The Marine Corps is making moves on the training front yet again. The Marine Corps Times revealed recently that beginning this year the Marine Corps School of Infantry (Infantry Training Battalion) will now be extended to 14 weeks, up from its previous eight-week-long course. The new course at the School of Infantry will be called the “Infantry Marine Course” and the Marine Corps claims it will greatly benefit the quality of Marines arriving at their unit.

The Marine Corps School of Infantry (SOI) is the follow-up training where all Marines receive combat training after they graduate bootcamp. Once Marines arrive at the School of Infantry (located at both Camp Geiger, NC and Camp Pendleton, CA) they are divided into two distinct groups based on their individual Military Occupational Specialty (MOS). All Marines who have an “infantry” MOS attend the Infantry Training Battalion, while all non-infantry Marines attend a school called Marine Combat Training.


The School of Infantry in the Past

Historically, the purpose of the school has been to train Marines on additional weapons systems and tactics that they didn’t receive much exposure to during recruit training. Weapons systems such as the M-240 Golf and the .50 cal machine gun aren’t exactly common weapons for Marines to fire in boot camp; the only weapon “variation” I recall experiencing in boot camp was shooting in daylight, in low-light and at night, and that was still all with a single weapon system, the M-16 A-2 service rifle.

School of Infantry LAW training
Marine in SOI practices shooting the LAW; an anti-tank weapon system. (Photo by Sgt. Jeremy Laboy/USMC)

It wasn’t until I got to the School of Infantry that I was (at least basically) trained in the operation and troubleshooting of many other weapons systems. The SOI is also where we got to practice throwing our first grenades and learned our first real patrolling and close-quarters combat skills. We practiced Land-Navigation (I swear I didn’t cheat) and we worked on shooting our weapons in a myriad of conditions: day, night, no aim point and shoot, under and around obstacles, you name it. It was actually a blast.

The only real issue I had with the training at the SOI was that we only learned the weapons at a surface level. There would be no one leaving training who would say they had now become super-soldiers well-versed in various weapons systems and combat skills. Although we shot the weapons systems enough, we didn’t become proficient at them.


Less Training at War More at School of Infantry

Historically, the Infantry Training Battalion Course was 59-days long, while Marine Combat Training was 29-days long. That made sense (especially when I attended in 2000), because the logic was that while all Marines are riflemen, only certain Marines ever have much chance of seeing combat. Only 15 months after I attended, 9/11 turned all of that logic on its head. Marines of all MOS’s were being deployed and it became less of a question of one’s MOS and more of a question of which base one was stationed at.