1st Marine Division Squad Leader Development Program

A video designed to reach out to potential applicants for the Squad Leader Development Program that includes Maj. Gen. Lawrence Nicholson, the 1st Marine Division Commanding General. (Marine Corps video)

MARINE CORPS BASE QUANTICO, Va. — More infantry leaders will have a shot at a spot in the Marine Corps' new Squad Leader Development Program next year.

Marine leaders npower officials plan look to expand the program Squad Leader Development Program from 72 to 100 spots — a 39 -percent increase, according to manpower officials. Marines in eight commands will be eligible to recommend Marines will be and distribute those allocations among eight commands in the coming fiscal year.

Selection means a guaranteed seat in advanced courses such as Infantry Small Unit Leader Course, Sergeants Course and Combat Instructor School. It also provides its own military occupational specialty, a chance at faster promotions and better far greater re-upenlistment bonuses, with . Infantry corporals in the program eligible for a will get $23,000 bonus 4,750 to re-enlist in 2017 and the coming fiscal year, while sergeants up for  pocketing will get $5,250. The 0365 corporal, on the other hand, will get $23,000, and sergeant squad leaders will get $25,000. That's about four or five times more than the bonuses noncommissioned officers in other infantry jobs can expect to pocket. 

U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Grant Young, a squad leader with Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, also known as “The Lava Dogs”, shouts an order during a coalition platoon attack drill during exercise Ssang Yong 16 in South Korea, March 17, 2016. Ssang Yong is a biennial combined amphibious exercise conducted by forward deployed U.S. forces with the Republic of Korea Navy and Marine Corps, Australian Army and Royal New Zealand Army Forces in order to strengthen our interoperability and working relationships across a wide range of military operations - from disaster relief to complex expeditionary operations. The U.S. Marines of 1st Battalion, 3rd Marines are a mission-tailored fighting force able to rapidly deploy during crisis or conflict in diverse operational environments. Sgt. Young is a native of Cincinnati, Ohio. (U.S. Marine Corps photos by MCIPAC Combat Camera Lance Cpl. Sean M. Evans/ Released)
U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Grant Young, a squad leader with Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, also known as “The Lava Dogs”, shouts an order during a coalition platoon attack drill during exercise Ssang Yong 16 in South Korea, March 17, 2016. Ssang Yong is a biennial combined amphibious exercise conducted by forward deployed U.S. forces with the Republic of Korea Navy and Marine Corps, Australian Army and Royal New Zealand Army Forces in order to strengthen our interoperability and working relationships across a wide range of military operations - from disaster relief to complex expeditionary operations. The U.S. Marines of 1st Battalion, 3rd Marines are a mission-tailored fighting force able to rapidly deploy during crisis or conflict in diverse operational environments. Sgt. Young is a native of Cincinnati, Ohio. (U.S. Marine Corps photos by MCIPAC Combat Camera Lance Cpl. Sean M. Evans/ Released)

Sgt. Grant Young, a squad leader with Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 3rd Marines, shouts an order during Exercise Ssang Yong in South Korea.

Photo Credit: Lance Cpl. Sean Evans/Marine Corps

The decision to add more spots to the program was driven by ground combat commanders, who felt having more openings would allow them to nominate the best Marines for the job, said Col. Rudy Janiczek, head of Enlisted Assignments here.

The new goal of will be outlined in an upcoming Marine administrative message, and will be divided among eight commands in the operating forces and supporting establishment with emphasis on the Marine divisions, said Col. Rudy Janiczek, head of Enlisted Assignments. The change was driven by Ground Combat Element commanders who felt this approach would allow them to nominate the appropriate Marines while monitoring and balancing this with retention efforts in other infantry MOSs.

"These allocations are not a cap and commands can submit all qualified applicants," Janiczek said.

The SLDP had a cap of 100 Marines when it launched in 2015; 78 Marines were selected for the program. Officials assigned 120 boat spaces in fiscal 2016, but later dropped adjusted that to number to 72. The Corps ended up accepting 49 first-termers and 28 career Marines, according to personnel data provided to Marine Corps Times.

Corporals and sergeants in five MOSs — rifleman, machine gunner, mortarman, infantry assault Marine, and anti-tank missile gunner — are eligible to apply throughout the year. Marines accepted into the program choose between a tour in the operating forces or a 30-month run as a combat instructor. The latter will attend Combat Instructor School, then attend Infantry Small Unit Leader Course and Sergeants Course before they return to an infantry battalion.

U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Gregory L. Peppers II, a Combat Instructor with Hotel Company, Marine Combat Training (MCT) Battalion, School of Infantry-East, encourages Marines to keep moving while conducting a 15 kilometer conditioning hike on Marine Corps Air Station New River, May 19, 2015. The 15k hike is the last conditioning hike entry-level Marines complete at the culmination of their 29-day training cycle. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by SOI-East Combat Camera Cpl. Andrew Kuppers/Released)
U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Gregory L. Peppers II, a Combat Instructor with Hotel Company, Marine Combat Training (MCT) Battalion, School of Infantry-East, encourages Marines to keep moving while conducting a 15 kilometer conditioning hike on Marine Corps Air Station New River, May 19, 2015. The 15k hike is the last conditioning hike entry-level Marines complete at the culmination of their 29-day training cycle. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by SOI-East Combat Camera Cpl. Andrew Kuppers/Released)

Sgt. Gregory Peppers II, a combat instructor at School of Infantry-East, encourages Marines to keep moving during a 15 kilometer conditioning hike.

Photo Credit: Cpl. Andrew Kuppers/Marine Corps

The program is the brainchild of former Commandant Gen. Joseph Dunford, who recognized the need to provide infantry squad leaders more professional military education and advanced training. When the program kicked off, less fewer than 100 of roughly 1,400 infantry sergeants in the operating forces had completed the Infantry Small Unit Leader Course and the Sergeants course.

Personnel officials have not ruled out further adjustments, and are even looking to expand the concept in other MOSs — though they declined to discuss specifics military occupational specialties.

"The Marine Corps is constantly reviewing and evaluating its manpower programs with the intent of improving the impact these programs have on our warfighting capability," said Col. Gaines Ward, head of Plans, Programs and Budget. "The SLDP is a relatively young program, which will be reviewed during fiscal year '17 for improvements or alterations in fiscal year '18 and beyond."