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This article is organised as follows:

  • Part 01: Introduction to The Basic School.
  • Part 02: Training Hierarchy.
  • Part 03: Outline of the TBS Curriculum.
  • Part 04: Miscellaneous


1.0     Introduction

This article provides an overview of the United States Marine Corps’ (USMC) The Basic School (TBS).

“Leaders must be trained for certainty and educated for uncertainty.” (Anderson, 1999).

Commissioned officers and warrant officers in the USMC come from several ‘commissioning’ sources, including the United States Naval Academy (USNA), civilian universities, and the enlisted ranks of the USMC and other services. All of these officers except those who attend the USNA are required to successfully complete a screening process (the Officer Candidates School) at Marine Corps Base (MCB) Quantico, Virginia, before they can progress to The Basic School.

The Basic School is a rigorous, and required, rite of passage for young officers who for six months crawl, march and run in the mud, heat and cold of Quantico. In the end, they are deemed indoctrinated into the Corps’ tradition-filled culture and basic war-fighting techniques.

The Basic School is where all newly commissioned officers and warrant officers are taught the basics of being an officer of Marines, delivering training to approximately 1,700 new officers each year. It is not basic training, it is a leadership development programme. Two of the primary goals of TBS is to give newly commissioned officers the skills needed to serve as a Company-grade officer in the USMC and develop their leadership potential; TBS focuses on making every Marine officer capable of leading an infantry platoon regardless of their ultimate military occupational specialty (i.e. job).

This article is divided four parts for easier reading. Part One is this introduction, which also includes a brief history of TBS, and some interesting statistics. Part Two outlines the training hierarchy for TBS, including its organisation. Part Three outlines the training curriculum of TBS, including the Warrant Officer Basic Course and the Infantry Officer Course. Part Four provides some useful publications and links, as well as references.

1.1     Aim

The aim of this article is to outline the training undertaken by USMC officers’ during their time at The Basic School.

1.2     Brief History

The US Marine Corps’ The Basic School can trace its history back to 1891 with the establishment of the School of Application – prior to this date there was no formal school for the training of Marine officers (Speigle, 2008).

In 1922, as part of the then Commandant USMCs’ educational reforms, the School of Application was renamed The Basic School. Around the same time, as amphibious warfare became established, TBS adjusted its curriculum to incorporate this form of warfare.

Prior to 1933, The TBS curriculum was based on US Army and US Navy doctrine. From 1933, TBS established Marine Corps doctrine which included topics on Marine Corps units, naval gunfire support, Spanish classes, and the study of military campaigns with an emphasis on landing operations (Speigle, 2008).

In 1937, the concept of treating all new officers equally was further developed by ensuring that officer students from different commissioning sources and future MOS were billeted separately. The then commanding officer TBS formulated room assignments which meant that, for example aviators, were not in the same room as each other – with the result of producing a more homogenous class/group. The TBS also worked to ensure that officer students from the same platoon at Officer Candidate School or university were separated at TBS to stop “”cliques” from forming and it gives everyone a fair chance at performing with a clean slate.” (Speigle, 2008, p.5).

In 2011, TBS got a little harder following a change of policy (Cavallaro, 2011). Officer students would no longer be driven to and from the ranges, instead they would march from Camp Barrett to the training area (5-15 miles away) carrying everything they needed – which could be up to 100lbs of equipment (Cavallaro, 2011).

1.3     TBS Statistics

Wiler & Hurndon (2008, p.9) provide some statistics regarding TBS:

  • A total of 1,585 training hours.
  • 933 hours (or 60%) of training time is spent in the classroom environment.
  • 652 hours (or 40%) of training time is spent in the field environment.

Speigle (2008) provides the same statistics in a slightly different way:

  • A total of 1,586.5 training hours.
  • 1313 are academic hours (includes everything from lectures to physical training).
  • Classroom instruction makes up approximately 10% of the academic hours.
  • 273.5 are administrative hours (includes in-processing, personal administration, and movements).
  • Tactical decision games and sand table exercises account for approximately 3% of training hours.
  • Field exercises account for approximately 29% of training time.


2.0     Introduction

This part of the article highlights some of the organisations involved in the selection and training process for officer candidates.

2.1     Training and Education Command

The US Marine Corps Training and Education Command (TECOM) is responsible for the training, development, and education of Marines. TECOM’s mission is:

“To develop, coordinate, resource, execute, and evaluate training and education concepts, policies, plans, and programs to ensure Marines are prepared to meet the challenges of present and future operational environments.” (TECOM, 2017).

TECOM is located at Quantico, Virginia, and is led by the Commanding General, a Major General (CG) (OF-7). The CG is assisted by an Executive Deputy, a civilian, and a Sergeant Major (OR-9).

TECOM is composed of ten organisations/directorates (TECOM, 2017):

  • Five Directorates:
    • Centre for Advanced Operational Culture Learning (CAOCL).
    • MAGTF Training Education Standards Division (MTESD).
    • Training and Education Capabilities Division (TECD): Provides training and education support to enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of training and education programs across the mission spectrum
    • MAGTF Staff Training Programme (MSTP): provide training in MAGTF operations across the range of military operations, within the context of a Joint and/or Combined Task Force environment, to improve the war-fighting skills of senior commanders and their staffs
    • Marine Corps Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC).
  • Education Command (aka The Marine Corps University, MCU): MCU is a group of accredited higher-education schools at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia. It was established on 01 August 1989 by General Alfred M. Gray, Jr., then Commandant of the Marine Corps.
  • Training Command: Delivers officer and enlisted:
    • Entry-level Military Occupational Specialty (MOS, aka Phase 2 Employment Training).
    • Career progression and career enhancement skills (aka Phase 3 Training).
  • MCRD Parris Island: Delivers recruit (aka Phase 1 Initial) training.
  • MCRD San Diego: Delivers recruit training.
  • Marine Air Ground Task Force (MAGTF) Training Command: Manages the MAGTF Training Programme (MAGTFTP) and conducts service level MAGTF combined arms training to enhance the combat readiness of the operating forces and support the Marine Corps’ responsibilities to national security.

2.2     Training Command

The US Marine Corps Training Command (TRNGCMD) is responsible for the training of Marines. TRNGCMD’s mission is:

“Training Command consistently produces officer and enlisted entry-level Military Occupational Specialty, career progression, and career enhancement skills trained Marines and Sailors to meet force generation and operating force requirements, while reinforcing our warfighting ethos and facilitating the growth and resiliency of our permanent personnel, students, and families.” (TRNGCMD, 2018a).

TRNGCMD is located at Quantico, Virginia, and is led by the Commanding General (CG), a Brigadier General (OF-6). The CG is assisted by a Sergeant Major (OR-9).

TRNGCMD is responsible for a number of training organisations, including the Officer Candidates School and the Basic School.

2.3     Marine Corps Base Quantico

Marine Corps Base Quantico (MCBQ) is located near Triangle, Virginia, in approximately 55,000 acres of land.

MCBQ is home to the Officer Candidates School and The Basic School, where the US Marine Corps trains its civilian volunteers as officers and future leaders of the USMC.

2.4     The Basic School

The US Marine Corps’ The Basic School (TBS) is located in the Southwest of the Marine Corps Base Quantico (MCBQ) complex, and is a formal school within Training Command.

TBS is led by the Commanding Officer (CO), a Colonel (OF-5), who is personally selected by the Commandant USMC (Speigle, 2008). The CO is assisted by an Executive Officer, a Lieutenant Colonel (OF-4) and a Sergeant Major (OR-9). The mission of OCS is to:

“Train and educate newly commissioned or appointed officers in the high standards of professional knowledge, esprit-de-corps, and leadership to prepare them for duty as company grade officers in the operating forces, with particular emphasis on the duties, responsibilities, and warfighting skills required of a rifle platoon commander.” (TRNGCMD, 2018b).

TBS trains and educates newly commissioned officers and newly appointed warrant officers for duty in the USMCs’ operational forces.

‘Quantico mainside’ is to the east of I-95, and contains the Officer Candidates School and the bulk of the rest of the support staff and other units at MCBQ. TBS is located to the west, at Camp Barrett, amidst the large training areas.

Courses delivered by TBS include:

  • Basic Officer Course (BOC);
  • Warrant Officer Basic Course (WOBC); and
  • Infantry Officer Course (IOC).

TBS is organised into eight (training) companies, six of which are dedicated to training newly commissioned officers (Speigle, 2008; Wiler & Hurndon, 2008):

  • 1st Training Battalion:
    • Alpha Company (Platoon Leaders Class).
    • Bravo Company (officer candidates direct from OCS).
    • Charlie Company (officer candidates direct from OCS).
    • Delta Company (officer candidates via NROTC).
    • Echo Company (officer candidates via USNA).
    • Fox Company (officer candidates direct from OCS).
    • Golf Company (from 2008, for additional throughput).
    • India Company (trains newly appointed warrant officers).
    • Mike Company (officer students will be in Mike Company before they begin training with one of the above company’s, after they graduate TBS, if there is a delay in their transition to their MOS school, and if they are injured or dropped for any other reason).
  •  Instructor Battalion.
  • Martial Arts School of Excellence.
  • Support Battalion.

“Each company trains approximately 200 officers each year…” (Wiler & Hurndon, 2008, p.9), with each having a commanding officer (usually a Major (OF-3)), executive officer, company sergeant major, and staff platoon commanders (six, one for each platoon).

Supporting the training companies is an Instructor Battalion that consists of several companies dedicated to supporting the training and education of the officers during the BOC. It also provides the Marines and equipment to logistically support the training during the BOC.

2.5     Instructor Education Programme

The Instructor Education Programme (IEP) is mandatory for all personnel selected as an instructor at TBS (Speigle, 2008). IEP starts with IEP 100, the entry-level course, and includes:

  • Classroom-based learning.
  • Physical training;
  • Participation in a Basic Officer Course Field Exercise as an Assistant Instructor (Section 3.1);
  • Commander’s Intent;
  • Orientation to TBS;
  • Standard operating procedures (SOP’s);
  • Systems approach to training; and
  • Techniques to be a successful trainer and mentor.

IEP 100 is followed by IEP 200 (refresher training) and IEP 300 (focusing on the role of the staff platoon commander) (Speigle, 2008).


3.0     Introduction

This part of the article provides an outline of the TBS curriculum undertaken by newly commissioned officers and warrant officers during their time at TBS.

After receiving a commission, the majority of newly commissioned officers will undertake the Basic Officers Course (BOC) prior to attending their Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) training, aka Phase 2 training, in preparation for service in the operational forces.

Whilst the majority of USMC (Unrestricted Line Officers) officers are commissioned through the USMC Officer Candidate School, a number are commissioned into the USMC via the USNA or the Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps (NROTC) at a civilian college or university. Annually, a small number of officers who graduate from one of the other US federal service academies are granted permission to receive a USMC commission.

In contrast, Restricted Line/Limited Duty Officers are direct commissioned from the chief warrant officer ranks of the USMC as either a First Lieutenant (OF-1) or Captain (OF-2) and do not attend BOC; however, as warrant officers, they will have already completed the WOBC (Part Four) at TBS prior to beginning their officer service in the operating forces.

The majority officers will attend BOC as:

  • A Second Lieutenant (OF-1) immediately after commissioning at OCS; or
  • Within a few months of graduation and commissioning from either the USNA or an NROTC programme.

Some newly commissioned officers may serve a short period of time in an interim assignment (such as an assistant athletic coach at the USNA) before attending TBS.

A small number of officers will attend BOC as a First Lieutenant because they were commissioned through the Platoon Leaders Class (PLC Law) programme, which permits them to attend law school as Second Lieutenants and then attend TBS after promotion to First Lieutenant upon receiving their law degree.

In very rare cases, an officer who receives an initial commission in another branch of the US armed forces, and who has already been promoted to First Lieutenant, may receive an inter-Service transfer to the USMC and attend TBS as a First Lieutenant.

3.1     Basic Officer Course

“TBS uses a building block approach to training. Students learn tactics, techniques, and procedures that build upon one another throughout the course. The officer students learn concepts and theory from instructors and guest speakers in the classroom environment.” (Finley, 2002, p.26).

Table 1 provides an outline of the four phases of the Basic Officer Course (BOC) training programme.

Table 1: Outline of BOC Training Programme
Phase Name Duration Description
I Individual Skills 7 Weeks Lays the foundations for students by developing individual skills:

  • Leadership.
  • Rifle and pistol qualification.
  • Land navigation.
  • Communications.
  • Combat lifesaving.
  • Marine Corps Martial Arts Programme (MCMAP).
II Rifle Squad Leader Skills 6 Weeks A move from inward development to leadership and employment of a squad-sized element:

  • Decision-making.
  • Combined arms.
  • Rifle squad tactics/weapons.
  • Scouting and patrolling.
III Rifle Platoon Commander Skills 6 Weeks Focuses on developing an officer’s ability to command a platoon:

  • Rifle platoon tactics.
  • Convoy operations.
  • Engineering.
  • Crew-served weapons.
IV Basic MAGTF Officer Skills [1] 7 Weeks Subjects areas and concepts beyond conventional operations:

  • Military operations in Urban Terrain (MOUT), developed in the mid- to late-1980s (South, 2018).
  • Rifle platoon (REIN) tactics.
  • Force protection.
  • Expeditionary operations (AMFEX).
  • Legal/platoon commander’s administration.


  1. MAGTF: Marine Air Ground Task Force.

BOC is 28-weeks in duration, up from 26-weeks (Wiler & Hurndon, 2008), and officer students will receive training in classroom, field, and practical application training on weapons, tactics, leadership and protocol.

  • Classroom events include sand table exercises (STEXs), platform instruction, tactical decision games (TDGs), decision-forcing cases, and small group discussions.
  • Field events include fire-team and squad-level training, progressing to platoon-reinforced and company-sized events. The field events consist of realistic blank fire training and live fire ranges.

Following classroom instruction, officer students’ work on tactical concepts in small groups around a terrain model or sand table. STEXs provide officer students the opportunity to develop tactical proficiency and test their ability to employ tactical concepts before moving to the field environment for practical application. STEXs also facilities officer students to develop a tactical plan and the associated combat order from the given scenario and receive feedback from instructors and peers. Varying solutions from each officer student stimulates discussion amongst officer students and instructors alike, and encourages interest in finding the best solution to a given problem (i.e. Course of Action). Finally, officer students move from the garrison-learning environment into the field to apply the lessons learned in class and around the sand table.

As a rough guide, training follows: student hand-outs; classroom instruction; small group discussions; STEXs/tactical decision games (TDG)/war-gaming; and field exercises (Speigle, 2008).

Physical events during TBS include:

  • Marine Corps physical fitness test (PFT);
  • Double running of the Marine Corps obstacle course (O-Course);
  • O-Course and 5-mile endurance course run over varying terrain, with various obstacles, with a light combat load and rifle; and
  • Conditioning hikes ranging from 6 to 15 miles with a full combat load (Keller, 2017):
    • 12 miles in 4 hours carrying equipment weighing 88lbs at a pace of 3 mph.
    • 15 miles in 5 hours carrying equipment weighing 78lbs at a pace of 3 mph (graduation requirement).

Field exercises (FEX) during TBS include:

  • Patrol FEX:
    • The first part involves forming and delivering orders for a patrol, e.g. organise a squad to conduct reconnaissance of the area or make contact with the enemy.
    • The second part involves leading the squad on the patrol, usually carrying a combat load (50lbs), and with the full expectation of being ‘found’ by the enemy and having to run and crawl with your load.
    • Do not be surprised if you find your load is actually somewhere between 90-100lbs during any of your ruck marches/patrols.
  • Combined Arms FEX:
    • Involves acting as an artillery/mortar forward observer.
    • Calling for fire and developing fire support plans.

Land Navigation consists of both day and night evolutions, and officer students will need to understand the following concepts:

  • 8 digit grid coordinates;
  • Use of a protractor;
  • Use of a lensatic compass;
  • Use of the GM angle to convert from a grid to a magnetic azimuth;
  • Use of a pace count; and
  • Ability to identify terrain features on the map and associate them with features in the real world (i.e. terrain association).

During weeks 4-6 officer students will undertake rifle and pistol training and qualification. The first week is classroom-based, with weeks 2 and 3 on the ranges. Days on the range start at 03:30 with breakfast, followed by a 3-mile ‘hilly’ hike to the ranges, arriving about 06:00 (USMC Officer, 2014). Students spend all day on the ranges followed by another hike back to camp; repeat for two weeks.

During their time at TBS, officer students “…are graded in three areas: leadership, academics, and military skills as they spend ten to 12 hours a day, five days a week, under instruction.” (Agostino, 2003). Leadership comprises 36%, with military skills and academics comprising 32% each (Finley, 2002; Wiler & Hurndon, 2008):

  • Military Skills:
    • This primarily evaluates an officer’s warfighting skills.
    • This includes physical training events (e.g. endurance and double-obstacle courses), tactical decision-making exams, weapons qualification, and practical applications exams.
    • In 2001, graded and weighted events included:
      • Fitness report evaluation (weight 2).
      • Techniques of military instruction (weight 2).
      • Combat orders format exam (weight 1).
      • Tactical decision-making exam (weight 4).
      • Night navigation final (weight 1).
      • Land navigation written exam (weight 2).
      • Land navigation final (weight 3).
      • Weapons practical application (weight 4).
      • Rifle qualification (weight 2).
      • Pistol qualification (weight 2).
      • Communications exam (weight 2).
      • Physical fitness test (weight 1).
      • Close combat evaluation (weight 1).
      • Endurance course (weight 2).
      • Drill evaluation (weight 2).
      • First aid written evaluation (weight 0.5).
      • First aid practical application (weight 0.5).
    • Each event’s score is multiplied by its weight and dividing by the total weights provides an officer student’s military skills average.
  • Academics:
    • This primarily evaluates an officer student’s understanding of doctrine, procedures, and concepts.
    • In 2001, graded and weighted events included:
      • Engineering/CBRN/aviation exam (weight 3).
      • Defence exam (weight 4).
      • Patrolling written exam (weight 1.5).
      • Patrolling practical exam (weight 1.5).
      • Offense exam (weight 4).
      • Basic skill exam (weight 4).
      • Leadership and administration exam (weight 4).
      • Amphibious operations exam (weight 3).
      • Supporting arms written exam (weight 2).
      • Supporting arms practical evaluation (weight 2).
      • Military law exam (weight 2).
      • Writing skills exam (weight 1).
    • Usually occurs in the classroom-environment and is a mix of written multiple choice and short answer examination.
    • Each event’s score is multiplied by its weight and dividing by the total weights provides an officer student’s academics average.
  • Leadership:
    • Students are evaluated throughout their time in the BOC, including:
      • Two command leadership evaluations;
      • Numerous garrison and tactical billet evaluations; and
      • Several peer evaluations.
    • The tactical and garrison leadership billets provide evaluation under varying conditions, including the uncertainty or ‘fog of battle’ provided during field training.
    • The First Leadership Evaluation, in week 12, accounts for 14% of the student’s overall grade.
    • The Second Leadership Evaluation, in week 22, accounts for 22% of the overall grade.
    • The Staff Platoon Commander assigns 90% of the leadership grade by ranking the officers in their platoon from first to last.
    • An officer’s fellow students account for the remaining 10% of the leadership grade by completing ‘Peer Evaluations’.

“It is here that lieutenants take the GCT [General Classification Test]…” (Cancian & Klein, 2015, p.7).

With regards to the GCT, Cancian & Klein (2015) conducted research (see Section 4.1) which suggests that current officer students are scoring worse than their predecessors from World War II. They put this down to the fact that more people are receiving college degrees than ever before; as college participation rates have gone up, GCT scores have declined they argue.

In order to graduate, officer students had to maintain a minimum overall course average of 75%, with 75% (or greater) in each of the three evaluation categories (Finley, 2002). Finley (2002) also noted that officer students had to pass every graded event, or the appropriate retest of the event, and could not retest failed events more than two times without consent from the commanding officer TBS.

More detailed information on grading’s, which impact MOS allocation, can be found under research in the Useful Publications section at the end.

In 2003, officer students were living in accommodation that was described as “…close to Spartan, with three or four sharing two cinder-block room plus a bathroom.” (Agostino, 2003), although in 2012 a significant sum was spent upgrading and modernising the facilities at TBS. The new buildings house 100-124 apartments, each utilising a single sleeping room for two people with a shared bathroom, with 5 administrative units (Randall Lamb, 2013). Besides living areas, they also contain support spaces, offices, meeting and conference rooms, laundry, housekeeping, and public restrooms.

“Passing a 10-mile hike under prescribed load, a double standard Marine Corps Obstacle Course and the TBS Endurance Course are required to graduate from the BOC.” (USMC MARADMINS Number: 695/17).

At some point during TBS, officer students will encounter the tradition of ‘Mess Night’ (Lowe, 2005), which follows the traditions and ceremony of the British Army’s Officers’ Mess.

During the graduation parade officer students will be presented with a number of awards, including (MCA, 2014a & 2014b):

  • 1stLt Baldomero Lopez Honour Graduate Award. This award is in remembrance of 1stLt Baldomero Lopez’s actions during the amphibious assault of Inchon during the Korean War in 1950. While leading his Marines over the seawall, he was shot in the chest as he held a live grenade. Without the strength to throw it, he cradled the grenade to protect his Marines from the explosion.
  • Colonel William B. Lemly Academic Award.
  • Military Skills Award.
  • General John A. Lejeune Leadership Award.
  • Writing Award.
  • First basic Class Gung Ho Award.

The TBS honour graduate awards are presented through the Marine Corps Association and Foundation (MCA&F) Marine Excellence Awards programme.

In June 2015, Second Lieutenant Matthew George put his recently learned skills on the combat lifesaving course, attended three weeks previously, to good use whilst at TBS. George saved the life of a multiple shooting victim which earned him a Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal for his lifesaving actions (USMC Life, 2015).

3.2     BOC MOS Selection

During BOC, officer students are selected for an MOS, with approximately:

  • One-third matched for an Infantry (including reconnaissance and light armoured reconnaissance) and other ground combat MOS.
  • One-third matched for a Marine aviation MOS. This includes naval aviators (aircraft pilots and naval flight officers), aircraft weapons, navigation, sensor systems officers, air defence positions, and aviation command and control.
  • One-third matched for a logistics combat (combat support (CS) and combat service support (CSS)) or headquarters/command and control MOS.

It should be noted that certain officer students will have been given a guaranteed MOS, for example aviation (pilot), subject to successfully graduating OCS and TBS.

More detailed information on MOS allocation can be found under research in the Useful Publications section at the end.

3.3     Warrant Officer Basic Course

Newly appointed warrant officers will attend the 18-week Warrant Officer Basic Course (WOBC) which focuses on the transition from enlisted Marine to Marine officer, and is similar in scope and instruction to the BOC. The WOBC is shorter in duration than the BOC due to the prior experience attained by newly appointed warrant officers in their previous roles as junior/senior non-commissioned officers (J/SNCO’s) in the USMC.

During their time at TBS these officer students, assigned to India Company, are given additional leadership and management training on the WOBC, undertaking approximately 935 hours of formal instruction. There is heavy emphasis on combat orders and reports, and WO students are required to complete a plethora of prior short courses/training on MarineNet (see Section 4.1).

WO students will be evaluated in three areas:

  • Academics (30%): This includes quizzes and four phased written examinations.
  • Military Skills (30%): Evaluations include:
    • Initial PFT (first class pass).
    • Writing assessment.
    • Night land navigation performance examination.
    • Day land navigation performance examination.
    • Mid performance examination.
    • Final performance examination.
    • Final PFT.
    • Final double obstacle course.
    • Final endurance course.
    • WO students will be required to complete a 10-mile rucksack march carrying a prescribed load.
  • Leadership (40%): The leadership portion of WO student evaluation encompasses leadership grades given by the WO student’s Staff Platoon Commander as evaluated in Command Evaluation I and Command Evaluation II. This grade includes, but is not limited to:
    • Evaluations in tactical field exercises;
    • Evaluations in garrison billets;
    • Company Commander uniform and equipment inspections; and
    • Individual actions throughout the conduct of the course.

WO students who achieve below a 75% in any of the three listed areas may be referred to an Executive Officer Interview (XOI) or Student Performance Review Board (SPRB) to determine whether the WO student will remediate and continue training or be dropped from the course to begin training with a follow-on company at a later date in accordance with the TBS Standard Operating Procedures (SOP). WO students must meet the requirements listed above in order to graduate from WOBC.

There are occasions, due to constraints in the accessions process, where newly appointed warrant officers will attend a BOC rather than a WOBC (USMC MARADMINS Number: 695/17).

3.4     Infantry Officer Course

Graduates of the BOC who are selected for an Infantry MOS will remain at TBS and complete the 13-week Infantry Officer Course (IOC) (Jackson, 2013; Santangelo, 2014; Keller, 2017).

IOC 3-13 started with 110 students on 28 March 2013, by 24 May it was down to 85 students (Jackson, 2013). IOC is a 3-month course that prepares future Infantry officers to train and lead Marines in combat. “…the Infantry Officer Course commonly drops to 25 to 25 percent of each class.” (Santangelo, 2014; Browne & Green, 2017).

In 2012, the course had a training time of 86-days, four times per year (Chivers, 2012). The course commences with the combat endurance test (CET), which was added in the 1990s (Chivers, 2012; Santangelo, 2014). One role of CET is to simulate the fog of uncertainty that officers will encounter on real operations. The test begins in a classroom after midnight, with students being given a mock rifle and a backpack loaded with food and equipment. Students are given an initial grid reference to reach but no further details. After completing each leg of the test, students are given instructions for the next task. Throughout the test, students are stopped and given written or practical exams, testing their knowledge of fire support, land navigation, weaponry, tactics, communications, and so on. One part of the test involves completing a number of lengths in a swimming pool and treading water. Another part involves reassembling American and foreign weapons, and completing function checks. Both tests have a time limit, which is unknown to the student. An obstacle course will also be traversed, several times in one go.

Of the 96 officers who had started CET in July 2012, 7 quit, 7 were injured, and 6 failed – leaving 76 to continue on the IOC (Chivers, 2012). In July 2013, of the 79 who started CET, 18 failed on the first day, 6 due to being overtime, 5 asked to withdraw, and 7 failed to score high enough to pass (Kovach, 2013).

“Students are asked not to share details of this test and other exercises at the course outside the Marine infantry officer ranks…Maj. Scott A. Cuomo, the course director, also requested that one portion not be photographed, as, he said, photographs would unveil an essential surprise. (This was one of the most mentally disorienting and physical sequences, during which three students quit.)” (Chivers, 2012).

During IOC, there are 9 tactical movements, including (Keller, 2017):

  • 7.21 miles in 2 hours 20 minutes carrying equipment weighing 96.65lbs at a pace of 3.09 mph (conducted twice).
  • 9.32 miles in 3 hours carrying equipment weighing 105lbs at a pace of 3.10 mph.
  • 6.4 miles in 2 hours 5 minutes carrying equipment weighing 114.08lbs at a pace of 3.10 mph.
  • 7.5 miles in 2 hours 30 minutes carrying equipment weighing 125lbs at a pace of 3.08 mph.
  • 7.5 miles in 5 hours 30 minutes carrying equipment weighing 150lbs at a pace of 1.36 mph.

Students will undertake a total of 9 tactical movements, with 6 being graded, and they must complete 5 of these 6 movements to graduate.

The last field exercise (PALMFEX or Exercise Talon Reach) of the course lasts 20-days (Jackson, 2013; Keller, 2017).

During IOC officer students will receive intensive classroom instruction, practical experience, and field training in:

  • Crew-served weapons;
  • Patrolling; and
  • Reconnaissance.

This training ensures officer students are MOS qualified for all of the Infantry and reconnaissance platoon commander billets, in addition to the rifle platoon billets within a Marine infantry battalion or reconnaissance battalion, for example

  • Rifle company weapons platoon (i.e., crew-served weapons) commander;
  • Heavy-weapons platoons (e.g. 81mm mortar, anti-armour, and heavy machine gun) of the infantry battalion weapons company; and/or
  • Reconnaissance platoons of the reconnaissance companies of the reconnaissance battalion.

Officers selected to serve in a Light Armoured Reconnaissance (LAR) battalion complete an additional six-week LAR Leaders Course conducted at the School of Infantry.

By March 2014, 14 women had attempted and failed the IOC, “all but one of them on the first day.” (Santangelo, 2014). The course was first opened to women in September 2012 (Chivers, 2012). As reported on 06 September 2017, 30 women had attempted the IOC, with one (then unidentified) woman getting further than any other, and having a graduation date of 25 September (Keller, 2017). History was made when the first female Marine officer graduated from the IOC in September 2017 (Lemmon, 2017).


4.0     Summary

This article provides the reader with an outline of the training undertaken newly commissioned officers and newly appointed warrant officers during the United States Marine Corps’ The Basic School.

4.1     Useful Publications

4.2     Useful Links

4.3     References

Agostino, J.D. (2003) A Day at The Basic School. Available from World Wide Web: [Accessed: 12 April, 2018].

Anderson, P. (1999) Foundations for Teaching: A philosophy for the Marine Corps University. Marine Corps Gazette. 83(4). Available from World Wide Web: [Accessed: 24 May, 2018].

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