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Marine combat instructors may see special duty assignment status again

CAMP PENDLETON, California ― In an effort to retain more and better combat instructors, the Marine Corps says it is strongly considering returning the billet to special duty assignment status ― a status in line with drill instructor or recruiter duty.

Combat instructors had a special duty assignment status until 2019 when the job was made into a type 1 screenable billet, which comes with slightly fewer perks than the special duty assignment.

“We are working hard to get the SDA status assigned to our combat instructors and I would say we are just about there,” Brig. Gen. Jason Morris, the commander of Training and Education Command, told a group of reporters on Wednesday at Camp Pendleton, California.

The need for combat instructors comes as the Corps plans to implement a longer infantry course that sees the instructors taking on a squad leader role of 14 new Marines ― a far cry from the current nine-week course that only has a handful of instructors supervise up to 300 Marines.

The designers of the new course hope the extended training timeline in conjunction with the closer relationship between instructor and student will lead to a significantly more skilled and confident infantry Marine.

The current plan is for the Marine Corps to fully implement the extended Infantry Marine Course as the standard every infantry Marine is trained at by the end of fiscal year 2023, to coincide with the Corps’ plan consolidate all infantry military occupational specialties into one job.

The only slight exception will be 0341 mortarman who will go through the 14-week IMC before attending an additional mortarman school.

The extra work on the combat instructors requires them to go through an extra six to eight weeks of training and will ultimately require the Marine Corps to bring on roughly 80 more combat instructors between both schools of infantry.

The commander of SOI–West, Col. Coby Moran, told reporters on Wednesday that if the course is fully implemented it will require an additional company of instructors along with the accompanying support personnel who run ranges, provide vehicles and generally help.

The shift back to having combat instructors be considered screenable billets may make it easier to fill all those additional slots.

“What SDA status can do, is it forces the organization to assign a certain number of people and a certain number of qualified people in those billets potentially at the expense of others. It is also something that we incentivize with increased promotion rate, accelerated promotion and all those sorts of things that come with that,” Morris said.

In addition to the prioritization of the billet and faster promotion rates, the change may come with an extra $150 per month in special duty assignment pay.

“I’m optimistic that is going to happen in the near future,” Morris said.

“I think that’s good for the Marine Corps and that’s good for the infantry… if we want to retain more people and ensure we have a more mature more proficient force it all starts right here in the schoolhouse,” he added.

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