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Supporting the Future Fight: MCSC Modernizing Infantry Capabilities

Monday, May 17th, 2021


The Marine Corps has been investing time, money and resources into modernizing the force to meet objectives outlined in the Commandant’s Planning Guidance, Force Design 2030 and the National Defense Strategy.

Brig. Gen. A.J. Pasagian, commander of Marine Corps Systems Command, has stated that no investment is more important than those in support of the infantry Marine.

“The Marine Corps in 2030 does not exist without the individual Marine, what they’re wearing and what they’re carrying,” said Pasagian. “Enhancing our infantry Marines by providing them with the best capabilities available remains an integral, ongoing priority for the Marine Corps.”

MCSC has placed great emphasis on meeting the demands of the future force to ensure Marines are never in a fair fight, said Pasagian. To achieve this objective, the command has concentrated on increasing infantry communication, lethality and survivability.

Increased close combat lethality

Over the last few years, MCSC developed and fielded several new, modernized capabilities to Marines, including the M27 Infantry Automatic Rifle, Squad Common Optic, Squad Binocular Night Vision Goggles and M320A1 grenade launcher.

The M27 Infantry Automatic Rifle, originally fielded in 2011, is lighter and reaches farther distances than its predecessor, the M249 squad automatic weapon, said CWO4 David Tomlinson, MCSC’s infantry weapons officer.

“The M27 is fully automatic and increases their accuracy compared with previous weapons systems,” said Tomlinson. “The increased accuracy leads to increased lethality.”

Over time, the popularity of the weapon blossomed among Marines. They raved about its ease of use and overall effectiveness. This led to the Corps expanding its fielding to all rifle platoons as their primary individual weapon.

Earlier this year, Marines began receiving the Squad Common Optic, an innovative new rifle sight that better enables shooters to identify and engage the enemy from farther distances in variable light conditions. It can be attached to the M4 and M4A1 Carbine as well as the M27 Infantry Automatic Rifle.

“The Squad Common Optic is a variable-power optic that allows Marines to engage to threats at the maximum effective range of their weapons system, improving target acquisition and probability-of-hit with infantry assault rifles,” said Tomlinson.

In 2020, MCSC also fielded the Squad Binocular Night Vision Goggle—a lightweight, helmet-mounted night vision system that provides increased depth perception, improved clarity and a thermal-imaging capability to detect targets in extreme darkness or through battlefield obscurants.

The SBNVG enables Marines to operate vehicles at night, move through dark buildings or tunnels, and engage targets after sunset. By using this system, Marines can be as lethal at night as they are in the daytime, said Tomlinson.

The Marine Corps also began fielding a new grenade launcher last year. The M320A1 is a single-fire system that Marines can either mount onto another rifle or use as a stand-alone weapon.

“The M320A1 provides an improved capability to engage the enemy day and night, while retaining the capability of short range, reflexive fire of the primary weapon,” said Capt. Nick Berger, MCSC’s project officer for the M320A1. “In addition, the M320A1 increases the small unit flexibility in employing lethal, nonlethal and special-purpose munitions by allowing them to tailor the weapon configuration to the mission.”

Lightening the load

Infantry units need more than just weapons to get the job done. The Marine Corps leans heavily upon MCSC’s Program Manager for Infantry Combat Equipment to research, develop and field lightweight protective gear designed to increase survivability.

In 2020, MCSC began updating its enhanced combat helmet to improve fit and comfort. The improved, high-cut helmet includes a retention system that tightens around the circumference of the head and adjusts easier. Female Marines, in particular, have noted how the high-cut ECH fits their hair buns better than the legacy ECH.

Another notable fielding in 2020 was the Plate Carrier Generation III, a next-generation protective vest that provides improved fit, form and function for Marines. The PC Gen. III guards against bullets and fragmentation when coupled with protective plates.

The PC Gen. III uses less material than the Plate Carrier that fielded in 2011. Lt. Col. Andrew Konicki, the program manager for Infantry Combat Equipment, explained that the improved designed of the PC Gen. III reduces the overall weight and bulkiness of the vest, increasing maneuverability.

“Lightening the load is important because it allows Marines to be more agile when moving from covered position to covered position,” said Konicki. “Improved mobility increases survivability while preserving endurance, which enhances a Marine’s lethality.”

In 2021, MCSC began fielding the Marine Corps Intense Cold Weather Boot—a full-grain, leather boot designed for use in temperatures as cold as -20 degrees Fahrenheit. The ICWB is lighter and less bulky than the Extreme Cold Weather Boot, employed in -65 to -20 degrees Fahrenheit.

The ICWB allows Marines to complete various missions that might involve hiking or skiing in arduous, cold weather environments without having to change boots, said Konicki.

“This boot lightens the load for Marines because they’ll need only one boot for cold weather operations instead of having to carry two sets of boots and change based on the weather conditions,” said Konicki.

On the ammunition front, MCSC awarded a contract in 2020 to test and evaluate new, lightweight .50-caliber polymer ammo, with an intent to further lighten the warfighter’s load. The ammo, to be used in the M2 Machine Gun, is significantly lighter and easier to haul than the traditional brass casings.

Polymer is a class of plastic-like material that weighs less than brass and other metals commonly used in weapon systems. As the Marine Corps evaluates .50-caliber polymer ammo, other services are also evaluating other types of ammo.

The Army, for instance, is validating a 7.62mm polymer round, which could also potentially make its way to Marines in the future.

CWO3 Chad Cason, a project officer with MCSC’s Program Manager for Ammunition, said polymer ammo enables Marines to carry more with less fatigue, enhancing combat readiness. He also noted how the ammunition is just as effective as the brass ammo of the past.

“This is truly an innovative program, as [PM Ammunition] continues its modernization efforts in support of increasing lethality and capability to the Fleet Marine Force,” said Cason.

MCSC will host several limited user evaluations in 2021 and 2022, allowing Marines to assess the effectiveness and performance of the ammunition. Marine feedback during these assessments will inform a future fielding decision, said Cason.

Enhanced communication

Operating in a 21st century environment also requires innovative command and control equipment to increase communication on the battlefield.

In 2019, the Marine Corps fielded a lightweight, tablet system that improves situational awareness on the battlefield. The Marine Air-Ground Task Force Common Handheld enables Marines to use commercial smart devices to plot and share points, offering an overall view of the battlespace to commanders.

Later that year, MCSC upgraded the MCH to allow Marines to communicate with one another through several additional communication systems, including the Advanced Field Artillery Tactical Data System and the Army’s Joint Battle Command-Platform.

“Communication is critical to ensure Marines and commanders in the field have access to information and data at the right levels,” said John Maurer, deputy portfolio manager for MCSC’s Command Element Systems. “It enables, facilitates and accelerates decision-making and situational awareness.”

In 2020, the Marine Corps also fielded a next-generation High Frequency Radio II, which provides Marines with long-range, beyond line-of-site radio communications. The radio system comprises Wideband HF, increasing the data rate to more quickly communicate larger amounts of information.

Maurer said the HFR II is a modern, resilient and sustainable capability that is significantly smaller and lighter than the legacy HF radio. MCSC’s Ground Radios HFR II Team, led by Leigh King, accelerated the acquisition process and achieved fielding one year earlier than originally planned.

The MCH, HFR II and several other communication systems acquired by MCSC are designed to make communication more seamless and efficient for infantry Marines, said Maurer.

“We are positioned to meet the Commandant’s Planning Guidance by providing multiple new systems to infantry Marines to enable the kill chain,” said Maurer. “The capabilities provided will support the initial operational capability of Force Design 2030 by providing assured command and control in a degraded environment, information warfare superiority and protected mobility for enhanced maneuver.”

The importance of training

The Marine Corps cannot accomplish its modernization goals alone.

Chris Woodburn, of the Capabilities Development Directorate at the Combat Development and Integration, said they will continue to solicit support from industry and other services to field innovative capabilities and posture for the future fight.

“The Marine Corps is fielding several close combat lethality enhancements to address near-term requirements while working with the Army to pursue the next generation capabilities for the future,” said Woodburn. “These enhancements facilitate our close combat forces’ ability to leverage the best capability now, while posturing for the future through continued work with partner services.”

Tomlinson believes updating infantry units relevant gear is a critical step in gaining a competitive advantage over adversaries. However, he said the acquisition of effective equipment and the employment of active training can help the Marine Corps reach its modernization goals.

“Lethality isn’t just an item,” said Tomlinson. “We can give Marines a new system, but that doesn’t necessarily make them more lethal. Lethality also involves incorporating proper, effective training.”

Tomlinson said MCSC often employs New Equipment Training events to furnish Marines with the knowledge necessary to operate new capabilities. MCSC’s Training Systems program office also ensures Marines are equipped with the technology and systems needed to use newly-fielded capabilities in a simulated environment.

The Marine Corps’ Training and Education Command also plays an important role in increasing the lethality of Marines.

TECOM leads the Marine Corps’ individual entry-level training, professional military education and continuous professional development, through unit, collective and service-level training. The group’s intent is to enhance warfighting organizations that enable Marines to build and sustain the combat readiness required to fight and win today and in the future.

“The modernization of gear and equipment needs to be seamless to the training piece,” said CWO4 Anthony Viggiani, TECOM’s infantry weapons officer. “It’s not just the gear and equipment that makes an individual more lethal, it co-aligns the training as well.”

Viggiani said training offers the preparation needed to increase battlefield lethality. Training equips Marines with the confidence and capabilities needed to employ a piece of equipment to its maximum effectiveness, he said.

“You can’t just give an individual gear and equipment and think that’s going to solve all our problems,” said Viggiani. “Training is an important steppingstone to increasing lethality on the battlefield.”

Matt Gonzales, MCSC Office of Public Affairs and Communication, Marine Corps Systems Command

Vietnam Veteran Shares First-Person Account of Life in the Bush in 1968 in Debut Memoir

Tuesday, May 11th, 2021

In ’13 Months,’ author Bruce A. Bastien reflects on his experiencesas a young U.S. Marine Corps grunt serving a 13-month tour in Vietnam

SAN DIEGO – For many Americans, the Vietnam War often conjures mental images of high-action military combat overseas, unprecedented frontline media coverage of the war as it unfolded in Vietnam, and tensions across the U.S. as protestors called for the war to end. In “13 Months: In the Bush, In Vietnam, In 1968,” author Bruce A. Bastien draws back the curtain of this high-conflict period to share his experience as a young Marine – both the common notions of war and the mundane, daily life experiences that shaped his 13-month tour of duty.

“13 Months” sweeps readers up on a coming-of-age journey through a U.S. Marine Corps grunt’s daily struggles, battles, and funny moments as he navigates a new and sometimes unforgiving environment. Bastien’s book shares with readers the range of emotions and physical discomfort he experienced during his service, from unmitigated terror to utter boredom, hot and dry to wet and cold, rested and ready to frazzled and wired.

“13 Months” also shares Bastien’s experience maturing from a young man to an adult as he grows philosophically, finds his confidence, develops the ability to handle stress and strain, and learns lessons about friendship, love, difficulty, danger, deprivation, and loss. Bastien reflects on his friendship with the other American men with whom he served who came from all different walks of life, backgrounds, races, and levels of learning. The common element among them was their humanity, bravery, and willingness to risk their lives to help one another, all the while hoping to find their way back home.

“This is a personal account of the feelings, frustration, horror and friendships, of a young man under very exceptional conditions. It describes the grassroot experiences of a young marine on a mission for his country, but where questions arise of the ultimate purpose, the Why,” Mårten Wikström wrote in an endorsement of the book. “It is not a story of heroes, but a sincere description of what a young American boy experienced. What was the purpose of this war? And even, what was the purpose of some of the movements of the soldier’s unit? This is a very realistic story of how many young Americans must have experienced their role in Vietnam. The narrative doesn’t dwell in excesses, or drama, yet describes the horror and fright very clearly, but also the extreme boredom and man-to-man conflicts that arose.”

Ultimately, Bastien’s book is a gripping and unforgettable story peppered with supporting photos about a boy’s journey to becoming a man that highlights the incredible power of camaraderie and friendship. “13 Months” keeps the memories of the people who served during the Vietnam War alive and provides a glimpse into the negative impact and harrowing toll of war on individual lives.

13 Months: In the Bush, In Vietnam, In 1968

By Bruce A. Bastien

ISBN: 978-1-6632-0456-1 (sc); ISBN: 978-1-6632-0458-5 (hc); ISBN: 978-1-6632-0457-8 (e)

Available through iUniverse, Barnes & Noble, and Amazon.

About the author

Bruce A. Bastien has had dual careers in data processing and aviation. Bastien’s previous roles include computer salesman for IBM, business applications computer programmer, consultant, and owner of a “Cloud” service bureau business that hosts client business applications. He has also worked as a flight instructor and owner of a Part 135 on-demand airline, and he earned commercial pilot and flight instructor certificates for single and multi-engine aircraft with instrument ratings. Bastien holds degrees in biometry, computer science, and accounting. He currently resides in San Diego with his wife, Carol. To learn more, please visit

Textron Systems Unveils Its Cottonmouth Purpose-Built Advanced Reconnaissance Vehicle

Tuesday, May 4th, 2021

HUNT VALLEY, MD. – Textron Systems Corporation, a Textron Inc. (NYSE: TXT) company, today announced the unveiling of Cottonmouth, a vehicle purpose-built for the U.S. Marine Corps’ Advanced Reconnaissance Vehicle (ARV) program. Cottonmouth is a next-generation Naval Sensor Node as an amphibious scout vehicle that offers cutting-edge sensor technology.

Leveraging Textron Systems’ history and range of specialty military vehicle experience, Cottonmouth delivers advanced maneuverability and a synergized sensor system to enhance reconnaissance operations.

Cottonmouth has a 6×6 compact build that allows four vehicles to fit on a single Ship to Shore Connector, or SSC, enhancing the Marine Corps’ ability to support Expeditionary Advanced Base Operations. Textron Systems’ vehicle is equipped with multi-spectrum sensors, providing seamless communication between the Navy and Marine Corps to employ unmanned systems and joint-warfighting weapons systems. This provides the next-generation decision dominance needed to defeat threats beyond line of sight. Among the integrated sensors is teammate Elbit Systems of America’s IronVision™, which uses “see-through” technology to provide the vehicle with advanced visibility and 360 deg situational awareness.

“We listened to the customer and have invested in developing and producing Cottonmouth as a purpose-built vehicle to give the U.S. Marine Corps the amphibious mobility they need for quarterbacking the future fight,” said Senior Vice President David Phil lips of Textron Systems.

“Along with Textron Systems’ extensive experience designing, producing, fielding and supporting high-performance armored vehicles, our Cottonmouth offers the Marine Corps a low-risk, mission-oriented solution. It is representative of a revolutionary, not evolutionary, system” Textron Systems’ Cottonmouth began USMC requirements validation testing at the National Automotive Test Center in February 2021. This testing continues in Q2 with a validation of the amphibious capabilities.

Marines to Test New Physical Training Uniform

Wednesday, April 14th, 2021

Marines will soon be testing and evaluating new physical training uniforms.  The new PT uniform is modernized with all the performance attributes that align with commercial trends of providing uniforms with better form, fit, and function, said Lt. Col. Andrew Konicki, Marine Corps Systems Command’s program manager for Infantry Combat Equipment.

On April 13, MCSC awarded four contracts to produce PT uniform sets comprised of one PT shirt and one PT short.  The uniform is for Marines to wear while conducting individual or organized PT exercises, and will provide a more athletic fit incorporating anti-microbial, moisture-wicking, stretch, fast-drying and reflective attributes.

Made in America, American Fashion Network, of East Syracuse, New York; Fit USA, of Ormond Beach, Florida; SND Manufacturing, of Dallas, Texas; and String King, of Gardena, California will be manufacturing prototypes of the updated uniform.

What will the new PT uniform look like?

Konicki said the new uniform will include a design modification to the current general-purpose trunks and undershirt that have been in service for nearly a decade. The PT shirt will be more fitted than the current undershirt, and will include side mesh panels for breathability.

Each sleeve will have an eagle, globe, and anchor—the Marine Corps’ insignia—in reflective silver. The back of the shirt will read “USMC” vertically, and have diagonal reflective strips on each side of the letters.

The PT short will be basketball-style and constructed in olive drab green performance fabrics with black mesh side panels and a longer inseam than the current general purpose trunk. It will have a bike-style liner and side seam pockets with zipper closures. As a planned augment to the uniform, there is an optional running short for those who prefer a shorter inseam. The running short would not be included in the initial clothing allowance issue or on the minimum requirements list, but would be authorized for wear during unit PT events.

Reflective attributes for the shorts include the eagle, globe, and anchor at the bottom left hem of the left leg and proportional diagonal striping on the right front leg and on the rear of both legs, from the hem to the mesh side panels.

“Active wear has come a long way from when the GP trunk was first issued,” said Kristine Bealmear, the PTU project officer with MCSC’s Program Manager Infantry Combat Equipment. “I feel it’s important for our Marines to have these advanced garments to provide them comfort and durability during their PT sessions. They need to look their best regardless of uniform.”

A maternity PT shirt and shorts are being developed in conjunction with the new PT uniform, and will resemble the new PT uniform in design according to Mary Boyt, Program Manager, Permanent Marine Corps Uniform Board.  The maternity PT shirt and shorts will be added to the maternity supplemental uniform allowance, and will be issued to pregnant enlisted Marines.  The uniform will be available for purchase by pregnant officers.

Who is testing the new uniform?

MCSC is procuring a total of 600 uniforms; 100 will undergo durability testing in a lab environment and 500 will be issued to a diverse mixture of officer/enlisted, junior/senior, and male/female Marines for their use and feedback.  MCSC is working with Training & Education Command, and the intent is to include instructor and student populations from the SNCO and NCO Academies and instructors from Officer Candidate School and The Basic School. 

The evaluation will run for a minimum of 30 days, but could last longer depending on the delivery schedule after contract award.  Testing is scheduled to be complete by the beginning of August to allow for enough time to consolidate the feedback, present the changes to the Marine Corps Uniform Board for decision, and then update the contract to execute funds prior to the end of FY21.  This timeline supports initial fielding to Marine Corps Recruit Depots and OCS as part of the initial clothing allowance issue.

The scope of the user evaluation is going to verify/validate the form/fit/function of the new physical training uniform, with the output of the evaluation resulting in possible specification changes, contract modifications, and a better end product. For example, part of the expected output of the user evaluations is the development of female-specific sizing.

When can I get the new uniform?

The new Physical Training Uniform is expected to be available for purchase at Marine Corps Exchanges in the spring of 2022.

What else do I need to know?

The physical training shirt will not replace the green shirt that is worn with the utility uniforms.  The currently olive drab undershirt will be re-named “utility undershirt” and will be worn with the utility uniform, and for PT when forward deployed or when tactical requirements dictate per a commander’s guidance.

The revised PT uniform ensemble will include: the current running suit, the current sweat suit, and the new PT shirt and shorts. The current general purpose trunks will be phased out.  The Marine Corps Uniform Regulations will be updated to address the wear of the new basic physical fitness uniform ensemble, said Boyt.

This was a communique from HQ Marine Corps

Note: In December, SSD gave you a sneak peek of the new USMC PT Uniform.

Soldiers and Marines Airdrop Medical Supplies, Food to Forward Personnel

Thursday, March 18th, 2021

CAMP ARIFJAN, Kuwait — Soldiers with the 1st Theater Sustainment Command’s operational command post, or 1st TSC-OCP, headquartered here, successfully executed joint airdrop missions with a Marine C-130J Hercules aircrew and Army riggers in the U.S. Central Command’s area of operations.

Pallets loaded with key medical supplies, food and other materiel were delivered in three drops to different locations, said Army Warrant Officer Michael Romeo, who works in the air section of the 1st TSC-OCP Support Operations, or the SPO shop.

The aircrew belongs to the Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron-352, Detachment A, and are known as the “Raiders” Romeo said.

“These missions are definitely a high priority,” said Romeo, who is a warrant officer in the 165th Quartermaster Company, Georgia National Guard, but now serving with the Army Reserve’s 310th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary), based in Indianapolis, Indiana. The 310th ESC acts as the staff for the 1st TSC-OCP.

Romeo, who was on the mission as an observer for the 1st TSC-OCP, said the airdrops are a regular part of 1st TSC-OCP’s support for personnel forward deployed, especially for perishable medical and food supplies.

“They will send in an airdrop request for review, and then it comes to me,” he said. “The biggest thing we do as logisticians and sustainers is making sure we are getting the right equipment and supplies to the people who need it,” he said. “Using aerial delivery is a quick and easy way to do that.”

The 101st Sustainment Brigade, based at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, and the 151st Quartermaster Detachment from Fort Bragg, North Carolina, also supported the air drop operations, he said.

Marine Gunnery Sgt. David Hoyt, the loadmaster for the flight, said he was impressed by the Army riggers.

“They are quick and focused and do a good job,” he said. “They understand we have time constraints and got the job done.”

Army Spc. Christian Ramos, 151st Quartermaster Detachment, said he is a team leader for airdrop system, equipment and repair.

The Guam native said once the pallets were loaded onto the aircraft, he and the other riggers use strings and rubber bands to attach the parachutes to the static lines on both the left and right sides of the plane.

“The static line is connected to the G-14 clevis, upon deployment, it will pull the parachute off,” Ramos said. “The strings I was attaching with the rubber or retainer band, are called anti-oscillation ties, so they prevent the static line from moving around in flight and getting tangled.”

The G-14 is a U-shaped piece of metal that slides on the static line, like a curtain ring on a curtain rod. When the pallet reaches the plane’s back door, the rubber band snaps from the weight of the pallet and the parachute deploys.

Ramos said this air drop mission was his first time as a joint airdrop inspector. “It means that I am inspecting the loads and ensuring that these loads are free of deficiencies, which reduces the likelihood of a malfunction, so the guys on the ground can get the supplies that they need.”

Spc. Hope Mastroberti, a parachute rigger, 151st Quartermaster Detachment, said during this deployment, she was able to attend the Joint Air Load Inspector course.

Mastroberti, a native of Crystal River, Florida, said she loves being a rigger, a job she has had for two years. “I love the opportunities I’m provided. I pack personal parachutes and I pack heavy rigging parachutes.”

By SSG Neil W. McCabe

Marines Install Mobile Targets at K-Bay Range

Monday, March 15th, 2021

I’m up, he sees me, I’m down: Moving targets arrive to K-Bay Range

Marines with 1st Battalion, 3d Marines were the first to try the new Trackless Moving Infantry Targets on Marine Corps Base Hawaii, Feb. 24, 2021.

The motorized targets simulate live, independently thinking enemies and encourage Marines to anticipate movement and adapt accordingly.

“They egress, they assault to you, and they move around so it’s a better challenge to hone our skills,” said Lance Cpl. Logan Raebuck, a rifleman with 1st Battalion, 3d Marines. “I think it’s great having the targets here because we can always have that ‘thinking’ enemy to train with.”

“They’re here to solve the problem that all military facilities are facing,” said Dominic Jurado, the site manager for K-Bay range, MCBH. “These targets give the Marines something to shoot at that mimics an actual human.”

“It’s more immersive because it actually has clothes on and a face, so it gets us skilled with actual conflict,” said Raebuck. “On a regular target you don’t have that, so it’s great to get this moving enemy in front of us.”

There are currently 16 TIMITS on K-Bay and are able to be controlled by a person who is overseeing the training.

“The Marines with 1/3 have definitely progressed in the short time the targets have been on island,” Jurado said. “Everyone seemed more comfortable behind the trigger and hitting more of their shots, it’s awesome to see.”

Small unit leaders with 1/3 have also noticed the differences in their squads while working with these new targets.

“Seeing these moving targets here with us is definitely helping us get better,” said Cpl. Ryan Hankins, assistant patrol leader, 1/3. “It gives us a better sense of communication and helps us lead in our small unit leadership.”

The targets have helped Marines immensely improve their ability to train in an immersive environment, Hankins said.

“Overall it’s been a great experience,” said Hankins. “It makes me comfortable knowing that I can leave them with what I know and they can pass that on to their junior marines so the mission of the rifle squad can continue to be accomplished.”

Story by Sgt Luke Kuennen, Marine Corps Base Hawaii

Photos by Cpl Jose Angeles, Marine Corps Base Hawaii

New Annual Rifle Qualification To Make Marines More Lethal

Tuesday, March 2nd, 2021

The Marine Corps began the train-the-trainer course of the new Annual Rifle Qualification, which will fully replace the previous Table 1 and Table 2 qualification course of fire Oct. 1, 2021.

The ARQ was designed to give a more realistic and “train like you fight” environment by emphasizing lethality and positional shooting. Improvements to the Marine Corps rifle training and qualification program have been under development since 2016.

The ARQ will further develop combat scenario shooting skills resulting in a more proficient fighting force. The service-wide entry-level rifle training will remain unaffected for recruits at both Marine Corps Recruit Depots and for officers at The Basic School in order to develop strong fundamentals, confidence and weapon comfortability.

“Dating back to the early 1900’s with only minor changes from its original form, the current annual rifle training qualification has been unchanged,” said CWO4 Anthony L. Viggiani, Marine Gunner, Training and Education Command. “This has been the same qualification that every Marine shoots throughout their entire career, until now. The ARQ enhances proficiency, confidence, and lethality in a dynamic environment using multiple targets, limited exposure targets, moving targets and shooting on the move.”

Marine Corps-wide implementation will take place no later than the beginning of fiscal year 2022, with active-duty forces transitioning by October 1, and Marine Forces Reserve transition in FY22. During the second and third quarters of fiscal year 2021, Weapons Training Battalion at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia, will provide training and assistance on the conduct of ARQ to formal marksmanship training units in order to facilitate the transition to service-wide ARQ implementation.

The ARQ includes a three-day course of fire. Day one includes a “holds day,” with the drill portion conducted first. Days two and three are pre-qualification and qualification, respectively, where the destroy portion is conducted first with engagements starting far to near in order to foster an offensive combat mindset.

The more operational training requires Marines to conduct the course of fire in helmet and body armor but allows the opportunity to use bipods, rest the weapon on their magazine, or rest their weapon on their assault pack as long as time constraints are met. Scoring is measured by lethal effects with destroying targets in the allotted time.

“This enables the individual Marine the opportunity to engage their weapon system from multiple firing positions and find the most efficient way to utilize alternate shooting positions throughout the course of fire,” said Viggiani. “Our operating environment has changed over the years, so we had to make changes to our qualifications on marksmanship.”

Other significant updates include the incorporation of a singular target throughout the course of fire, with exception of a moving target at the 100-yard line, with a requirement to score by hitting “lethality zones” and the introduction of support barricades at the 100 and 200 yards, allowing Marines to shoot from the standing, kneeling, or supported position with stationary and moving targets. This transition from a competition style course of fire to assessing lethal effects on a target is a significant change for the ARQ.

Similar to the Physical Fitness and Combat Fitness Tests, Marines must achieve a minimum standard in each portion of the course of fire to qualify in the overall assessment.

The implementation of the ARQ directly impacts the mission statement, “We must adapt our training in a manner consistent with the threat and anticipated operational challenges,” as stated in the Commandant’s Planning Guidance.

Story by Petty Officer 2nd Class Rachael A Treon, MCB Quantico Communication Directorate

US Marines Receive Improved Optic to Identify Threats from Longer Distances

Monday, March 1st, 2021

MARINE CORPS BASE QUANTICO, Va.—Marines recently received an innovative new optic that better prepares them to engage adversaries from longer distances.

In January, Marine Corps Systems Command’s Program Manager for Infantry Weapons began fielding the Squad Common Optic—a magnified day optic comprising an illuminated and nonilluminated aim-point designed to improve target acquisition and probability-of-hit with infantry assault rifles.

The SCO can be attached to the M4 and M4A1 Carbine as well as the M27 Infantry Automatic Rifle. It will supplement the attrition and replacement of the Rifle Combat Optic and the Squad Day Optic for each of those weapons for close-combat Marines.

“The Squad Common Optic provides an improved day optic to infantry and infantry-like communities, including reconnaissance units” said Tom Dever, project officer for Combat Optics at MCSC. “It’s a system that improves situational awareness and decreases engagement times, greatly benefiting Marines.”

SCO an improvement over RCO

The SCO enables Marines to identify targets from farther distances than the existing RCO system.

Roger Boughton, MCSC’s lead engineer for the SCO program, said the RCO has a fixed magnification, whereas the SCO provides a variable power. This means Marines can use the SCO to identify targets at both close and far distances, providing twice the visual range of the RCO.

“Having an optic that can reach out to longer distances will ultimately make the Marine a more lethal first-shot shooter,” said Boughton. “This means they can use less rounds to overwhelm an enemy.”

Maj. Kyle Padilla, MCSC’s optics team lead and an infantry officer, said the SCO is agnostic to the round and weapon system, which provides additional flexibility for Marines. This allows for movement to a different host weapon and accommodates the employment of the M855, M855A1 or future ammunition.

“It’s all about making an accurate decision,” said Padilla. “The SCO gives squad leaders or individual riflemen more time to make a decision to eliminate that threat if necessary.”

The system is also easy to assemble. The SCO includes a mount that prevents Marines from needing to carry tools to remove or exchange the optic, lightening the load for Marines.

“If you want to mount it onto the rail of the weapon, you don’t need a wrench to tighten anything,” said Boughton. “You just need your hands.”

‘A step in the right direction’

The SCO program moved rapidly from program designation to fielding in just 16 months. After awarding a contract, PM IW conducted various user assessments, including a simulated 10,000-round fire exercise, during production verification testing to confirm performance and resolve issues.

During these evaluations, Marines raved about the benefits of the SCO and its improvement over the existing system.

“Being able to shoot farther, identify targets at greater ranges and be more accurate will make them more lethal,” said CWO4 David Tomlinson, MCSC’s infantry weapons officer. “Marines have expressed excitement over this capability.”

CWO4 Gerald Eggers, the infantry weapons officer at The Basic School, participated in the system’s fielding in January, aboard Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia. He commended the scope’s variable power magnification as well as its ability to be employed with different ammunition and weapons.

“Marines with M27s will greatly benefit with this scope,” said Eggers. “I certainly believe the SCO fielding is a step in the right direction.”

Dever said the fielding of the SCO puts an improved capability into Marines’ hands more quickly and enables them to carry out their missions more efficiently and effectively.

“The rapid acquisition and fielding of improved capabilities is vital to equipping the Marine Corps to operate inside actively contested maritime spaces in support of fleet operations,” said Dever.

The program office anticipates the weapon reaching Full Operational Capability in fiscal year 2022.

Story by Matt Gonzales, Marine Corps Systems Command