Marine Corps seeks to boost cyber and signals skills with new recruitment program

Marine Corps seeks to boost cyber and signals skills with new recruitment program

A Marine Corps pilot program will offer civilians the chance to enlist at ranks up to gunnery sergeant if they have skills in cyber operations or signals intelligence, according to guidance issued by the Corps on Wednesday.  

The pilot will select 10 to 15 civilian applicants, including civilians with a prior history of serving in the Marine Corps or other services. Following an interview process, a board will recommend a rank of up to E-7 based on applicants’ education and experience.  E-7, called gunnery sergeant in the Marine Corps, is one of the highest enlisted ranks, with the highest being E-9. 

Civilians and former members of other services must go through Marine Corps basic training, but former Marine Corps service members will be able to skip this step. Depending on their credentials, applicants may also be able to skip qualification courses for their specialty. 

The program specifically targets the “Cyberspace Warfare Operator” career field and the “Signals Intelligence Collection Manager” career field, according to the Corps. The service currently has 625 cyber and 1,287 signals intelligence NCOs—corporals and sergeants—a spokesperson told Defense One

Once the pilot members are enlisted, the Corps will evaluate the program every six months, with the trial set to run a total of 24 months, said Master Gunnery Sgt. Sage Goyda, speaking during a media roundtable ahead of the announcement.  

The Marines chose cyber and signals intelligence specialties for the program because the certifications and degrees for those careers are easily “translatable” to Marine Corps requirements, Goyda said. 

While the Corps is meeting manning requirements, demand for those specialties continues to grow, said Master Sgt. Matthew Duvall. The Corps wants “to benefit from the experience in the civilian sector,” he said. 

A successful pilot could see the program expanded to other in-demand skills, said Marine Corps spokesperson Maj. Danielle Phillips. “This pilot right now is a proof-of-concept to see where we could go next,” she said. 

Marines who left the service may be particularly attracted to the program, thanks to the opportunity to jump up the rank scale, Phillips added. “This is just another incentive for them to come back in and continue to exploit the skills they’ve already developed,” she said. 

The Marines have been increasingly focused on cyber and signals intelligence in recent years. In 2023, the Corps tripled bonuses for those enlisting in select cyber and signals intelligence jobs. 

The Army allows qualified civilians to receive direct commissions as officers in cyber operations and signal specialties. 

While cyber operations have been less consequential than expected in Ukraine, signals intelligence has emerged as a key method for targeting enemy formations. 

One former Marine Corps signals officer turned Ukrainian soldier previously told Defense One that his mission command center was twice targeted by Russian missile strikes, possibly due to Russia identifying their electronic signals.



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