Marine Infantry Officer Course standards change again

| February 25, 2018 | 63 Comments

According to the Marine Corps Times, the standards for folks in the Marine Corps Infantry Officer Course have been lowered once again;

Recent changes include the number of evaluated hikes required to pass the course, and the removal of the physically demanding Combat Endurance Test as a strict requirement to graduate.

Under the new requirements, only three of those nine hikes will be evaluated, and Marines will have to pass all three evaluated hikes in order to graduate.

The condition that Marines at IOC participate in nine hikes remains unchanged.

Under the previous rules six of those hikes were evaluated, and Marines had to pass five of those six evaluated hikes.

The Corps in recent years has struggled to meet its goals in graduating an adequate number of new infantry officers. Attrition rates reached as high as 25 percent in 2014.

Yeah, well, there are plenty of military training courses which lose graduates due to physical standards at rates higher than 25%. The Corps denies that the reduction in standards has anything to do with accepting females in their ranks;

The recent changes, the Corps argues, have nothing to do with gender integration in the combat arms job fields or a watering down of any standards.

“Technically what we have done is we have modified graduation requirements, but we actually tie our requirements now more to the T&R [Marine infantry training and readiness manual] standards.”

No, technically, what you’ve done is what I predicted you would do years ago – the social justice warriors demanded that you lower standards so women can compete for slots they are not qualified to occupy. I hope the enemies on our future battlefields take these lower standards into consideration, you know, just to be fair.

Thanks to MustangCryppie for the tip.

Category: Marine Corps

Comments (63)

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  1. OWB says:

    Never been in favor of arbitrary standards for anything. And know absolutely nothing about the relationship between ability to hike X number of miles in X number of minutes and an ability to be a good Marine. But I presume that all Marines need to be in great physical shape and able to tote a good sized load with them no matter what their primary job is. Actually, that principle is valid in every service, even the Air Force.

    So, if someone can articulate how test A relates to task Y, I got no problem with the test being extremely difficult as long as it relates to the job. For everyone who is expected to do that job. We do it for technical stuff (like flying planes or performing surgery) so why should the physical side of things be treated differently?

    Doing the job, any job, includes mental capacity to learn, emotional ability to handle the job, and being physically able to do it. Want to is nice, but that alone won’t get you there.

    • Frank says:

      How short of 301s is the Corps?
      Is there some massive shortfall that makes public humiliation caused by lowering standards necessary?
      Will a 311 still be required to salute a 301 that “participated” in the Combat Endurance Test but lacked the moral strength to pass?
      Will some kind of public extra recognition be given to officers that passed their tests- a ribbon, pay increase, perhaps?

  2. Hondo says:

    Last time I checked, OWB, Infantry personnel sometimes walk a long way carrying a bunch of gear. Then after doing so, they engage the enemy in ground combat.

    Seems to me that the ability to hike with a load and meet prescribed time standards while doing so is a pretty decent indicator of an ability required for the job of Infantry. That’s particularly true for someone who’s trying to be an Infantry officer. They have to not only fight in the battle on arrival, but also direct their troops while fighting.

    • OWB says:

      No argument from here. I just don’t want to presume to know what the appropriate numbers might be. Is a 50 mile hike with a 140 pound load reasonable? I have no idea.

      The Corps ought to be able to come up with justifiable numbers quite easily. All I ask them to do is be able to justify it with something – like maybe “The longest recorded hike to a firefight is X but the more usual distance is Y, therefore we test for Y + something just in case.” And maybe “Every Marine carries XX pounds of gear. Some add an extra YY pounds, so we test for the max since after the firefight who knows who will need to carry the extra equipment.” Or something that makes even more sense that my scribbling.

      My point is always that the job determines the requirements. What any of us want is irrelevant.

      • timactual says:

        The exact number is arbitrary. Nobody has ever collected the exact numbers of distance, slope, temperature, etc. from combat situations. Nor is there a need for exact numbers. The idea is to physically and mentally stress yourself until you reach your limit, then do some more–the same sort of thing that survivors do.

        Exactly how many feet did the survivors of Chosin march?

        Sometimes arbitrary standards are good enough.

        • Reddevil says:

          I understand your point, but that won’t pass a legal test.

          Legally, there is a standard. Either you make it or you don’t. If you change that standard class by class you better have a reason based on fact- combat experience, scientific study, etc. circumstance shouldn’t enter into it.

          If you claim to use some sort of ‘grit’ standard, then you have to have some sort of metric to base it on – otherwise you are depending on the opinion of a grader or instructor.

          In your example, consider Task Force Faith: there were weak men who by sheer luck were close to the Marine position, and strong men who by sheer luck wer farther away and surrounded by Chinese. Some of the weak survived, and some of the strong died.

          Who should have made it through iOBC?

          • USMC Steve says:

            None of them would have. They were Army, and based upon their performance in the early stages of the Korean War, they were found sorely wanting, very uniformly so. After the Marines saved those they could, they attempted to form them into a provisional Army Battalion to fight alongside the Marines. Most were infantry doggies, and they all refused to fight.

            • 11B-Mailclerk says:

              Most of the soldiers were untrained garrison troops form Japan. A staggering lack of physical, mental and moral training.

              The Marine’s were trained. Thus the fought.

              Don’t over-sell “USMC” as some magic panacea. You folks train hard, so you fight hard. But you are American men, no more and no less. If you were thrown untrained into an abbatior, you would fare no better.

              Because the -vast- majority of training is intended to forge those bonds that cause men to fight to the death for their comrades. Training that fails to do so is nearly pointless.

              If the folks who assualted Normandy had been in Korea, the outcome would have been -decidedly- different.

              And as a Marine, you ought to have known that.

        • OWB says:

          I’m not asking for exact figures but for something based on reality instead of a few bean counters making up numbers.

          With all the technology available these days it just shouldn’t be at all difficult to come up with some useful figures. But, if you insist, me and a couple of friends could come up with some supportable numbers with some maps, slide rules, and mission reports.

    • Reddevil says:

      I was working this tangentially for the Army and talked to my Marine counterparts quite a bit.

      The Army had pretty good correlation between training standards and job requirements for Infnantry officers, to include well documented studies and lessons learned from recent combat. If you are interested, check this out or google the Devil CAAT

      Bottom line is the Marines could not show a correlation between the job and the qualification requirements. Unlike Ranger School or the Q Course, the IOC is an entry level qualification course for conventional Marine Officers, and the hike standards were waaaay higher than the enlisted 0300 standard but the Marines could not show where Marines actually did the things they demanded in training. The only rationale (and I agree with this, but it ain’t in the law) was that officers should be able to outperform the troops

  3. Green Thumb says:


    I ham disappointed with the USMC.

    The Army already caved. I thought they would hold out.

  4. J.R. says:

    Well so much for the integrity of the Corps. Seems the Big Green Weenie is becoming the Big Pink Vagina just like the rest. Embarrassing

  5. 11B-Mailclerk says:

    OK. Leave it to me, to ask an even uglier question:

    Did they lower the standards because they can no longer find enough -men- that can pass the course and fill the required slots?

    In other words, have they been meeting their throughput quotas of men as Infantry leaders, irrespective of the “female infantry” question, and this simply became an opportunity to address a reality that no one wants to admit?

    Because if they are doing this for the -guys-, even partially, things are well and truly hosed, and we need a crash PT program in high schools, ASAP.

    Anyone here have visibility on this pipeline, or the Army equivalent?

    • Reddevil says:

      I did, but the facts are inconvenient.

      The Marines failed to show why their standards for MALES made sense.

      The Army did, and women have not done so well. The numbers seem higher, but throughput in the Army is orders of magnitude higher in the Army than the Marines or any other service. For perspective, the Armyninfanteynis the largest single MOS in any service by far- we train -about 16,000 a year. If you look at MOSs across the board, the Army takes in an entire Marine Corps each year- and that doesn’t even count the Sailors, Airmen, and Marines that go to Army schools.

      Watch Perkins on Fox and Friends. He gives you an idea

  6. Ex-PH2 says:

    Are they doing this to accommodate weaker men as well as women?

    What’s the payload (weight) that they carry? (I assume it’s the same for everyone.)

    What’s the terrain, the distance, and the time frame?

    I’m only asking because I do recall that Army veterinarian who decided on the spur of the moment to try to qualify for some infantry badge – don’t remember which one – and could barely make it to the end, even though her load was lighter than anything I ever carried on a birder hike.

    • Mick says:


      From the Marine Corps Times article linked above:


      One of the evaluated hikes was changed to meet gender-neutral standards referred to as Military Occupational Specialty Specific Performance Standards, or MSPS, Bohm said.

      The 2015 NDAA called for the service branches to draft gender-neutral standards as the services began gender integration into the combat jobs previously closed to women.

      That hike that was changed is the 15-km hike, which must be completed within three hours while humping 105 lbs of kit and weapons.

      The other two hikes evaluated for graduation purposes are a 7-mile hike carrying 95 lbs and a 9-mile hike carrying 105 lbs.

      The hikes are “progressive in both distance and weight,” Bohm said.


      But, the Corps did make a major modification to one of its most grueling hikes known as the weapons company and weapons platoon hike. Previously, Marines had to conduct a single file forced march carrying heavy and medium weapon systems that could weigh anywhere from 125 lbs-150 lbs.

      “There was a lot of angst about our students having to carry 150 lbs,” Bohm said.

      Now the hike is done as a tactical displacement, where Marines practice bounding during a simulated attack. The Marines are no longer required to single-handedly carry all 125-150 lbs, and can pass the weight off to a buddy as they tire.

      Bohm argues that this modification better reflects operational reality.

      Marines spread load heavy weapon systems during marches, no single Marine ever carries the weight of the heavy weapon systems themselves. That weight is passed throughout the platoon or company throughout the hike.

      To now graduate from IOC, Marine officers will need to:

      – Participate in a total of nine hikes.
      – Pass three evaluated hikes.
      – Conduct the Combat Endurance Test (although passing it is no longer a requirement).
      – Participate in six tactical field exercises.
      – Pass infantry officer physical standards requirements, including a 15 km hike with 105 lbs in 3 hours.
      – Cross a 56” wall unassisted in 30 seconds.
      – Conduct a ground casualty evacuation (214 lbs. dummy) in 54 seconds.
      – Lift a MK-19 heavy machine gun (77 lbs.) overhead, and rush 300 meters to an objective in 3 minutes 56 seconds.’

      • Ex-PH2 says:

        Mick, a 15-kilometer (km) hike is 9.3 miles. How is this different from the 9 mile hike, except for the 3/10 of a mile extra?

        If that was just a typo, okay.

        I’m just asking those questions out of curiosity, not being critical.

        Is that weight load, for example, packed on a frame that supports the load for the wearer’s back, like some hiking racks do?

        I just want to understand.

        • Reddevil says:

          The infantry measures distances in kilometers ecause it’s more precise. However, you will hear guys say12 miler instead of 20k, etc.

          The problem I see is in the variance of. 125-150 pounds. What is the standard? Does every Marine carry the same weight, or are different Marines carrying different weights? doea the writ change by class? If so, who determines that and what do they base it on? If class 18-1 carried 150 pounds, why did we let. Class 18-2 graduate and qualify if they only carried 125?

          If each Marine carries a different weight based on duty positi N in the Platoon, who determines that, and the Marine selected to be a mortarman carrying 150 pounds falls out, does he fail while the rifleman Marine carrying 125 passes?

          TAs a training guy, the way the standards are described leaves a lot of room for instructor bias

      • timactual says:

        That modification assumes your buddy is not already already carrying a load of his own. That may be true for rifle units, but not for mortar, AT, or MG units. If you aren’t carrying part of the weapon, you carry ammunition for it.

        An often overlooked part of the problem is the shape/symmetry of the load. Carrying as mortar bipod, for example, on one shoulder for any length of time is actually painful. That is one reason you see towels wrapped around the necks of soldiers in Vietnam; padding (also a fringe benefit of a “flak vest”). It is also a reason you see belts of machinegun ammo draped across the shoulders, a la Pancho Villa. Carrying it in the can hurts hands, arms, and shoulders after a few hours.

        then there is the problem of not having a free hand, which increases the difficulty of traversing anything other than flat, even, terrain.

      • Frank says:

        Could you please explain to me how a “test” no longer “requires passing?”
        What do They mean by “conduct a test?” Do the Wookies stand and watch as others do the work or do they get golf carts etc

    • Reddevil says:

      It was the Expert Field Medical Badge, and she completed the march, although she collapsed at the end.

      I imagine here is a medic somewhere in this thread that can attest that the EFMB is tough.

      Not being a medic I never tested, but since my company had the medical platoon I ran the test ome. year. It is comparable to the EIB but different in the skills tested. It is mentally, emotionally, and physically tough with about a 20% pass rate. The road march is a culminating event at the end of a pretty grueling 5 day testing period, to include written and hands on tests, the APFT, and other requirements. That is usually preceded by a very intense train up.

      12 miles/20 km in 3 hours carrying a 35 pound ruck and other personal equipment is no joke. Like mass-tac combat equipment parachute jumping where I’ve heard lots of civilians try to compare their skydiving experience, it just ain’t the same

      • Dustoff says:

        EFMB kicked my ass. That’s all I remember (of course that was 1982). I do remember it was very little emergency medical care and lots of basic field craft.

      • Ex-PH2 says:

        Not quibbling about the logistics of it, reddevil, but if the expectation for passing is that you successfully carry that load (35lbs ++ other equip) over a 12++ mile course of NOT smooth topography, the obvious thing to do is a lot of conditioning ahead of time so that the load carried is slightly more than the test load and the distance traveled is slightly more.
        The EFMB test subject said she worked out in a gym, which is not the same thing at all as rough terrain with a heavy load. She dropped before she got to the finish line, but she did get up and cross it without help.

        Thanks to all of you for the responses on all of my questions.

        • Reddevil says:

          PH, it is not an easy test. I well remember the video, because it was a huge debate in the Army.

          The Soldier was not prepared, so it was very difficult on her. She was a vet, and while technically in the medical field the test was Design d around the skills of a Combat Medic- and that is a world apart from her experience.

          You can look at this two ways: she was a plague that stepped up, or she was a pogue that that thought it would be easy. Eaithernway, she met the stamdard.

          • Ex-PH2 says:

            Oh, I gave her credit for trying and succeeding, but when I watched the video, I asked myself why she hadn’t prepared for it properly.

            If you expect to compete in a racewalking short course, you go further than the course length little by little until your endurance is built up and your speed for the actual course is consistent at the longer distance. Same thing in ice dancing, which I’ve done: you don’t just do the program, which is difficult enough. You go far beyond that and spend literally hours building endurance for extremely fast accuracy, footwork, and speed.

    • Jonp says:

      I agree with you. Sounds like lowering the standards killed 2 birds with one stone

  7. borderbill (a NIMBY/BANANA) says:

    Aw, shit.

  8. Mick says:

    Those previous standards at IOC existed for a reason (i.e. preparing young officers to successfully lead Marines in infantry combat), and like most standards in combat arms and aviation, those standards were “written in blood”. Lowering those standards is ultimately going to get infantry Marines killed in combat if their leaders are accepted/tolerated as sub-par performers during training.

    And I don’t give a shit about a 25% attrition rate at IOC. That just tells me that 25% of those 2ndLts who want to become Marine Corps 0302 infantry officers can’t hack the training program and they therefore don’t have any business leading infantry Marines in combat.

    What is happening to my Marine Corps?

    • rgr769 says:

      King Putt and his acolytes in DOD and the Corps are fixing it for you, so as to lose more wars. Remember they are just making it more “progressive” and fairer to all six genders.

    • Reddevil says:

      The Marine couldn’t demonstrate any of that, or the standard would have held.

      It could also mean that the Marine had unrealistic standards and were losing some percentage of quality officers based on an arbitrary standard.

      I watched this happen up close. Each service was given 3 years to establish that their standards were based on the regular and recurring requirements of the job. The Army did it, the Air Force did it, even the SEALs and SF did it. All of them came in with quantitative data showing what it took to do those jobs and how they set their standards. All of those standards held.

      The Marines presented data that shows that most males outperform most females. Everyone knew that already, but that wasn’t the homework. They never showed how IOC hike standards related to the Fleet standards, or why officers had to meet those standards. Case closed, they lost.

  9. Club Manager, USA ret. says:

    I can see the need for change. Just like finding 72 virgins, it must be a bitch to come up with enough road guards and people to count Cadence for every Marine.

  10. AW1Ed says:

    This surprise anyone? Yeah, me neither.

  11. FatCircles0311 says:

    So only 1/3 of the bumps are “evaluated”? What the hell does that mean. Officers just have to participate and just drop when they feel like it? What a fucking clown show.

  12. Guard Bum says:

    The requirement for passing 6 hikes plus passing the CET was only in effect since 2012 and they have effectively just reverted to previous standards. Amazing that Marine Infantry Officers were able to function for over 230 years prior to 2012.

    If any of you think the current standards are “easy” or creating lesser Infantry Officers I suggest you ruck up and give it a go. I was not a Marine Infantry Officer but I did 4 years in a Marine Infantry Battalion, most of that time under a MEU(SOC) structure, as a First Lieutenant and Captain and it was extremely physically demanding on all officers let alone Infantry Officers (you failed a hump or course as an officer and you were gone) and I certainly doubt any of those Infantry Officers were less capable than those under the regime from 2012 to 2017.

    Unless it has changed (and I do not think it has), I did two MCRES (now MCRE)humps during my time in a BLT which were timed 25 milers with 90 pound ruck and assigned weapon and even the Supply Warrant Officer had to pass it or get bounced. To get to that point we had a hump every Friday and if you missed a hump for any reason outside of duty you did not get weekend liberty…including officers.

    It was and is grueling and nothing in this policy change changes any of that. The state of Marine Infantry Officers is just fine.

  13. Sparks says:

    As soon as they point out is has nothing to do with females, I then know it has everything to do with females.

    • Ex-PH2 says:

      Uh, Sparks, Guard Bum up there said this:
      “The requirement for passing 6 hikes plus passing the CET was only in effect since 2012 and they have effectively just reverted to previous standards. Amazing that Marine Infantry Officers were able to function for over 230 years prior to 2012.”

      So it had nothing to do with females. More likely something to do with weaker test subjects overall.

      • Guard Bum says:

        Sadly that isnt far from the truth. The fact is it is getting harder to find candidates with the physical abilities necessary for the job. They are certainly out there but military service for college grads is not as attractive as it once was and our institutes of higher learning make sure to limit military access to many of them.

        The Marine Corps changed these requirements mostly due to so many males failing and the inability to fill jr officer Infantry slots. There is a huge exodus at the Captain level in the Marine Corps and it trickles down.

      • Ex-PH2 says:

        Okay, then maybe what they need to do is start conditioning or working up to and beyond the level expected ahead of the course and/or testing sessions.

        I don’t know how the course is run, or what kind of conditioning is done prior to the test sessions, but if the object is to improve the test subjects’ performance prior to the test.

        That could be having them work up to going further and carrying more than the loads of the test.

        • Ex-PH2 says:

          Man, I have to stop and proof sentences before I click ‘BGONE’!

          (sigh) …performance prior to the test.
          That could be…

          Should be: …performance prior to the test, that could be …

          This is what I get for having fake Chinese food for supper.

        • Guard Bum says:

          PH2, its more of a question of need. The extra requirements were put into place when it was felt it was needed for Afghanistan but they discovered that it really did not reflect reality and they were needlessly weeding out otherwise hard charging Marine 2ndLts.

          The hikes and CET was not eliminated which I think some people miss, they are just not used as bench marks for elimination which only started 5 years ago.

          As for working up to the requirements, you are in peak condition after 6 months of TBS (The Basic School) plus for some OCS so how long do you want to give them? Infantry Officers school is done after all of that and most have the better part of a year in before they ever get to their first unit.

          Then, unless they are a Naval Academy grad they are Marine Corps Reserve for the first 8 years if they are an unrestricted line officer and they have to compete for augmentation (getting to stay active duty after their first tour)otherwise they drop to the selected Marine Corps reserve.

          It is highly competitive,

          Don’t get me wrong, I do not think women belong in Infantry units, in combat or combat arms in general (no offense)but I hardly see this as a collapse of Marine Infantry Officer Standards.

          • TF-BA says:

            I’m not trying to be a total cock, but how is something described in one breath as “due to so many males failing and the inability to fill jr officer Infantry slots”; then in the next breath be “highly competitive”. What am I missing?

            This makes no sense. If something is highly competitive then there has to be an abundance of qualified applicants. So like getting a BUDs slot straight from the Academy. Last I heard ROTC Mustangs were waiting years for slots which supports “highly competitive”. Where is the disconnect? Are they just letting these guys rot on the shelf for the fuck of it and then complaining about not being able to fill the jobs? I’m confused as to how the Corps can have both of these things happening simultaneously.

      • USMC Steve says:

        In all reality, in combat most of the officer get starched, and the SNCO’s and NCO’s take over the lead. It has worked fine since forever for us.

  14. Jeff LPH 3, 63-66 says:

    So now the number of required hikes now went the way of the officers’ endurance test. What’s next on the list?? Hmmmmmmm

  15. Jeff LPH 3, 63-66 says:

    Chesty is turning over in his grave right now.

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