MARINE CORPS BASE QUANTICO, Va. — Marine recruiters will face new challenges in the year ahead as the service sets out to attract more female enlistees and the Pentagon considers revolutionary plans that would allow civilians with highly specialized skills to enter the Corps at advanced ranks.
With the military on the brink of possibly opening more jobs to women, Navy Secretary Ray Mabus recently announced a Navy Department-wide mandate to boost the number of female enlisted recruits to one-in-four starting in 2016.
At the same time, Pentagon officials are in the midst of examining huge changes to the military personnel system that would drastically change the way Marines look for future enlisted Marines and officers.
All of that could pose new challenges for Marine recruiters, said Lt. Gen. Mark Brilakis, the head of Marine Corps Recruiting Command. Here's a look at what's ahead for Marines in his charge.
More female recruits
At this start of fiscal year 2016, which kicks in Oct. 1, recruiters will be given new quotas to recruit more women.
“They are going to be told what the floor is, and they are going to be recruiting females,” Brilakis said.
The rally to recruit more women ities back to a May speech by Mabus at the U.S. Naval Academy in which he directed the Navy and Marine Corps to work toward making 25 percent of all enlisted recruits women.
Brilakis stressed that Marine leaders were already three to four years into their own female recruitment push with measurable success.
“We are going to increase, over the next three years, that overall number and ... we will be over 10 percent of our end-strength as female.”
That said, Mabus’ call to boost the number of women by another 15 percentage points is ambitious. And the Marine Corps is likely to have a more difficult time meeting that figure than the Air Force or the Navy.
“The fact is none of the services are at 25 percent,” Brilakis said. “...I think we can turn that around, but I think all the services have concerns about getting to that particular percentage overall.”
'Force of the future'
Recruiting civilians to enter the military at advanced paygrades is another hot topic as the Defense Department struggles to build a stable cadre of troops in technical communities.
Defense Secretary Ash Carter and his personnel chief are looking at the possibility of bringing in skilled civilians at higher ranks, as the Marine Corps currently does with the talented musicians who join The President’s Own as staff sergeants.
“The one that always comes to mind in that discussion is cyber,” Brilakis said, as leaders are determined to do more on the cyber-warfare front.
If Defense Department leaders wanted to open higher ranks up to new enlistees, the commandant already has the authority to place them into roles where they're needed most, Brilakis said. During World War II, the Marine Corps had the authority to commission new officers at the ranks of major, lieutenant colonel or colonel.
“We brought them right in off the street because they had specific skills and we didn’t have the 10 to 15 years to bring in a second lieutenant and raise him up to that level,” he said.
The trick, he added, is identifying an urgent need and then deciding how to test recruits and officer candidates to ensure they meet basic criteria.