Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller announced the cancellation of the military occupational specialty last week. Beginning in October, the Marine Corps will cease training infantry assault Marines and will start phasing out assault sections within rifle companies.
"I found out officially last week. I don't agree with it," said Cpl. Calin Perrone, an assaultman with the 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, who joined the Marines expressly for this niche specialty.
"It seemed like a really cool job. You're like a jack-of-all-trades in the infantry," Perrone added. "It was assault Marine or nothing."
Infantry assault Marines, designated as 0351s, utilize a variety of weapons and explosives to destroy enemy tanks, clear obstacles and provide rocket fire to support other infantrymen.
Using explosives is definitely part of the appeal of the job, Perrone said.
Canceling the MOS has caused these roughly 500 assault Marines to change their current plans in the Corps.
"I don't know what I'm going to do now," said Perrone, who is now considering getting out of the Marine Corps, instead of reenlisting, because of this cancellation.
Other assaultmen, who will transfer to a different combat MOS, will already have the skills necessary to thrive because of similar training, Perrone said, though "it will take some getting used to."
In the past few decades of fighting wars in the Middle East, assaultmen have been underutilized and marginalized by other infantry specialties because of the lack of enemy tanks and traditional obstacles on that battlefield, said Sgt. Joseph Varley, who is in Perrone's unit.
"A lot of people don't know what we are," Varley said. "I've had situations where I was left ... during a training operation because a squad leader didn't know what I was capable of or what my team was capable of."
When squad leaders do know how to utilize assaultmen, they usually take them on every patrol because of their versatility and lethality, Varley said.
"It's always a tossup, of being utilized very well or being left behind and forgotten," he said.
The cancellation will be fully implemented in 2021 or 2022, when current 0351s will be required to transfer to another specialty. Combat engineers will be attached to rifle companies to handle demolitions and clearing obstacles.
Still, the assault Marines on the ground worry that the many roles they fill will not be adequately replaced by other infantryman.
"I don't think getting rid of us and replacing us with another MOS is going to work out as well as it needs to," Varley said.
However, Varley added that "if the commandant gives us an order, we take care of it, and make sure that it gets done."