New Marines of India Company, 3rd Recruit Training Battalion, participate in a graduation ceremony at Marine Corps Recruit Depot, San Diego, June 3, 2021.

New Marines of India Company, 3rd Recruit Training Battalion, participate in a graduation ceremony at Marine Corps Recruit Depot, San Diego, June 3, 2021. Lance Cpl. Grace Kindred

The Marines Are Looking for a Few Older People

The Corps’ shift to a lighter, distributed force requires skills and judgment that may be easier to recruit than build, training chief says.

The Marines are looking for a few older people—at least, a few years older than typical recruits. That’s because the Corps will need troops with new combinations of tech skills and mature judgment to meet the challenges and threats expected by 2030, according to the service’s trainer-in-chief.

“If we think about what the commandant is asking us to do as part of the inside force—a force that will live, compete, contest, and then have to possibly transition to crisis and conflict later on—we need very, very intelligent Marines,” Lt. Gen. Kevin Iiams, who leads the Marine Corps’ Training and Education Command, said during Defense One’s State of Defense event Thursday.

This new level of critical thinking is needed to meet Gen. David Berger’s Force Design 2030 vision, which seeks to reorient the Corps toward expeditionary and distributed maritime operations. Iiams said these concepts will require Marines who can operate on their own in remote locations, thinking strategically as well as tactically.

“Have we trained that individual properly to understand the ramifications of ‘do I pull the trigger? Do I not pull the trigger?’ Do I know what I need to know to execute mission-type orders and carry out the nation's bidding based on what I have seen and what I think is going to happen?,’” he said.

Iiams said the Corps would be looking at ways to bring current Marines up to speed. But part of the solution may be simply to bring on people who have a bit more life experience. The average leatherneck is younger than troops in other services.

“We need them to be older to make these mature decisions. What I would tell you is, that is one answer that could cost us quite a bit of money as we pay higher salaries for more senior Marines, unless we can figure out a way to train young Marines better, stronger, faster from the outset,” he said.

Iiams said the Corps was thinking about ways to recruit people with skills developed in the civilian world, and paying them more to entice them to join up.

He asked the defense industry to consider an opportunity to allow people to spend a few years in the military and then return to their job as a means to share talent with the civilian world.

Iiams is also looking for a “healthy discourse” with the defense industry to hear ideas on solutions in several areas the Marines can use some help in such as: communications, the electromagnetic spectrum, energy, advanced sensors like antennas, transporting personnel, robotics, and machine learning.

“So we would love to hear great ideas from industry on what they think might be solutions in these fields. We'd also like to hear from the defense industry [on] things that they're working on that might be of use to us that we haven't even thought about,” he said.