Commandant Speaking at TBS MOS

Three-Tier MOS Selection Process Is Out

Most of you have probably heard about the Marine Corps’ three-tier MOS selection process for placing Ground contract officers in their MOS. It’s a historic system that hasn’t changed for decades. Luckily, The Basic School is changing many procedures to better the development and MOS placement of Marine Officers.

UPDATE (23 OCT 2014): I recently heard from a friend at TBS there are still decisions being made with regards to how the MOS Selection Process is carried out. There is a new CO of TBS who is going to be investigating the matter. The old and new systems are both in play as of right now.


Assume there are 90 Marines in a company. Everyone is given a rank from 1 to 90 based on their academic (30%), physical (30%), and leadership (40%) performance.

Those ranks are broken into 3 tiers:

  • first: 1-30
  • second: 31-60
  • third: 61-90

Each Marine provides a list of their desired MOS in order of preference. The top of each tier from first to third gets priority pick. In the example, the order for picking would be 1, 31, 61, 2, 32, 62, 3, 33, 63, etc. Once your turn to pick comes up they just go down your preference list. If your number one MOS is available you get it, or else they go to your second choice and so on. This means that the person ranking 30 in the company is going to have the third to last pick.

This process was developed in order to ensure “quality distribution.” That is to say that they want to make sure every MOS has a decent spectrum of quality Marines. As you can imagine, the system can be incredibly frustrating given that the 30th Marine gets the 88th pick while the 31st Marine gets second pick. Many times Marines try to “game” the system by failing tests, or physical events, to drop into a lower overall ranking, but ending up at the top of a different tier. The staff will generally catch these acts and respond accordingly.


The historic system in no longer in play. The Marine Corps has developed a new process for placing officers in MOSs. It involves a more hands on approach by the staff. The idea behind “quality distribution” is still very much in play.


Let’s look at the previous example. Instead of breaking the company into thirds the staff will look at the overall average score. For instance, assume the average grade for the company is 85%. Every MOS will be made up of Marines with a sum average that falls between 2.5% of the company average. The average for every MOS would be between 82.5% and 87.5%.

Marines will still submit a preference list, but the staff is going to do everything in their power to get you into one of your top 5 MOSs. In the previous system Marines would end up with the 25th pick on their preference list, since it was a primarily automated process. The Company XO will make the initial determination for placing Marines. Afterwards the entire company staff will get together and SPCs (Staff Platoon Commanders) will trade Marines around. It’s even more critical now for you to constantly talk to your SPC about what MOS you want. When the time comes to trade, if your SPC sees an opportunity to give you what you want then they can do it. At the same time, you have to prove to your SPC that you can do the job you want. If not, your SPC might trade you out of an MOS you wanted because they don’t think your fit for it.

At the end of everything the Company CO will give a final approval. The average distribution rule can be broken if the Company CO approves it. There may end up being a few MOSs where the average grade of the Marines assigned falls out of the 2.5% range.

Candidates Moving Between SULEs OCS Leadership

Small Unit Leadership Evaluation (SULE) – Part 3

In the first and second parts of SULE information there was a lot of general material covered. This section is going to focus on providing applicable tips to help you perform better come time to show your competence. Not every increment is the same and things are always changing so take this advice with a grain of salt.

You will get hit from the side

At OCS you are going to mainly be doing frontal assaults as a squad. This doesn’t mean that the enemy is going to be attacking you from the front. The majority of the time the squads are going to be attacked from the side. As a squad leader, you have to be able to shift the squad into a position such that a frontal assault is possible. It is critical that you prepare the fire team leaders for different scenarios during the briefing. Below is an example to give you an idea how a squad leader could reorient the squad. It looks easy on paper, but the reality is that things are going to be loud, the FTs are likely disbursed over several hundred feet, and fire team leaders may not hear you so they will start giving their own orders that creates more chaos.

SULE Example Assault

There are false distractions

This doesn’t happen too often, but sometimes things occur that are meant to throw the squad off. For instance, you could be walking on a road and then you get hit by artillery on the left. Everyone drops to the ground and gets ready to start rushing. A squad leader who starts to freak out might give an order rush, but if you only waited a few seconds to gather yourself you would realize that there is no enemy fire. Get the squad up and keep moving forward.

Estimate the end point

Sometimes you can make an educated guess as to what is about to happen. Pay attention to your surroundings and use common sense. For example, if the squad has to cross a bridge there is a decent chance the enemy is on the other side. Before crossing give the FT leaders instructions on what to do if they take enemy fire.

Be afraid of squad stupidity

Yes, everyone in the squad has graduated college, or is currently attending a university. To assume that such intelligent colleagues have common sense and good judgement is a mistake. During one increment a squad leader lost points because one of the FT leaders had the FT rush through an area with signs that said “Mine Field”.

**MOST IMPORTANTLY** The Enemy Is Not Always The Mission

It is imperative that you understand what the MISSION of your SULE is. For example, assume the MISSION is to deliver supplies to a nearby friendly position. The squad is walking on the road and takes contact on the right. You engage and destroy the enemy. A large number of candidates would assume that they are done. They put the squad in a consolidated 360 position and take reports from the FT leaders. The squad leader walks confidently over to the instructor, gets on one knee, and gives a full report with confidence and vigor knowing that the enemy was destroyed. The evaluator tells the squad leader they just failed SULE.


The enemy assault was only a distraction. For the most part, you will not be assaulted a second time. The only thing you had to do was get the squad back in formation and continue along the road. The instructor will probably stop you immediately afterwards. It was a test to determine if you as the leader understood the MISSION.

Some will fail SULE because of this so make sure that the MISSION is understood before anything else.

Candidate Preparing an OPORDER OCS Leadership

Small Unit Leadership Evaluation (SULE) – Part 2

SULE is the most important event at OCS and requires diligent preparation starting right now. Practice is going to be more valuable than anything else you can do, but not everyone has the resources to be able to simulate a true training environment. Those in NROTC are hopefully getting what they need from their units, but the PLC and OCC candidates are a bit out of luck. The information here will get you half way to where you need to be. The rest will come when you actually get into the field.

If you haven’t yet read Small Unit Leadership Evaluation (SULE) – Part 1 you should start there first.

SULE Requires Combat Fitness

Throughout the day you are going to do 50+ buddy rushes. This means you will be falling to the ground, firing a few rounds, getting up, sprinting through the harsh terrain, and repeating. Some SULEs come with extra gear, such as ammo cans, that will makes things more difficult. Being physically fit enough to do this throughout the day is critical to success. Luckily, SULE is towards the end of OCS so you will time to adapt your body to the training regiment.

Form Good Relationships Early On

It has been said before that leading your peer is difficult, and it’s easy to end up with bad relationships. SULE requires serious effort from everyone in the squad. If you become a candidate that is viewed as lazy, an idiot, a jackass, a screw up, or a bad leader then chances are your squad is going to make things more difficult for you. Starting on day one of OCS you must present yourself as a leader worth respect. Don’t screw around when instructors aren’t looking, and don’t be the candidate pretending to fix a rack while others are on their knees sweeping the deck.

Know The Operations Order

If you don’t know the OPORDER like the back of your hand then you’re pretty much screwed and nothing here will help you. The foundation of SULE is built upon the OPORDER. You will get an order, create an order, and deliver an order within about 5 minutes. The details of the orders done at OCS is nothing compared to TBS, but just focus on learning what you need to. For instance, the only “Signal” you will use is “HAVOC”, Hands and Arms Voice On Contact. It isn’t necessary to become an expert in pyrotechnics.

Here are the best resources for getting practice.

  1. The Operation Order lesson from the OCS book – This is the best place to start if you have no knowledge of the OPORDER
  2. The Combat Orders course from TBS – The pdf contains material at a slightly higher level than OCS, but still low enough to understand. The main thing you should focus on is the section about delivering an order.
  3. skeleton order – You should print, laminate, and bring a few copies with you to OCS. Use a map pen so that you can reuse it once laminated. The skeleton can be downloaded as a document file, so feel free to make changes to suit your needs. The skeleton is meant to help you think as little as possible so you can focus on the important things.
  4. An example set of abbreviations – Use whatever shorthand works for you. This list is a good place to start.
  5. An example platoon level order – You will be a squad leader so this is an order that you would receive. Read and transpose it to the skeleton. Use shorthands and then practice reading it aloud, preferably to someone else training for OCS.

Part 3 is going to contain hands on tips for SULE success.

Candidates During SULE OCS Leadership

Small Unit Leadership Evaluation (SULE) – Part 1

The Small Unit Leadership Evaluation, or SULE, is the culminating event at Marine OCS. It’s a day long endeavor that tests ones ability to lead a squad through a mission. In some instances, you may end up taking more than a day to complete the evolution. This will be dependent upon how quickly the squads in the company rotate through the various missions, and weather conditions. During one summer session a few years ago, SULE was halted for close to an hour after a candidate found a live round in the field. A few candidates who hadn’t gotten evaluated had to go back out with their squads to finish the next day.


Depending on which OCS program you are going through there may be two events for SULE.

PLC Juniors: SULE I

PLC Seniors: SULE II


Bulldog Program (NROTC): SULE II

Candidates During SULE

The Rundown

You will be in a squad of 10-15 candidates. It will most likely be made up of others in your platoon. Sometimes you may end up with a straggler from another company or platoon.

Every candidate carries an assault pack, 2-3 MREs, a camelbak, a rifle, and some blank rounds.

In the early morning, candidates are shoved into buses and squads are dropped off at various locations.

All of the squads in the company begin commencing their first SULE at dawn. Hopefully, you get staged early enough so that everyone can get on the same page before things kick off.

The evaluator will eCandidate Preparing an OPORDERither pick the first squad leader, or let someone volunteer. It’s probably best to try and get your evaluation sometime in the middle of the day. At that point, the squad will be more cohesive and you can learn from the mistakes of others. At the end of the day, a lot of the candidates who have already finished aren’t going to be putting out as much effort. It is important that you DON’T be one of the candidates that slacks off towards the end. It will hurt your fellow candidates who are getting evaluated.

Each mission lasts between 20-40 minutes. That is from the time you get to a station to when you leave. As a squad leader you will be receiving an order, developing a plan, delivering an order to the squad, and executing the mission. All of those things together make up your SULE grade which is a huge chunk of the leadership portion of your overall OCS grade.

At the end of an evaluation, the instructor will give the squad leader a breakdown of what went well and what failed miserably. They will then choose, or ask for, a new squad leader. That squad leader is given a general set of directions and they are then in charge of getting the squad to the next mission.

Candidates Moving Between SULEs

The stations are roughly 0.5 to 1 mile apart from each other. The move between stations is actually going to be quite enjoyable. There are no instructors with the squads as they move from point to point. You are expected to move quickly, but it’s not like you have to sprint there. What’s also nice is that the MREs are available for you to eat whenever you want. This is a bigger deal than you might expect. Although, some candidates ran out of food by lunchtime. Be smart and conserve your chow.

The day is very long and you will cover about 10 miles. Overall, it is nerve wrecking, stressful, and tiring, but it’s also a great experience.

There is a lot to talk about when it comes to SULE. Therefore, information will be broken into several detailed posts.

Part 2 will discuss what candidates need to do to prepare beforehand.

Sergeant Insignia Marine Officer

Trusting Your Marines And NCOs

Throughout NROTC, Officer Candidates School, and The Basic School, the enlisted Marine, and especially the non-commissioned officer (NCO), is put on a sacred holy pedestal. Marine Officers are taught to worship them, trust them, listen to every damn thing that comes out of their mouths and trust it implicitly.

In truth, if you come to the fleet with that attitude it will last you maybe two days before your CO comes down on you hard because you trusted something your Marine said that was total and complete crap.

Just like anywhere else, there’s good Marines and bad Marines. Believe it or not, there’s also good NCOs and bad NCOs. In quite a few occupational specialties, it’s not terribly difficult to pick up Corporal and Sergeant. On top of that, the criteria for picking up Corporal and Sergeant includes rifle range scores, MCMAP belts, and other such qualities that have little to do with leadership or MOS skills.

This is not to say that you shouldn’t trust your Marines and NCOs. As the officer in charge you need to make sure that what they’re telling you makes sense before you make a decision based on that information. Throughout NROTC, OCS, and TBS, you’re going to be exposed to the best NCOs that the Marine Corps has to offer. THEY ARE NOT ALL LIKE THAT. Many of them are, and you need to identify those as your go-to Marines early on.

So just as you need to earn your Marines’ trust, they need to earn yours as well. When you first show up, ask questions. Figure out who the NCOs are that the platoon looks to when there’s a problem. See who knows their job, and most importantly, know YOUR MOS well enough that you can catch bad information. You will have some dedicated Corporals and Sergeants, and you’re going to have some awful ones. One of the first things you need to to is find out which are which.