The world is changing and warfare changes with it. The Marine Corps has opted to phase out portions of its infantry military occupational specialities (MOSs) to build up cyber and electronic warfare groups. In exchange for advancing cyber and electronic warfare capabilities, the Marine Corps will eliminate the 0351 Infantry Assaultman as well as the assault sections of Marine Rifle Companies.
Meet the 0351 Assaultman
There are currently five core enlisted infantry MOSs in the Marine Corps: the 0311 Rifleman, 0331 Machine Gunner, 0341 Mortarman, the 0351 Infantry Assault Marine, and the 0352 Antitank Missile Gunner. The 0351 is responsible for breaching, demolitions, and firing rockets against fortified positions.
Infantry Assault Marines carry the MK-143 shoulder-launched multipurpose assault weapons (SMAW). The 83mm weapon has two main munitions. High-Explosive, Dual Purpose (HEDP) rockets are used for bunkers, concrete walls, and lightly armored vehicles while the High-Explosive, Anti-Armor (HEAA) rockets are used against tanks. The SMAW also fires a thermobaric warhead, the SMAW-NE, which is used to collapse caves and bunkers. The Marine Corps plans to replace the SMAW with the Carl Gustaf 83mm recoilless rifle over the next four years.
A Numbers Game
The United States Marine Corps is often asked to do a lot with very little. But being “The Few, The Proud, The Marines” comes with a cost. The Marine Corps has neither the size nor the budget to increase capabilities in one area without cutting somewhere else. Trades must be made.
The 0351 MOS is comprised of more junior ranks (private through sergeant) and has training overlaps with the other core infantry MOSs. Infantry Assault Marines also have a very niche role. They often find themselves serving as machine gunner or riflemen while on deployment because the facts on the ground do not require a breaching or bunker-busting capability.
Although the MOS will be phased out, the need for breaching and demolitions remains. An element of combat engineers will fill the gap left by the assault sections, performing the demolitions duties and carrying the SMAW (or the 84mm Carl Gustav recoilless rifle when it replaces the SMAW over the next four years).
But the 0351 may return. Marine Corps leaders have been asking for 12,000 additional troops to build the cyber and electronic warfare communities. In 2017 they received 3,000, and the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act provided another 1,000. If the increase of the remaining 8,000 happens, the Marines can bring back the 0351.
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