A new Marine Corps pilot program aims to supplement the limited amount of time enlisted service members are given for professional military education, according to the most senior enlisted member of the Marine Corps.

The program ― previously a voluntary course for senior enlisted Marines ― is now being tested as a part of the standard course load for E-8 service members.

“We developed the Senior Enlisted Blended Seminar Program comprised of eight weeks of nonresident seminar instruction followed by a two-week resident session, and it will be a requirement for First Sergeants and Master Sergeants,” Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps Troy Black said in a statement to Marine Corps Times. “The program is currently in a pilot phase.”

“The SEBSP leverages lessons from the Marine Corps University’s College of Distance Education and Training, delivered blended programs for Expeditionary Warfare School and Command and Staff College Distance Education Programs,” he said.

First announced in February, the previously voluntary six-week course was “neither available to the majority of the E-8 population nor a PME requirement for promotion,” according to a MARADMIN post.

Another weeklong required seminar for promotion to E-9 also will be phased out, the February MARADMIN added, though a timeline on this hasn’t been announced.

While the Marine Corps’ professional military education program has evolved over time, this combined in-person and online seminar is being considered a favorable step forward to expand higher learning opportunities for enlisted Marines.

Black briefly spoke about the pilot program, and the status of enlisted professional military education in the Marine Corps, to a group of service members in an hourlong podcast conversation on Sept. 16 at the Marine Corps University’s Brute Krulak Center for Innovation & Future Warfare in Quantico, Virginia.

As the event was hosted at the institutional home to the service’s enlisted professional military education program, Black was asked for his perspective on what has and hasn’t been working in the pipeline.

Black shared that the limited amount of time currently invested for Marines, a period which he said adds up to roughly 22 weeks, remains a challenge.

“Time is the only constraint, not the desire for the curriculum that we have,” said Black, who noted that the Marine Corps recently conducted a servicewide assessment of all its enlisted professional military education curriculum.

In comparison, at the officer level, the Expeditionary Warfare School provides a 41-week educational program.

Other subjects discussed in the conversation included Force Design 2030 and the culture of the Marine Corps.

“We’re working on a draft right now of a document that’s going to in black and white determine what our ethos and culture is,” said Black, emphasizing that the Marine Corps is focused on being a war-fighting organization.

There is no set publication date for this document, Black said, and it is not associated with Force Design 2030.

Jonathan is a staff writer and editor of the Early Bird Brief newsletter for Military Times. Follow him on Twitter @lehrfeld_media

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