Marines may woo older mem­bers for cy­ber force

Manteca Bulletin - - Local / State -

SAN DIEGO (AP) — The head of the Marine Corps says it’s time the U.S. mil­i­tary branch known for its fierce, young war­riors be­comes a lit­tle more ma­ture.

The Marine Corps is con­sid­er­ing of­fer­ing bonuses and other perks to en­tice older, more ex­pe­ri­enced Marines to re-en­list as it builds up its cy­ber op­er­a­tions to de­fend the na­tion, es­pe­cially against cy­ber­at­tacks from Rus­sia and China. About 62 per­cent of Marines are 25 years old or younger with many serv­ing only four years.

The move marks a his­tor­i­cal change that could trans­form a force made up pri­mar­ily of high school grad­u­ates lured by the bravado and phys­i­cal chal­lenges of join­ing a branch that prides it­self on be­ing the “tip of the spear,” the first to go into bat­tle and knock in doors. It’s part of the Marine Corps’ mod­ern­iz­ing ef­forts after 16 years of largely low-tech, coun­terin­sur­gency fights.

“It’s go­ing to be a Marine Corps that’s a lit­tle bit older, a lit­tle more ex­pe­ri­enced be­cause as much as we love our young Marines ... we need a lit­tle bit older be­cause it takes longer to learn these skills,” Gen. Robert Neller told de­fense lead­ers at a San Diego con­fer­ence. “And so we’re an or­ga­ni­za­tion look­ing at the whole way we do busi­ness, and it’s go­ing to change our cul­ture.”

Marine Corps of­fi­cials are quick to em­pha­size the core re­cruit­ing mis­sion will re­main the same for the branch that boasts hav­ing the tough­est war­riors in the U.S. mil­i­tary.

But get­ting more Marines to re-en­list could in­ad­ver­tently ease pres­sure on re­cruiters. Less than 30 per­cent of the U.S. pop­u­la­tion is qual­i­fied phys­i­cally, men­tally and morally to serve, ac­cord­ing to mil­i­tary lead­ers.

A greater num­ber of older Marines could also help lessen be­hav­ior prob­lems like ex­ces­sive drink­ing that can be more preva­lent among ju­nior Marines.

“By older Marines, we’re not talk­ing guys with walk­ers but rather sec­ond- and third- tour en­listed Marines,” said Gary So­lis, a mil­i­tary ex­pert at Ge­orge­town Univer­sity who served 26 years in the Marine Corps. “They may be only a few years older than the 18- and 19-year-old Marines, but those three or four years dif­fer­ence could make a hell of a dif­fer­ence as far as ma­tu­rity when it comes to their out­look and unit co­he­sion.”

The com­man­dant said it also en­sures the mil­i­tary gets a re­turn on the money and time it spends train­ing troops in cy­ber op­er­a­tions, some­thing that could take three or more years.

The 2018 de­fense bud­get ear­marked money for the Marine Corps to add 1,000 Marines, many of whom will work in cy­ber and elec­tronic war­fare.

Tam­per­ing with net­works that con­trol the op­er­a­tions of air de­fense, for ex­am­ple, could be as or more lethal than fire­power in the fu­ture. Ex­trem­ists have also been able to use mo­bile tech­nol­ogy and so­cial me­dia to re­cruit mem­bers and raise money to be­come a real threat.

The Marine Corps is open­ing jobs this Oc­to­ber in its new cy­berspace oc­cu­pa­tional field. After the an­nounce­ment of the field, Neller tweeted: “’Trig­ger fin­gers turn to Twit­ter fin­gers’? Not ex­actly, but this is the next step in pro­fes­sion­al­iz­ing our cy­ber force, which will be crit­i­cal to our suc­cess, now and in the fu­ture.”

The Marine Corps floated the idea of al­low­ing peo­ple with cy­ber skills to by­pass boot camp, but Neller op­posed that, say­ing a Marine should be a Marine. Any ap­pli­cant over the age of 28 will still be eval­u­ated to en­sure they ex­hibit the phys­i­cal stamina to un­dergo the rig­ors of re­cruit train­ing.

Though it will not be easy to com­pete against six-digit salaries in the pri­vate sec­tor, the mil­i­tary plans to tout how its tech peo­ple are sent out in the field, of­fer­ing the chance for high-adrenaline ex­pe­ri­ences be­yond sit­ting in an of­fice at a com­puter.

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