View Full Version : Marine Career Advice - MOS Selection

02-28-2007, 04:30 AM
I'm a Marine Lieutenant some months away from MOS selection and I am wondering which MOS's are most relevant to small wars. I'm trying not to let Iraq color my perception or expectations of warfare, but at the same time I'm inclined to believe I will most likely be deployed to small wars.

I am currently contracted to be an aviator, and would personally like to fly a CAS platform. However, that seems to have a peripheral role in small wars, and I am torn by a desire to be relevant to the current and upcoming conflicts. In their work "Airpower in Small Wars", Corum and Johnson conclude that reconnaissance and transport are the more important contributions of airpower. That would suggest rotary-wing platforms, particularly the UH-1. The Delta Hornet has the ATARS package, but I'm not so sure of its utility in a low-intensity conflict.

I am also contemplating (not for the first time) dropping my air contract, though this does bring with it certain bureaucratic complications. The natural choice is Infantry, though I know I don't have the physical toughness to excel at or enjoy it. That also rules out ground intelligence. I'm an egghead - I majored in Math (though I had some IR coursework that introduced me to the notion of small wars). Arty, Signals Intelligence, and Communications are the fields where I know I could be technically proficient, and I'm seriously considering SigInt.

Are any of my conclusions off-base? Are there aspects to my decision process that I'm overlooking?

02-28-2007, 06:09 AM
Think of what you want to be doing or involved in 10 years or more from now. People change. I turned down several "lesser" active duty MOSs so I could go Reserve and backdoor my way into Special Forces. Things and priorities change in life as you get older. Aviation is totally Hooah. It will give you a great overall big picture of the world and how fire support works. Unless its changed, the Marines let their pilots go be with the ground pounders as FACs for a tour, anyway. Give it a shot before burning any bridges. Just a few cents worth.

Good luck with what ever you choose. I wouldn't be sweating the whole small wars things as a L.T. anyway. God only knows whats in store for us. I wouldn't be surprised if todays' L.T.s are fighting the big dragon when they are Majors or Lt. Colonels....

Imagine if CHICOM decides to blockade Taiwan with their diesel subs in a few years? Air platform ASW capabilities will sure be paramount then. Once again, good luck!

02-28-2007, 02:47 PM

You need to look at this in 5 year increments, Where do you see yourself 5 years from now, then 10, then 15 etc? Though as a Marine Officer you often have little say in where you go you can steer your future a bit by thinking in general terms. Every 5 years you evalute yourself and your career. As has been stated things change. But in your case the first hurdle is MOS selection, followed by augmentation, then before you know it you are 10 years in and facing the decision stay in or get out. If you stay you face promotion then the 20 year mark (max for Major), 26 year mark (max for LtCol) and 30 for Colonel. Don't even think about higher than that as less than 1% of Col's make GO.

You have to choose your MOS by what you want to do. BY what is best for you. For me it was/is Infantry. For you it could be aviation. Note though that the aviation pipeline gets very narrow once you become a Major, if you like being in command of Marines your options become limited. The same can be said for Intel.

AS for your 'egghead':) nature, there are, contrary to popular belief, a lot of eggheads in the Corps. Its not as visible at TBS as there you can focus on physical toughness but muscle power only carries you so far, if the brain isn't strong it will show.

Probably didn't help you too much, good luck. Semper Fi

02-28-2007, 09:20 PM
If you're an egghead and you want to get in the "####", arty sounds good. You have to be intelligent to get it, and it's definitely fun. Plus, Marine artillery has been given the secondary mission of Civil Military Operations, a major component of counterinsurgency. There's a huge range of different things you could do as an arty officer. That was one of the big things that drew me to the MOS. All you have to do is suffer through Fort Sill. But this is coming from an artillery officer, so it may be biased.

02-28-2007, 10:02 PM
Not sure if this still holds true - but it did for many years - go any of the combat arms MOS's. Typically they are "over" MOS's and it is much easier to switch to another "under" MOS if you decide as a senior 1st Lt or Captain that you may want to go intel, log, etc. By over and under I mean the numbers of officers that hold a particular MOS vs. the actual number the Corps requires by TO.

It is very difficult to switch from an under MOS down the line if you decide that you would prefer to do something else.

I am also of the opinion that starting out as a combat arms officer makes you a better - whatever MOS you switch to - officer in that you have at least a basic first-hand knowledge of combat arms requirements and how your new op field can best support those requirements.

03-01-2007, 03:50 AM

The ground combat MOSís, aviation MOSís, and INTEL, LOG and COM are all relevant to small wars. PAO, ADJ, Supply (works for LOG), Finance, and the aviation support (DASC, TAC, etc) are less relevant than the previous group.

Your quote is very striking:

ďI am torn by a desire to be relevant to the current and upcoming conflicts.Ē

As a student naval aviator (MOS 7599) you would not realize your relevance for 2-3 years. After you are winged, type rated, and qualified for deployment, you will fully experience that each aviation asset is critical in the MEF maneuver operations. A subject that was never touched upon while I was at TBS (í98) is that the aviators provide most of the company grade leadership for all sorts of non-flying Wing operations.

Is aviation coursing through your veins? Are you a private pilot, or have you been waiting to get into the cockpit since you were little? Would you push your mother off of a bridge for a fixed-wing slot? Those things define the gentlemen who thrive in the training wing environment. Military aviation is a unique opportunity. Look past my cynical comments and consider whether you could walk away from that opportunity. Many Lieutenants walk away from the aviation opportunity after they have started the program. Typically, they are limited to CSS MOSís after that transition, although some have picked up INTEL slots, and a select few have gotten into to the grunts.

Please donít discount your physical toughness; I found OCS to be more taxing than TBS. I am guessing that you might be suffering a little bit in the humid winter elements (travel lightÖfreeze at night). While you may not be comfortable, you are tough enough. If you know that you would not enjoy the Infantry, consider whether this applies to the other ground combat MOS (trackers, tanks, engineers).

The best advice I could give is to see if you can candidly interview one of the aviators on TBS staff (or one of the younger pilots at HMX-1) and touch on some of the issues you wonder about, no matter how trivial those issues seem. I have served with one of the Major aviators on the TBS staff, and I know him to be a straight talker and he doesnít parrot the party line. You are probably not the only Lieutenant making this decision, and setting up an interview may become a template for others to follow. Bravo Company aviation night is rarely a time for a frank discussion; it should be a good party.

FWIW, I was an air contract who went on to fly little training jets at JSUPT. I did not do well flying in the program (albeit through solo), and went on to become a logistics officer. My first assignment was as a wing support squadron S-4, so my OJT consisted of being thrown to the lions. The experience would have been the same having any CSS MOS: I was a leader of Marines working the issues of the day and future planning for the HQ staff. I enjoyed being a logistics officer more than being a student pilot. I declined augmentation and separated in í02.

Iíve touched on a lot of subjects; let me know if I can further describe some of these issues.
BTW, enjoy TBS. Breathe deeply and look around. Enjoy the company of your classmates. I deeply admire all of the Marines who have enlisted and commissioned since 9/11/01.

Smitten Eagle
03-01-2007, 02:59 PM

I will just say this: The Marine Corps is the only service with a fully-integrated combat doctrine, meaning that no matter what, every officer MOS, piece of equipment, etc., exists to support the MAGTF. Even the LAAD guys are getting some action as provisional infantry and convoy security. You won't find that in the Army or especially the Navy. So, bearing that in mind, as an officer, you will deploy and fight. If we're fighting a small war, you'll be fighting that small war.

I'm an ex-DASC officer by trade. When deployed I worked myself into Fire Support Coordination work at the Bn level. I coordinated CAS and Casevac missions. I worked closely with air mission commanders in synchronizing raids with the GCE. I wasn't walking too many patrols, but I was coordinating their fires and doing what I could to reduce collateral damage, which is very relevent to fighting small wars.

Bottom line, don't pick an MOS because you think you'll be more relevant. You're going to be relevant regardless, if you know your stuff and have strong leadership. I've seen box-kicking ground supply officers leading convoys, and doing a damn good job at it.

Not only that, there's opportunities to make lateral transfers. Send me a private message if you want to talk more about that. I have some experience with that, especially as it relates to aviation.

Your MOS doesn't equate to relevency. The way you lead does. Very cliche, I know. But it's true.

03-05-2007, 02:59 AM
Gents, thanks for the responses, and providing some optimism for what lies past the long training cycle I have before entering the fleet. While TBS is a great experience, it does paint a ground-centric view of MEF operations, and ground MOS's seem much more tangible than what lies ahead in the wing. I will, though, see if I can speak to some of the aviators here about my concerns.

03-05-2007, 03:30 AM
Until we master gravity, wars will be fought and won on the ground. Not that air power doesn't have a heck of a lot to do with that outcome, but a) it is the ground that counts, and b) you gotta land somewhere.

So ground-centric is right for TBS. It is the common thread that bonds. And even post-TBS the MEF is ground centric. The MAW is an awesome force, all the more so because they know who they're there for. And there is no better feeling than having Marine Air overhead.

Smitten Eagle
03-05-2007, 11:01 PM
Ironhorse is right on.

During an out-brief with my last group CO, we talked about how vital the MAW was. He cited a figure that something like 85% of all the combat power of the MEF was carried by the wing. I'm not sure how he calculated that number, but when you take a firepower-centric view of the world, it's probably correct.

Nonetheless, the MAW is always in support of ground ops. During MEU ops, the BLT or the MSPF/MARSOC Company will pretty much always be the mission commanders, with the ACE in support. Same goes for more convetional ops. Close Air Support isn't CAS without GCE involvement.

03-06-2007, 02:49 AM
...and get it over with.

But ride into battle in style, so turn it up to 11 and go LAR.

This is totally cliched, but what the heck, this is my post: There is nothing more satisfying that hauling ass down a stretch of road when you really need to be somewhere in a hurry, as well as knowing that just about everything besides a MBT or BMP-3 can be sliced open by your main gun like a hot knife through butter.

When you have to be more deliberate, you've got a team of scouts who will be slinging everything from M-16A4s/M4A1s and M203s, to SMAWs, AT-4s and M82A1 Barrett .50s.

You can swim small lakes and slow-moving rivers, after you've scanned the far side with your thermal sights.

Planners like you because you've got long station time, don't fuss much, and like to bite off more than you can chew. In fact, when it came time to find a QRF for all of Iraq, the planning cells weren't looking at mech or tank companies, but rather LAR, because we can get there firstust with the mostust.

We have to fight out of the hatch like crazy SOBs, but that same limitation also gives us a good degree of situational awareness. I'm like a dog who likes to stick his head out of a window in an automobile, so the turret of an LAV suits me fine. Put me in an uparmored HMMWV and I get the sweats.

Now, having said all of that, it was FWCAS that likely saved 3d LAR Bn's bacon in OIF I, when all four companies became engaged just north of the Euphrates on Hwy 1, and RWCAS helped clear many ambushes in OIF II.

Don't worry about relevancy in small wars, because they wil always be with us. You can rest assured that if a march up to Tehran or Pyongyan is ever contemplated, CAS will be important, and they won't be small wars. :wry: