Could Cyber Geeks Make It Into The Marines Without Going To Boot Camp?

U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Jose Villalobosrocha

Marine Corps at mid-career levels may be back on the table — and with it, an added caveat that’s sure to rustle the jimmies of many Marines still serving: These cyber specialists might skip boot camp altogether, according to Marine Corps Times’ Jeff Schogol.

The tentative proposal, initially proposed by then-Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter in 2016, is only one of several ideas being considered to combat concerns about severe cyber warfare readiness by allowing qualified information-technology specialists to enter the service laterally, at the rank of staff sergeant or higher — foregoing recruit training and jumping right into the digital fray.

The Marines are far from the only branch to consider a proposal like this; in fact, they’re outliers, the one service that’s proven most resistant to the idea. After all, it’s in boot camp that recruits learn what it means to be a Marine, and without that shared experience, the service's identity could be weakened.

Related: The Army Wants To Recruit Cyber Experts By Hiring Civilians At Rank Of Colonel »

At least, that’s the argument put forward by some critics. “If you go away from that, then I think you lose something that has made the Marine Corps what it is,” retired Marine officer Dakota Wood, who served on President Trump’s transition team, told Marine Corps Times. “A Marine is a Marine… If that breaks down, you’ve got problems.”

Recruiting Marines laterally, without the crucible of boot camp, isn’t entirely without precedent: Musicians of the Marine Corps “President’s Own” band aren’t required to attend recruit training, provided they pass their auditions.

Even so, the likelihood of the Corps adopting the proposal is more remote than Marine Corps Times suggests, according to sources in the service who have spoken with T&P.;

Another option being considered is to treat Marine Forces Cyberspace Command like Marine Corps Special Operations Command and limit entry to more senior and experienced Marines. Some have even argued for a standalone cyber service.

While lateral entry may seem like a potential identity-crisis-causing proposal, there are some strong arguments to consider bringing in cyber specialists at mid-career levels. For starters, that’s probably the easiest way to get someone with the right talent: You’re not going to convince a 26-year old who works his own hours and makes $150,000 to trade that in for the life of a private who has every moment of every day planned out for him. But, you give him a decent salary and tell him he can play the “Marine card” to get free drinks, and boom: You’ve got yourself a Marine Corps hacker nerd.

Those in favor of the proposal — which is still purely speculative, Marine Corps officials stressed to Task & Purpose — say that the Corps simply needs too many specialists right now to consider training them up from the start.

Both sides say they’re looking at the risks versus the rewards of such a move.

“There are risks to [eroding] the trust that is imbibed through the shared experience of having gone through all of the physical and military training,” Katherine Kidder, a military personnel expert with the Center for a New American Security, told Marine Corps Times. “On the flip side, there’s also a huge risk right now if we don’t have cyber expertise resident within the services themselves.”

Personally, I’m of the opinion that anyone who joins the Corps will quickly learn what it means to be a Marine, with or without boot camp. Ten minutes into their first day as hoodie-clad and goateed cyber warfare specialists, they’ll hear the phrases “uber-pog,” “boot!” and “hey there devil dog, did you forget to shave?” — thus binding them in a Marine Corps tradition as old and as storied as recruit training: shitting on the new guy.

Every once in a while, we run across a photo in The Times-Picayune archives that's so striking that it begs a simple question: "What in the name of Momus Alexander Morgus is going on in this New Orleans photograph?" When we do, we've decided, we're going to share it — and to attempt to answer that question.

Read More Show Less
Members of the Syrian Democratic Forces control the monitor of their drone at their advanced position, during the fighting with Islamic State's fighters in Nazlat Shahada, a district of Raqqa. (Reuters/Zohra Bensemra)

MUSCAT (Reuters) - The United States should keep arming and aiding the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) following the planned U.S. withdrawal from Syria, provided the group keeps up the pressure on Islamic State, a senior U.S. general told Reuters on Friday.

Read More Show Less

President Donald Trump claims the $6.1 billion from the Defense Department's budget that he will now spend on his border wall was not going to be used for anything "important."

Trump announced on Friday that he was declaring a national emergency, allowing him to tap into military funding to help pay for barriers along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Read More Show Less

Long before Tony Stark took a load of shrapnel to the chest in a distant war zone, science fiction legend Robert Heinlein gave America the most visceral description of powered armor for the warfighter of the future. Forget the spines of extra-lethal weaponry, the heads-up display, and even the augmented strength of an Iron Man suit — the real genius, Heinlein wrote in Starship Troopers, "is that you don't have to control the suit; you just wear it, like your clothes, like skin."

"Any sort of ship you have to learn to pilot; it takes a long time, a new full set of reflexes, a different and artificial way of thinking," explains Johnny Rico. "Spaceships are for acrobats who are also mathematicians. But a suit, you just wear."

First introduced in 2013, U.S. Special Operations Command's Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit (TALOS) purported to offer this capability as America's first stab at militarized powered armor. And while SOCOM initially promised a veritable Iron Man-style tactical armor by 2018, a Navy spokesman told Task & Purpose the much-hyped exoskeleton will likely never get off the launch pad.

"The prototype itself is not currently suitable for operation in a close combat environment," SOCOM spokesman Navy Lt. Phillip Chitty told Task & Purpose, adding that JATF-TALOS has no plans for an external demonstration this year. "There is still no intent to field the TALOS Mk 5 combat suit prototype."

Read More Show Less

D-Day veteran James McCue died a hero. About 500 strangers made sure of it.

"It's beautiful," Army Sgt. Pete Rooney said of the crowd that gathered in the cold and stood on the snow Thursday during McCue's burial. "I wish it happened for every veteran's funeral."

Read More Show Less