Your Marine Corps

Will the Marine Corps become the smartest US military branch?

Are days accusing Marines of eating crayons coming to an end? The Marine commandant wants the Corps to become the smartest military branch.

Commandant Gen. David Berger wants to raise the minimum test score required to enlist in the Marine Corps higher than any other military branch in the Department of Defense.

Berger directed the assistant commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. Gary Thomas to “determine the opportunities, risks and costs associated with raising the minimum AFQT score for enlistment to 40 within the next 6 months.”

The Armed Forces Qualification Test score is determined by combining the test takers’ Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery scores in four categories — arithmetic reasoning, word knowledge, paragraph comprehension and math knowledge — then comparing each score to a population baseline.

The score represents the percentage of the population that the test taker performed higher than. The score maxes out at 99, indicating the test taker did better than 99 percent of the population.

Currently the minimum AFQT score for the Marine Corps is 31. In the past, prospective Marine Corps recruits with scores below 31 could still enlist as long as they met other requirements.

However, the Corps has not shipped anyone to boot camp with a score below 31 since fiscal year 2016, Gunnery Sgt. Justin Kronenberg, a Marine Corps spokesman, told Marine Corps Times in an email Friday.

Both the Army and the Navy have a minimum score of 31 to enlist, according to spokeswomen for both services.

The Air Force currently has the highest minimum, requiring prospective recruits to get a minimum score of 36, according to an Air Force spokeswoman.

If the Marine Corps officially does raise the score to 40, it officially will be enlisting the highest test takers of the four main military branches.

But, bragging rights as the smarted enlisted force is not the reason Berger wants to raise the score. Instead it is part of his effort to create a more mobile Marine Corps capable of executing small unit operations while spread out across the expanse of the Pacific.

It’s a move that has Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps Troy Black envisioning a future where staff noncommissioned officers will be required to get college degrees.

The memo also directs the Corps to consider raising the minimum General Technical for 0311 Marine riflemen and recommends a new policy to boost officer education by directing those selected for the Resident Command and Staff College to complete a master’s degree program.

In a war against China, the Marines will operate in small units spread out on islands and atolls throughout the Pacific.

The distributed nature of the fight will put more burden on small units and force lower ranked leaders to make more decisions than the Corps has previously asked of them.

Maj. Eric Flanagan, a spokesman for the commandant’s office said the directives in the memo do not represent any immediate policy, but simply issues the commandant wants the Marine Corps to look into.

“Any official policy decisions, changes or implementation plans will be published via appropriate orders and messages,” Flanagan said in an email Wednesday.

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