The Marine Corps will launch a pilot program in early 2021 that extends the School of Infantry to 14 weeks, a Marine Corps spokesman confirmed. And it might be consolidating all enlisted infantry military occupational specialties into one.

The pilot program and potential MOS consolidation come as the entire Marine Corps is modernizing as it prepares to face off against a near-peer adversary in a future war.

“We have at least one adversary that we haven’t had in decades,” Marine Corps Commandant Gen. David Berger, said talking about the strengthening Chinese military.

Berger sees the Corps countering the growing Chinese threat by deploying Marines in small dispersed units spread out across the Pacific and South China Sea. Those Marines will act as the “eyes and ears” of the joint force, while being able to sink ships and maybe even hunt submarines.

The dispersed force will require Marines to make high-level decisions at more junior ranks than before.

“We need to get to that higher level because they are going to be more distributed, we are going to rely on them to make higher level decisions,” Berger said at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Wednesday.

To prepare the Marines for dispersed operations, the Corps will implement a pilot program in 2021, extending the School of Infantry, or SOI, from nine weeks to 14 weeks, Capt. Samuel Stephenson, a spokesman for Marine Corps Training and Education Command, told Marine Corps Times on Thursday.

“These proof of concept courses will be revised over the next calendar year based upon Fleet Marine Force feedback to produce Infantry Marines with the requisite skills necessary to succeed in the future Marine Infantry Battalion,” Stephenson said in the email.

The 14-week course will start by covering basic infantry concepts, then, as the course progresses, Marines will be tested on those concepts in increasingly complex contexts and environments, Stephenson said.

The pilot program SOI course will end in a “capstone field exercise which completes the training picture for the Marines and serves as a final evaluation,” Stephenson said.

While the initial program will test a 14-week course, the SOI course that ultimately gets implemented may be even longer or slightly shorter, Stephenson said.

“The length of the course is not a limiting or defining factor for the future of Marine Infantry Training,” Stephenson said. ”The end-state is to produce the high-quality Infantry Marine that the future force needs to be successful.”

In an effort to make soldiers more lethal, the Army tested extending its infantry training from 14-weeks to 22-weeks in 2018. The training includes the eight-weeks of initial Army training, roughly equivalent to Marine Corps boot camp.

In 2019, the Army also extended its armor training to 22 weeks. The changes were made permanent in 2020, Army Times reported.

The changes at Marine Corps SOI may go beyond just the length of the course and what is taught, with the Corps considering consolidating all infantry military occupational specialties, or MOSes, creating a do-it-all infantry Marine.

Currently the Marine Corps trains 0311 riflemen, 0331 machine gunners, 0341 mortarmen, 0351 infantry assault Marines and 0352 antitank missile gunners at SOI.

The extended training time could be used for more time crosstraining Marines on different specialties, making more flexible infantry battalions in the future.

The decision to consolidate these all into one MOS, “is yet to be determined and will be informed throughout the force design implementation process and war gaming of our future force composition,” Stephenson said.

“The future Infantry Marine Course will incorporate additional tasks and skill sets previously untrained in entry level training with a focus on effective, effects-based decision making in all domains.” Stephenson said. “The course will produce a multi-disciplined Infantry Marine, able to survive, fight, and win in dispersed and contested environments.”

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