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Marine drone community gets more officers

Jun. 28, 2014 - 06:00AM   |  
Eye in Sky Provides Overwatch for Ground Forces
Lance Cpls. Nathanael Shoemate and Quinn Schweher, and Cpl. Matthew Worrell, Marines with Marine Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Squadron 1, Marine Air Control Group 38, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward), prepare an unmanned aerial vehicle for launch on Sept. 22 at Forward Operating Base Dwyer, Afghanistan. (Sgt. Deanne Hurla/Marine Corps)
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Results of the latest selection board for officers making a lateral move into the burgeoning unmanned aerial vehicle officer specialty show the community continues to grow.

The fiscal 2015 board, which convened from June 9 through 13, selected 14 officers to enter the 7315 unmanned aircraft system officer training pipeline, according to Marine administrative message 308/14, signed June 23.

Since the recently created military occupational specialty’s first selection board in 2012, each board has selected between about 14 and 16 Marines.

With the exception of Marines already holding an MOS in the 75 field, which includes pilots and naval flight officers, those selected by the board will attend the 22-week-long Remotely Piloted Aircraft Course at Randolph Air Force Base in San Antonio. That course requires 40 hours of flight time, including solo flights. After that, Marines report to the RQ-7B UAC Course for three weeks at Fort Huachuca, Arizona.

Most selected by the board for a lateral move come from the aviation community, with the majority serving as either pilots, naval flight officers or in the air control/air support/anti-air warfare/air traffic control field.

But lateral moves can be made from any field.

“The board is open to all officer MOSs” reads MARADMIN 185/14 which announced the board in early April.

However, “Officers with forward air control, fires coordination, electronic attack and or previous [unmanned vehicle squadron] experience are especially encouraged to apply for transition.”

The UAV field is a wise move for those looking to serve a full career in uniform.

As a growth field, it is one of the few that the service continues to cultivate even as the drawdown sheds about 5,000 Marines per year through the end of 2017 when the service will reach a steady state of about 174,000.

In fact, the 7315 MOS was created with its inclusion in the fiscal 2013 revision of the MOS Manual because the service was struggling to retain expertise needed in the high-demand field.

Previously, only enlisted Marines had a career path in the UAV community. Officers would serve in the job as a collateral duty, meaning they had to return to their primary MOS after a few years or jeopardize their chances for career progression.

Those who wish to become a UAV officer should have fewer than 12 years of service.

Those with more time in uniform will be considered, but on a case-by-case basis.

Those who make the cut will incur two years of additional service in the 7315 specialty.■

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