Monday.

“And it’s clearly a different way of thinking about, as the commandant has described, a different way in this market, attracting those men and women to serve,” Ottignon said. “What I would say about that document for me personally, is it is clearly going to be a transformational process.”

There are a variety of populations the Marines could pull from, Ottignon said. There are Marines in the reserves who earned degrees that could re-enlist. There are also people in the corporate world who have the advanced knowledge that the Marine Corps hopes to entice with a career in the Marines.

There are also conversations to be had with potential recruits. Perhaps the 16-year-old who is interested in joining the Marines would be best served if they went to college first and got a degree in computer science and then joined the Marines, said Maj. Gen. Jason Bohm, the commanding general of Marine Corps Recruiting Command. Conversely, it might be better for them to enlist after graduating high school.

Marines with Weapons and Field Training Battalion participate in a shooting competition and awards ceremony on Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C., Nov 19, 2021. U.S. Marine Corps Photo

The service is also looking at using assessment tools to better help Marines get into units and positions that better meet their skills, Bohm said. The recruit who wants to be an infantryman because that is what their dad did might be better suited for a different position based on the assessment’s results, he said.

The service will be using data going forward to better inform the paths recruits and current Marines take in the force.

For officers, interviews for their next billets have moved onto a virtual platform due to COVID-19. While the Marines plan to do roadshows again, they will continue to use the video meetings because it allows for more flexibility, said Col. Ginger Beals, the branch head of Manpower Management Officer Assignments, which oversees officer promotions and new billets. It also allows the interviewers to have access to an officer’s entire record during the interview.

Ultimately, under Talent Management 2030, Marines will also be able to see what billets are available in real-time, which will increase transparency, said Brig. Gen. Michael Borgschulte, the director of Marine Corps Manpower Management, which is one of the agencies under Marine headquarters.

The goal under Talent Management 2030 is also to keep a Marine in the same place if it makes sense for the Marine and the mission, Beals said. While moving will still be part of the Marine Corps life, as Marines fill new billets to make them competitive for command positions, there is less stress on moving a person just because they have been in the same area for their last assignment.

“If we can leave a person in place, we don’t want to move them just to move them,” Beals said.
For enlisted Marines, there are multiple plans in place to align with the talent management document.

There is the “Recruit the Recruiter” program, which encourages people to volunteer to be recruiters by letting them choose recruiting stations, said Col. Reginald McClam, the branch head of Manpower Management Enlisted Assignments, which oversees assignments and promotions for enlisted Marines. That has already seen an increased number of volunteers.

In terms of promotions, the Marines are using the Junior Enlisted Performance System, which allows Marines to see how they stack up against their fellow Marines in various areas, including physical toughness, warfighting skills and mental agility. This allows Marines to address some of the skills they may lack for specific positions.

While the system is already in place, the Marines are in the process of adjusting it, looking at how to best weigh certain aspects, like skill certificates, in terms of promotion points, Borgschulte said.

“​​This makes a big difference for our junior Marines,” he said.

The Marines are using a variety of other assessments to collect data that can provide insights for matching Marines with the best positions and inform their careers in the service.

It is also collecting data to analyze on its programs to see how to best meet the goals laid out in Talent Management 2030, said Brig. Gen. Ahmed Williamson, director of the manpower plans and policy division.

Ultimately, the force is looking at how to get the Marine in the right position and keep them in the force for more than one enlistment, Williamson said.

A recruit with Papa Company, 4th Recruit Training Battalion, scales the rope obstacle during the Mariana Islands event of the Crucible on Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C. Oct. 22, 2021. U.S. Marine Corps Photo

Keeping them in the Marines also means keeping them healthy, both physically and psychologically, Black said.

The Human Performance branch of the service is looking at how Marines can better train in order to avoid injuries.

Black used the example of athletic training. A football player may have previously practiced the same tackle over and over, but now training gyms have flexible bands and other training methods to help make a player stronger without causing injury through repetitive exercises that do not improve a player’s performance.

The same is true for the Marines. When Black entered the force, he trained with weightlifting and running. He needed the strength to be able to fulfill his role as a machine gunner, he said, noting ammo is heavy. But the same repetitive exercise might not have been ideal for his position or his body.

The goal now is to take that type of exercise and training and make it more effective.
Physical fitness is just one part of human performance, and one that Black would argue may be the tip of the pyramid.

A Marine also needs spiritual and mental fitness. There are more people talking about mental health now, chipping away at the stigma that is seen within the military, Black said.

The Marine Corps already has the resources needed to improve mental fitness, but it is a matter of access, Black said, comparing it to building a plane. The service has the tail, the wings, the nose, but it has not put it all together to make the plane.

Lack of access could be because of location, if the services are not in a place where Marines can easily reach them, or it could be due to time.

Creating access falls on both the individual Marine and the leader. The Marine needs to be able to speak up and seek out help connecting to resources. The leader needs to be able to make it possible for the Marine to get help, and they also need to be able to weed out who is legitimately seeking help and who might be trying to avoid a task, Black said.

Mental fitness is not just mental health, but also helping to address familiar issues that might be arising at home, or other social concerns, Black said.