It may have been a long time since you were a boot, but it’s time to brush up on what you learned at the very beginning of your Marine Corps career.
Starting in January, Marines will be tested on 30 of the 178 common skills that recruits learn at boot camp and the School of Infantry or Marine Combat Training, the Corps announced on Thursday.
All Marines —from privates through general officers — will have to pass the Battle Skills Test annually, according to MARADMIN 693/17. The test will cover a variety of skills that fall in the following categories: basic infantry skills, communications, first aid, history, leadership and the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller approved the list of skills to be tested, which are useful for Marines in garrison and in battle, said Lt. Col. Stuart Glenn, of Training and Education Command.
“This is the commandant directing units to be able to go back and do fundamental, basic Marine skills that they may not have in their training plans,“ Glenn told Marine Corps Times on Thursday. “The focus on this is not to be behind a computer or filling out Scantrons, but for NCOs to be training and evaluating their Marines at the small unit level.”
Some of the skills that the test covers, such as using a map, compass and VHF radio, will be essential if Marines fought an opponent that could jam GPS and U.S. satellites.
Russian troops fighting in eastern Ukraine have shown that they are skilled at electromagnetic warfare. That is one reason why Marine Commandant Gen. Robert Neller has stressed the need for the Corps to revive fieldcraft skills that have atrophied in the age of instant communication and Blue Force Tracker.
“In my view, the recon/counter-recon fight is going to start not by taking out recon teams and shooting down surveillance aircraft. It’s going to start in cyber and space — to blind the enemy, or to blind us,” Neller said in May.
“The center of gravity that we have to protect is the network, and the network is dependent on space. We lose space, we’re back to [high frequency] radio and yellow stickies on the map.”
Glenn said all Marines will be tested on “the basic fundamentals of what it means to be a Marine,” which will help Marines prevail in both conventional and irregular warfare.
“The Marine Corps emphasizes the ethos of every Marine a rifleman,” Glenn said. “Getting back to these basic skills, now I know that no matter what a Marine’s MOS is, no matter what his unit is, he knows how to put on a tourniquet; he knows how to treat a cold weather injury; he knows how to operate a radio.”
Because all these subjects are taught in initial training, it should be relatively easy for Marines to refresh their skills, MARADMIN 693/17 says. But if Marines fail the test, they will have “multiple opportunities” to take it again.
“We expect all Marines to pass this test,” Glenn said. “Every Marine that’s in the Marine Corps has already demonstrated mastery of these skills while they were a recruit or a very new Marine. These aren’t new skills. They are back to the basics.”
Commanders have the entire calendar year to make sure their Marines train and pass all 30 skills on the test, the MARADMIN says. They can determine when and how their Marines will take the test in 2018.
“A commander can look at his training schedule and he can divide this test into 30 parts he can do over 30 different days; or he could combine them: make them into a one-day event, an esprit de corps event, where he or she gets his unit out there and does it all in one day,” Glenn said. “There’s a lot of flexibility for commanders to implement this program.”
Information about the required training and the evaluation checklists can be downloaded from Training and Education Command’s SharePoint site and the Marine Corps Training Information Management System, according to the MARADMIN.
The training is designed so that Marines can do it anywhere, including in the field, on the flight line or on a ship, the MARADMIN says.
“The design of the BST Program purposefully limits the equipment required to conduct the training and evaluation,” the message says. “Units will need the following equipment to conduct all of the 30 tasks: service rifle or replica, magazines, dummy rounds, maps, compasses, protractors, map pens, individual first aid kits (IFAC) or training IFAK and VHF radios such as the AN/PRC-152.”
Thursday’s announcement is a long time coming. In October 2016, Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps Ronald Green said the Corps was considering reviving the common skills test, which some enlisted Marines and officers used to take.
“There was a testing process we had, where every Marine would do a practical application and a written test, up to a certain grade — E-7 for enlisted,” Green told Marine Corps Times in an interview. “Everybody would take this test, a written test and a practical application test, about Marine Corps common skills, and that’s just the basics of being a Marine. So now we’re looking at getting back to that but with an updated curriculum.”